Firstly, it is worth noting that headstones are not a requirement at many burial sites. In some cemeteries and graveyards, simple grave markers can be used instead. However, traditional headstones are still popular in both settings throughout the UK. Read Newrest Funeral’s guide to the different types of headstones you can order today.
Headstones, Gravestones and Tombstones – What's the Difference?
Before examining the types of headstones on offer in greater detail, it will be useful to distinguish them from gravestones and tombstones. These days, most people use the terms interchangeably although headstone seems to be the most common.
A headstone is a term that refers to a stone placed at the head of the grave whereas a gravestone or tombstone marks the entire grave area. Don’t worry about using one term for another because most people consider them to be synonymous nowadays.
The most common form of headstone in the UK is an upright one. These are often made from hard-wearing granite but marble and limestone are other common materials. Most are fixed into the ground with a small concrete foundation or base so that they remain upright in all weathers. They are oriented so that they are at the end of the grave where the head of the deceased is positioned with the inscription facing over their remains. Most are about 75 cm high and about seven or eight cm thick.
Sometimes called grave markers or tablets, flat headstones are positioned horizontally over the head of the grave. Some lie perfectly flat while others are tapered so that they slant downwards from the head-end towards the feet. This angled design makes the inscription on flat headstones a bit easier to read without having to stand directly over the grave. It also allows for rainwater to run off. Typically, they are about 60 cm by 30 cm in size. Various designs are available including heart-shaped and book-shaped ones as well as more traditional rectangles.
The main part of a kerbed headstone lies flat over the entire length of the grave. Often, they will have an upright section at the head end of the grave, as well. If so, they are slightly reminiscent of the appearance of a bed and headboard. Inscriptions can appear on both the flat and the upright sections, as preferred. Some have recesses where potted plants can be placed but this is entirely optional.
Cremation markers are not headstones, strictly speaking, but mark the place where the cremated remains of someone have been buried. They are typically much smaller than traditional headstones used for graves. Some stand upright and some lie flush to the ground.
Stone cremation benches are blocks that can have names inscribed on them. Typically, these will be installed at a family gravesite where some family members have been buried but where the ashes of more recently deceased people have now also been placed. Cremation benches are often used in place of a traditional headstone.