Published 14 September 2017

Discovering England's Burial Spaces project wins funding

University of York researchers win Historic England funding to support community led burial space research

Researchers at the University of York have been awarded £74,000 by Historic England to help community groups to research burial spaces. Dr Nicole Beale, Dr Gareth Beale and Professor Julian Richards from the Department of Archaeology, the Centre for Digital Heritage, and Digital Creativity Labs will lead the 18-month project to develop and pilot a national database for burial spaces.

The Discovering England’s Burial Spaces (DEBS) project will work with the Archaeology Data Service, the organisation that manages the national repository for archaeological data, to create training materials, a new website, and a suite of apps for recording burial spaces such as churchyards and cemeteries.

The project aims to design a new system for use by researchers into burial spaces in partnership with Historic England, the public body that protects the historic environment of England. The project will provide skills to new groups to improve access to the history and archaeology of their local area, whilst also building a national picture of our communal past. The project team will develop resources to help volunteers who are hard at work rescuing knowledge being lost from burial places around the UK.

The project will develop creative digital technologies to help amateur researchers working to transcribe the rapidly disappearing information from headstones and memorials in churchyards and cemeteries.

Researcher, Dr. Nicole Beale explains:

“This project will enable community-led initiatives to record information from burial spaces for many purposes, from family history to the biodiversity of graveyards. Up until now, these efforts have been organised on a local level, with little opportunity for groups to share their findings and tell stories about the past from this data. Our work is addressing this need with a national system for collecting and sharing findings about our past.”

Research into burial spaces can contribute to emotional and physical wellbeing and the Discovering England’s Burial Spaces project will provide ways for older people and families to get outside and to meet new people whilst engaging with their local outdoor heritage spaces.

Further information

This project is funded by Historic England and is based at the University of York and the Archaeology Data Service. The project will involve collaboration with a wide range of partners including the University of Liverpool, Caring for God’s Acre, and ChurchCare, as well as a several community-led research projects in the North of England.

Contact details

Dr. Nicole Beale, Postdoctoral Research Associate, Discovering England’s Burial Spaces


Twitter: @nicoleebeale

Telephone: +441904 325723