Choosing a headstone may seem daunting at first, so Fergus shares some essential tips, and urges anyone who doesn't know where to start to give him a ring for advice.
It can feel bewildering when setting out to choose a headstone. We urge you to speak to us first, because we have been making headstones for twenty years and Fergus will be able to put your mind at rest. We can guide you through the whole process.
Here is a guide to some of the things you may want to consider when choosing a headstone.
This is the starting point. It is important to know from the outset what is permitted before you start thinking about the design. Don’t forget that council-run cemeteries can often have different regulations to churchyards, and many are quite strict about the fixing methods you can use.
The headstone inscription is the hardest thing to decide on in our experience. Most people leave it until last, but it is the most important one, and often dictates the rest of the headstone design and material that we use. So, start if you can with the inscription; this is a bit like the foundation on which we build the design.
Monumental masons might work differently, urging you to choose a stone first, but this is mainly because they have a stock of stones they use, whereas we order each stone individually.
If you are struggling to choose an inscription, we can always help you and there are many examples on the website and in the workshop. We also have a book for inspiration. Usually however the best advice in this situation is to go away and take your time. The right words will come at the right time.
This is often overlooked but has a bearing on the choices you will make. What are the surrounding gravestones like, how big are they and what material are they made from? Do you want the headstone to blend in or stand out? If the grave is in a churchyard the vicar is likely to insist that it blends in with the surroundings and sits sympathetically among the other headstones. That is not to say that something different won’t be allowed; it all depends on the regulations for each individual churchyard. Each Diocese has their own set of rules and even within a Diocese, individual churches can have special rules. Is the grave in a shady or sunny spot? If it is under a tree for example, it is likely to be damp and weather more rapidly, so you might choose a less porous material.
We advise you do not order or choose a piece of stone before coming to us. It is much better to wait until the design is finalised, and we have very good suppliers who we can trust. I personally inspect every stone when it arrives and do not hesitate to return it if I am not happy with it.
Once the inscription is decided, we look at the options for material. You’ll need to consider whether you want a light or dark headstone, how much you want it to weather, as well as the surroundings. If you want a long inscription, we will need to choose a material which is harder wearing and can take smaller lettering. We have lots of options and examples here in the workshop for you to see when you visit.
We can honestly say we have never had an unhappy client. This is because we work closely with our clients, and we listen so that they feel involved. We are transparent about the costs and timeframe, and we have never let a client down. A design can be adjusted as many times as is needed and you will not feel pressured or hurried to make a decision; this it the beauty of the process. The headstone design evolves organically, and the result will be just right. That is our aim
Fergus created Stoneletters Studio in 2003, after training at the Kindersley Workshop. He is a member of the prestigious Master Carver's Association.