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Exeter’s cemeteries

Exeter City Council has three cemeteries, each with its distinctive character. We offer a range of services at the cemeteries so people can remember their loved ones in the way that is right for them. This brochure shows our grave and memorialisation options. We aim to work flexibly to give everyone the service that reflects their needs, so if you have a special request please contact us and we will try to help. It is possible to reserve graves in advance. People who are choosing a new grave are invited to meet one of the cemetery staff so you can see the location and type of grave and ask any questions you may have.

Higher Cemetery Higher Cemetery at Heavitree was opened in 1866 and is home to many important Exeter landmarks. Historic landmarks include the Theatre Royal Fire memorial, World War I and II memorials and Blitz graves. The cemetery chapels were designed in the 19th century by the architect Edward Ashworth who is buried in the cemetery. The grounds were landscaped by Robert Veitch and Son, and today the cemetery is home to many fine trees and shrubs.

Services offered at Higher Cemetery • • • •

Garden of remembrance for ashes Children's garden for interment of babies and children Edwardian and Heritage graves for burial Chapel for services

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Exwick Cemetery Exwick Cemetery was opened in 1877. It has a distinctive sloping aspect and the top of the cemetery has views across the city.

Services offered at Exwick Cemetery • • • • • • •

Lawn graves Graves with kerbsets Garden of remembrance for ashes Natural burials Dedicated Jewish section Dedicated Muslim section Chapel for services

Topsham Cemetery Topsham Cemetery was opened in 1856. It is an attractive smaller cemetery, bordered by allotments. It has a number of interesting memorials and trees, and is the burial place of Tryphena Sparks, Thomas Hardy's cousin.

Services offered at Topsham Cemetery • • •

Lawn graves Ashes plots Chapel for services

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Types of graves Lawn graves

Lawn graves are the most popular type of grave. They normally have room for three full burials and ashes can also be buried in or scattered on the graves. Memorials are erected back to back in double rows, leaving wide lawns between the rows. Some memorials are therefore at the head of the grave and some at the foot. Kerbsets are not permitted in lawn sections of the cemetery. Memorials may have vases built into their base and others may be stood on the base. Beyond this no other tribute may placed and no plants or bulbs planted. This is to make maintenance and mowing easier and to maintain a tidy appearance.

Kerbsets In common with most modern cemeteries, kerbsets are not permitted in lawn sections of the cemetery. However, we recognise there is a demand for these and so we offer graves with kerbsets in Exwick Cemetery. These are surrounded by gravel to make maintenance easier. People may leave tributes or plant within the kerbsets. Kerbsets are also permitted on Heritage graves at Higher Cemetery.

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Edwardian graves

In Higher Cemetery, there is limited space for new graves. Our solution is to offer Edwardian graves in the historic Victorian and Edwardian sections. This involves using land where burials previously took place. Graves were dug deep at that time and there are no longer any memorials there. The graves are not dug to previous grave patterns so graves are not being ‘reused’. No remains are disturbed. The graves are single depth but you can buy a second grave next to the first for a small extra cost. The graves are turfed, like lawn graves, but we ask people to choose memorials in keeping with the traditions of the Edwardian period. Highly polished lawn memorials are not permitted. People who buy side by side graves may have one memorial, a memorial in between the graves or a memorial which spans both. Your stonemason will be able to advise you on what can be installed. We especially welcome individually designed memorials in the Edwardian and Heritage sections and may waive some or all of the memorial fees for works of artistic merit.

Heritage graves There are a small number of triple depth graves still available in Higher Cemetery. Many of these are path side graves which were reserved over a hundred years ago but never used. We have also created a circle of Heritage graves. We ask people to choose a memorial that is consistent with the area of the cemetery where the grave is located and may waive some or all of the memorial fees for works of artistic merit. Kerbsets are permitted on Heritage graves.

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Children’s garden

There is a dedicated section for the graves of babies and children at Higher Cemetery. The centerpiece of the garden is a restored Victorian angel memorial and there is a bench especially for younger visitors. Stonemasons offer a number of dedicated children’s memorials and we take a flexible approach in that area. We hold an annual memorial service for lost children where families plant flowers around the angel in memory of the children. This is held on the last Saturday in May. Babies and children may also be buried in family graves.

Religious sections

We offer dedicated sections for Jewish and Muslim burial at Exwick Cemetery. There are older sections of the cemetery which are consecrated by the Church of England. Members of over 40 religious and belief groups have been buried in our cemeteries and we aim to accommodate the needs of all religions and cultures. We have a non denominational chapel in each cemetery.

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Natural burial

Exwick's natural burial ground offers a tranquil and simple space for people who want an environmentally friendly burial. The urban setting ensures good road and public transport links, reducing the environmental impact of travel. It is also a good choice for people who want a natural burial but who want a grave close to loved ones buried elsewhere in the cemetery. Ashes can also be buried or scattered at the natural burial ground or can be scattered at the nearby woodland walk. No memorials are placed on the graves, leaving the landscape to develop naturally. Memorial trees, benches and plaques can be placed in a suitable location in the main cemetery. Because there is no need to buy rights to the grave, natural burial is an economical option.

Woodland walk The woodland walk links the older parts of the cemetery to newer areas at the top of the cemetery, including the Jewish and Muslim sections. It is planted with native trees and shrubs and designed to encourage wildlife. Ashes may be scattered in the woodland walk. Please note that the woodland walk is steep in places with uneven ground and may be slippery in bad weather.

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Gardens of remembrance for ashes

The gardens of remembrance at Higher and Exwick cemeteries have been designed to offer an attractive range of options for scattering and burying ashes. The plots are offered as a package including burial, memorial, 10 year exclusive rights of burial and 10 year memorial rights. Thirty and 50 year exclusive rights of burial are also available.

Strewing lawn

Both Higher and Exwick cemeteries have a lawn for the scattering of ashes. At Higher the centrepiece is a Japanese maple and at Exwick a cedar. At Higher plaques are available on the Eternal Flame memorial at the centre of the garden and at Exwick on the feature scroll. Tributes may be left around the memorial at Higher and Exwick, or in vases beneath the cedar at Exwick.

Desk vase tablet memorial area These are available at Higher and Exwick and hold up to four sets of ashes. The granite desk vase tablet can incorporate a flower holding vase and an engraved design or photo plaque is available at an extra cost. Other memorials and tributes may be left around the tablet as long as they do not encroach on other graves.

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Tablets This option is available at Exwick. Up to two sets of ashes can be placed beneath an attractive honed finish granite tablet in light or dark grey. Other memorials and tributes may be left around the tablet as long as they do not encroach on other graves.

Rose beds Rose beds with room for two sets of ashes are available at both cemeteries. At Higher there is a choice of a standard or hybrid tea rose with a green granite plaque. At Exwick there is a black heart shaped plaque beneath a standard rose. Cut flowers may be placed beneath the rose but no other planting is permitted.

Individual gardens This option is available at Higher Cemetery. Individual plots include an area enclosed by a stone border. You may place any memorials, plants and tributes you wish within the area, as long as they do not encroach on other gardens. There are plots round a central wheel and slightly larger ones around the border of the garden, each with a granite memorial. Up to four sets of ashes can be buried in the plot.

Ashes plots These are available at Topsham. These are small plots where a desk vase tablet or a flat tablet memorial can be placed.

Old family graves There is often room for ashes in old family graves and sometimes there is also room for full burial, subject to the grave owner’s permission. If you believe you have relatives buried in one of our cemeteries, contact us and we will check for you.

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Other types of memorial We offer other options for people who want to place a memorial in the cemetery. Memorial benches with a plaque with the inscription of your choice can be purchased. You can also place a plaque on an existing bench. You can buy a tree for the cemetery. This includes a block with an inscription. If you would like a particular kind of tree, or for the tree to be placed in a specific location, we can work with you to agree a suitable arrangement. We can arrange a silver spade planting ceremony for tree planting. All memorials can be placed on a specific date if you want to mark an anniversary.


We have non-denominational chapels at each cemetery which can be used for funeral services and community events. Normally chapels are hired for half an hour but if you would like longer you can have the chapel for up to a full day.

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Buying the rights to a grave Exclusive rights of burial

When you have a burial in a new grave, you do not have to buy the rights to the grave, known as the exclusive rights of burial. However most people choose to buy them because they give the owner • • •

the automatic right to be buried in the grave the right to authorise other burials in the grave the right to place or amend a memorial on the grave

Rights are available for 30 or 50 years for most types of grave. The rights can be renewed at the end of that period. If you do not buy the rights to the grave, you do not have the right to have other family members buried in the grave and the Council could authorise other burials in the grave. When a grave has more than one owner, all applications must be signed by all owners. On the death of one the rights are passed to the remaining owners. The last surviving owner only can pass on the rights at death. These can be left in a will. The owner can also pass on the rights during their lifetime. If you have an old family grave, please contact us and we will check who the owner is. If the owner is deceased we can tell you what to do next. Some graves do not have legal owners as rights were not issued before 1972 in Higher and Exwick cemeteries and due to different terms and conditions in place prior to this at Topsham. Rights were not issued for ashes graves in any cemetery before April 1994. In these circumstances we may be able to grant free rights to close relatives for 10 years. Please contact us if you think this situation applies.

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Reserving a grave

You are welcome to reserve a grave by buying the exclusive rights of burial in advance. Many people like the peace of mind of knowing their family will not have to make this decision at a difficult time. However, if you do so, please be aware that the period of the rights begins immediately the rights are purchased, not on death.

Memorial rights

When you come to place a memorial on the grave, you will need to buy memorial rights. This charge is normally included in the price a stonemason quotes for placing a memorial and so you do not need to contact us directly. Please check with your stonemason.

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World War I, World War II and Blitz graves

Higher Cemetery has dedicated sections for World War I and World War II graves. A total of 406 war graves have been indentified, including 62 of other nationalities, most of them German or Polish. There are also individual military graves scattered throughout the cemetery. Higher Cemetery has two rows of graves of victims of the Exeter Blitz of 1942 in Higher Cemetery and a World War I memorial at the entrance. There are individual war graves throughout the three cemeteries, including those who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan. The war graves and monuments are maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission in collaboration with Exeter City Council. A Service of Remembrance is held by the Royal Marines every 11 November at Higher Cemetery.

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Acknowledgements Brochures UK would like to thank all the advertisers that have kindly participated in the production of this brochure.

The support you have offered Exeter City Council is greatly appreciated.

Exeter Bereavement Services have compiled this brochure to help and guide the bereaved through what can be a very difficult time.

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Cemetery opening hours

Higher, Exwick and Topsham cemeteries are open to the public at the following times: April – September Monday – Saturday: 9am – 8pm Sunday & Bank Holidays: 10am – 5pm October – March Monday – Saturday: 9am – 4pm Sunday & Bank Holidays: 10am – 4pm Dogs must be kept on leads and dog waste put in the dog waste bins provided. You can contact us at: Bereavement Services Exeter City Council Civic Centre Paris Street Exeter EX1 1RQ Tel: 01392 265370 Email: For more information go to Registrars in Devon are now offering the ‘Tell us Once’ service, where those informants who want to pass on the details of the death of a relative to a whole host of local and central government departments, can do so at the same time as registering the death. More information about what’s needed for this will be given at the time of making the appointment to see a Registrar. Thanks to the families who have allowed us to feature their memorials, and to Charlie Pickwoad for additional photography. The distributor does not endorse or support any of the products or services advertised in this publication and is in no way liable or responsible for any such products or services. Produced by Brochures UK 40 Rockburgh Crescent, Preston, Lancashire, PR4 5RD Tel: 01772 498366 Email:

Exeter City Council Bereavment Guide  

A step by step guide to the help and facilities offered in and around Exeter. The guide offers useful contact numbers as well as advice and...

Exeter City Council Bereavment Guide  

A step by step guide to the help and facilities offered in and around Exeter. The guide offers useful contact numbers as well as advice and...