Perth council unveils repair plans for 50 damaged city centre gravestones

Tombstones in need of repair have been wrapped with safety tape at Greyfriars Burial Ground.
Tombstones in need of repair have been wrapped with safety tape at Greyfriars Burial Ground.

Plans to remove for restoration 50 dilapidated headstones at one of Scotland’s oldest churchyards have been revealed.

Perth and Kinross Council applied to its own planning department to carry out the work at a historic city centre cemetery.

Several centuries-old stone markers in Greyfriars Cemetery have been strapped with warning tape by council staff after a new survey found they were at risk of collapse.

The burial ground, which dates back to the 16th century, is regarded as home to one of the best collections of old graves in Scotland.

As cemetery managers, the council is legally obliged to make sure its burial grounds are safe to visitors, staff and even trespassers.

Health and safety legislation insists regular inspections are carried out to identify  potential hazards.

The repairs requested include installing new foundations, securing stones with steel pins and using wedges to keep them upright.

Of the stones earmarked for repair, 36 are more than five feet tall and most date back to the 19th century.

The majority of stones in need of repair have been described by surveyors as “rocking”, while a large proportion of headstones have an overhead artefact which needs securing.

Only three of the taped-off gravestones have been branded as “dangerous”. None of the site’s oldest stones, including one from 1580, are included in the restoration programme.

The local authority was unable to confirm what category of listed structure the gravestones are.

A spokeswoman for Perth and Kinross Council, which maintains the historic city centre site, said: “The council recently visited Greyfriar’s Kirkyard to carry out a visual inspection and, as a result, a number of memorials were found to be unstable.

“As an initial response to this, we applied warning tape until we could undertake a full headstone survey.”

She said: “Following a full inspection, it has been decided that the identified memorials will be taken down and made safe.

“They will then be fully re-instated at our earliest opportunity in respect of the heritage nature of the site.”

Conservative councillor Angus Forbes, head of the environment and infrastructure committee, said: “The council has a duty to make these unstable stones safe, and I am pleased they will be reinstated to make the graveyard a pleasant place to visit again.”

In recent years, Greyfriars has become a haunt for under-age drinkers and several headstones were spray-painted in a malicious attack last summer.

The local authority is expected to sign off on its own plans in the near future.