The grave of Sherlock Holmes’ creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle stands proud and well-cared for in the beautiful church of All Saints at Minstead.

So too does the memorial to Alice Liddell, the little girl who inspired ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ by Lewis Carroll. Alice lived in the New Forest for much of her life and, after her death in 1934, her ashes were buried in the graveyard of St Michael and All Angels, Lyndhurst.

And the marble headstone paid for by public subscription to commemorate the resting place of the well-known snake-catcher Brusher Mills at St Nicholas Church, Brockenhurst, is another notable and cared-for memorial.

But not all New Forest monuments and memorials are so fortunate; some are broken, damaged and their significance has been lost because of the difficulty in locating the families responsible for them.

Now, thanks to a new scheme, the NFNPA wants to recruit an army of volunteers to help record those memorials most in need of conservation.

Its archaeologist, Frank Green says many graves are in need of more care and attention.

“Gravestones and monuments in cemeteries are privately owned and are usually erected by family members, so legally they are family heirlooms.

“This means that it is the family that has responsibility for maintaining the memorials, not the organisations that manage the burial sites.”

However, he said, locating family members responsible for maintaining gravestones that are hundreds of years old is virtually impossible. This project will help ensure that these memorials, which contain so much social and family history, are kept in good order for future generations.”

Initially people are being asked to help locate any churchyards or burial grounds where there are monuments or gravestones that need to be repaired, by filling out a simple online questionnaire.

A minimum of 10 sites will be chosen, based on the number of gravestones in poor condition and the historical significance of any listed monuments, said Mr Green.

Volunteers from across the New Forest will be trained to assess the condition of the memorials and record and photograph them, before adding them to an online portal. This website will allow anyone undertaking family or social history research anywhere in the world to locate a family memorial.

The project will be led by the New Forest National Park Authority and will form part of the £4.5 million Our Past, Our Future Landscape Partnership Scheme, which will run from 2016 once funding is confirmed.

As well as surveying and conserving monuments and gravestones in need of attention, the project also aims to map all the burial grounds in the New Forest, including recording details of who is responsible for their maintenance.

This comprehensive database is being established in the New Forest for the first time, in partnership with New Forest District Council and staff in the Winchester Diocesan Office, in order to prevent more gravestones slipping into a state of disrepair.

  • If you know of gravestones or monuments in a poor state of repair please fill out the questionnaire at

For more about this project, including how to volunteer, email