Questions and Answers



1. How many people use cremation today in Great Britain?

The first ever cremation was in Woking Crematorium in 1885 and since 1968 when the number of cremations exceeded burials for the first time, cremation has increased considerably. Current figures show that around 78% of all funerals are cremations.

2. Do any religious groups forbid cremation?

Most current Christian denominations, including the Roman Catholic Church, allow cremation, as do Sikhs, Hindus and Buddhists. It is however forbidden by the Orthodox Christian faiths, Orthodox Jews, Greeks and also Islamic faiths.

3. Is cremation more expensive than burial?

No. Generally the cost of the Exclusive Rights of Burial and the interment in a grave are much higher than the fee charged by the crematorium. Although the funeral director charges are similar for both services.

4. What religious ceremony can I have with cremation?

The service for burial and cremation is the same apart from the form of committal sentences. The service may take place at your own place of worship with a short committal service in the crematorium chapel, or you may have the whole service at the crematorium chapel. Alternatively, you may prefer a civil ceremony be conducted, or even no service at all. The service can be held at the crematorium, a local church or any other place that you choose.

5. How is a cremation arranged?

The Cremation Regulations are complex and many people approach a funeral director immediately death occurs, and advise him that they wish to arrange a cremation. The funeral director will ensure that all the necessary statutory forms for cremation are obtained and presented to the Crematorium.

6. Can a cremation be arranged without the services of a funeral director?

Yes. The Executor or nearest surviving relative may arrange the cremation service themselves. You can contact the crematorium for more information or click on the following link.

7. Can relatives witness the committal of the coffin to the cremator?

Yes. Westerleigh crematoria have a viewing area within the crematory, where under supervision, mourners may witness the committal of the coffin into the cremator. The Crematorium must be informed that you wish to witness the committal when the cremation is booked, so that staff can be informed who will then make the necessary preparations on the day.

8. Is the coffin cremated with the body?

Yes. The Code of Cremation Practice states that the coffin and the body shall be placed in cremator as received on the catafalque. The coffin or container with the body inside shall not be opened or otherwise disturbed, other than in exceptional circumstances, and then only with the express permission of the Applicant for Cremation (usually the executor or next of kin).

9. How soon after the service will the cremation take place?

The Code of Cremation Practice states that the coffin and the body shall be placed in a cremator and cremation commenced as soon as practicable after the service of committal. All cremations at Westerleigh Crematoria are carried out within 48 hours. Under normal circumstances the cremation is usually carried out on the same day. However, when a service takes place late in the day or a limited number of services are booked, the cremations may take place within the 48 hour period. All coffins not cremated on the same day are securely stored in a hygienic manner. The benefits to the community from holding cremations include a reduced impact on the environment by reducing CO2 emissions and fossil fuel use, while achieving efficient use of machinery and equipment.

10. How are ashes kept separate?

A cremator can only accept one coffin at a time and all the ashes are removed from the cremator before the next cremation. An identity card is used throughout the whole process until the final disposal of ashes, thereby ensuring correct identification.

11. What happens to the ashes after cremation?

The law relating to cremation requires that ashes are disposed of in accordance with the written instructions of the applicant (usually the executor or nearest surviving relative). Westerleigh crematoria have a wide range of options which might include scattering or burying in the garden of remembrance including interring with a memorial such as a vault or a mini grave. Other options for memorials might include plaques beneath rose bushes, trees or shrubs and memorial benches with plaques. The simplest form of memorial is an entry inscribed in a book of remembrance. Your nearest Westerleigh crematorium will provide details of their facilities. Ashes may also be buried in family graves within a cemetery. Alternatively you may be able to purchase a new ashes grave in a cemetery. There is no need to make a hurried decision with regards to the final resting place of the remains. All our crematoria having a facility to hold the remains until a decision is made. Should a crematorium not be contacted with a decision after a period of time has elapsed you will receive a letter asking for your final instructions. If you are not ready, simply tell the crematorium that you need more time. Should the crematorium receive no reply to their letters they may legally scatter or bury the ashes within their grounds after giving you 2 weeks written notice.

12. Some people refer to ‘Ashes’ whilst others refer to ‘Cremated Remains’. Is there a difference?

No. Ashes and Cremated Remains are one and the same thing and are defined as ‘everything that is left in the cremator at the end of the cremation process following the removal of any metal’. There is no separation of what is perceived to be ash from the coffin and other items from what is perceived to be ash from the deceased person as this would be impossible. Further questions about metal and what happens to it are answered below.

13. Are any ashes left after the cremation of a baby?

All Westerleigh crematoria have procedures designed to maximise the potential for retrieving ashes from baby and pregnancy loss cremations. Turbulence within the cremation chamber is reduced, the use of a metal tray on which the small coffin is placed thus helping to protect the ash, and careful placement within the cremation chamber are some of the careful procedures that we follow. There may be some instances where it has not been possible to recover any ash however these are minimal. You can ask your local crematorium about their processes in recovering ashes from the cremations of babies.

14. Can more than one body be cremated at a time?

The aperture through which the coffin passes in the cremator and the cremation chamber are of dimensions that will only safely accept one coffin. However, exceptions can be made in the case of a mother and baby or small twin children, so long as the next of kin or executor has made this specific request. There have been a small number of instances where elderly couples have died within a day or two of each other both being cremated in the same coffin. This is not unlawful provided that the applicant for cremation has made this request. The only thing that would prevent this happening is if the coffin were too large to pass through the aperture into the cremator as mentioned above. All Westerleigh crematoria will allow public inspection of the ‘behind the scenes’ procedures in an attempt to enlighten the public on all aspects of the cremation process. Some crematoria have arrangements to carry out shared cremations of foetal remains in instances where parents do not want to make private arrangements. These are arranged via hospitals. Some parents gain some comfort from knowing that their baby was laid to rest with others. The practice of shared cremation is supported by Sands, the stillbirth and neonatal death charity.

15. Are coffins sold back to funeral directors for re-use?

No. The coffin and the body inside are cremated together as stated in the Code of Cremation Practice.

16. What happens to the metal that is left in the ashes?

In the past all crematoria removed metal such as orthopaedic implants and screws used in the construction of the coffin and disposed of the metal by burying it within the grounds of the crematorium. The Westerleigh Group has adopted a scheme over 20 years ago whereby the applicant for cremation can give consent for the metal to be recycled or returned to them. Most UK crematoria are currently recycling metals. The money raised by the scheme, after transport, sorting and smelting costs have been deducted, is returned to the crematorium and distributed amongst Westerleigh Group selected charities, local activities and environmental initiatives which will benefit the communities we serve. Precious metal such as jewellery left on the deceased will melt during the cremation process, combine with ash and become granular and hence is unrecognisable.

17. Can I visit a crematorium and see what happens behind the scenes?

Yes. All Westerleigh crematoria will permit such a visit if requested. The visit may take place whilst cremations are taking place or when not; the choice is yours. This open-door policy helps to dispel the myths that have been explained above. On seeing the cremation process the viewer can be reassured that all cremations take place individually in a hygienic environment, coffins are cremated with the deceased and that identity is maintained throughout the process so that a family can be sure that they receive the correct ashes.

18. Where can I find out more information about cremation?

Do not hesitate to contact your local Westerleigh Group crematoria if you require any further information about the cremation. Our dedicated, caring staff will be happy to assist with any questions you may have to help you arrange a funeral service that is uniquely personal.




1. Why are graves dug so deep? (It’s distressing to see the coffin go down so deep)

Graves have to be dug to a sufficient depth to allow for future burials to take place should a family require more than one burial in a grave.

Therefore the grave needs to be deep enough to allow not only for the depth of coffins/caskets that will be buried but also to accommodate legal requirements of undisturbed earth to be between each coffin and the amount of earth that must cover the last interment.

2. Why are there so many different types of grave available at some cemeteries?

Most burial authorities provide a wide range of graves to give people as many options as possible when arranging the burial of a loved one. For many the lawn grave is considered to be the best option but for others a more traditional, elaborate and larger type of memorial is required. Burial above ground in a mausoleum is available at some Westerleigh cemeteries as are below ground vaults.

3. I have bought a grave. Do I own the land?

No. You have purchased the exclusive right of burial in the piece of land called the grave space and the right to erect and maintain a memorial. The ownership of the land remains with the burial authority. The grave deed you will have been given when you purchased the exclusive right of burial will state how long the lease is, this is usually 50 years.

4. I have a lawn grave. Why can't I put a full memorial over the surface of the grave?

The lawn grave was designed on the war grave principle which is to have only a memorial of limited size at the head of the grave with the rest of the grave laid to lawn).

In addition maintenance is easier to accomplish to keep the lawn area in a neat condition. These graves are sold on the understanding that only lawn style memorials are erected. Full memorials are only permitted on Traditional graves. Care must be taken when selecting the type of grave. If you would prefer a larger, more traditional type memorial you should not opt for a lawn grave.

Graves are prepared for burial at least one full day before the funeral and are covered overnight. Soon after the mourners have departed the graveside, the grave shall be entirely backfilled and made tidy. This work is completed on the day of the burial and coffins should not be left uncovered overnight.

5. Are graves filled in straight after a funeral or are they left to the next day?

Graves are prepared for burial on the day of the funeral, occasionally if operations require, they may be dug the day before the funeral and are safely covered overnight. Soon after the mourners have departed the graveside, the grave shall be entirely backfilled and made tidy. This work is completed on the day of the burial and coffins are never left uncovered overnight.

6. I understand that some people wait while the grave is filled in. Why is this?

Some cultures require that the grave is filled in while the family watch or they may wish to undertake the backfilling of the grave themselves. When families want this it is essential that the cemetery is made aware of their requirements when the burial is first arranged. This will ensure that the family's wishes are met and that their safety is protected during the backfilling process.

7. Can anyone witness the grave being filled?

Yes, but the cemetery will need to be advised of this before the funeral takes place so that they are prepared.

8. I've got a lawn grave. When will I be able to put a memorial onto it?

In cemeteries where continuous concrete foundations have been laid memorials can be erected on lawn graves, 'almost' immediately. Where individual foundations are provided for lawn memorials ideally these will be situated on un-dug ground at the head end of the grave. In these circumstances and with the use of ground anchors and fixings that comply with British Standard 8415 and the National Association of Memorial Masons (NAMM) Code of Practice, it is still possible to erect a memorial almost immediately. In cemeteries where the headstone is erected directly on the excavated area of the grave or a traditional memorial is required there will need to be a period which allows the ground time to settle and consolidate. During this period the cemetery staff should monitor any sinkage that becomes apparent and top up periodically with topsoil until settlement ceases. This period may differ around the country due to differing soil types and conditions.

9. What is a natural burial?

Natural burials are those where the environment is of paramount importance. Many local authorities and private companies provide a natural burial option where burials take place in existing woodland or meadowland setting. In some sites an open area is used, and trees and natural wildflowers are planted and the setting is created. There will be restrictions such as on the types of memorials and materials permitted and a requirement that the deceased is not embalmed. The intention is for the deceased to return to nature and by so doing assist the environment.

10. Why have I only been sold the grave for a set period of time? - I want the grave forever!

The law stipulates that graves cannot be sold for more than 100 years and authorities cannot go against that law. However, the law does permit grant of ownership to be extended and grave owners should contact the cemetery office to see what opportunities are available to 'top-up' their lease. In this manner, the grave can stay in the family for as long as they wish, though ownership will never be issued for more than 100 years at any one time. Even where this topping up option is not offered then you (or your descendants/family) can renew the right at the end of the current lease.

It is important that the owner of the exclusive right of burial informs the cemetery office of any change of address otherwise correspondence relating to the grave will not be received. Similarly, when the owner dies the nearest relatives should contact the cemetery office to arrange for the ownership to be transferred and thus the interest in the grave can be retained.

11. I own the grave - can anyone else be buried in it if I don't want them to?

No. Graves cannot be opened without the permission in writing of the registered owner. The only exception to this is where the burial is to be that of the registered owner in which case no written authority is required. The law protects your rights as registered owner of the grave.

12. I am told the grave is for two people - there is only one person in the grave and I now want two more burials to take place in the grave.

When a grave is purchased to take two full body burials, the depth to which the grave is excavated for the first burial must take into account the need for the second burial. There are legal requirements as to how much earth must be left on top of the last coffin, and it is therefore not physically possible to put an extra coffin into the grave without breaking the law. Lawful authority could be obtained to exhume those already buried in the grave, excavate the grave deeper, rebury those deceased that were exhumed and subsequently carry out the third burial. This action would require careful consideration by the grave owner.

After the grave is full for coffined burial ashes caskets or urns may still be buried within the grave.

13. What happens when the lease expires?

When you buy a grave you purchase the exclusive Rights of Burial in that grave for a set period of time. At the end of the period you may be given the option of renewing the Rights for a further period. It is vitally important that you keep the cemetery office fully informed should you change address otherwise you may not receive a notice of renewal at the appropriate time.

Also at the end of the period of rights to erect and maintain a memorial the cemetery staff may attempt to contact you to give you the option to renew the lease. Should you not wish to renew the lease or you cannot be contacted the cemetery staff can lawfully remove any memorial after giving a set period of notice for you to remove the memorial yourself. If you decide to renew the lease this may be on condition that the memorial receives a full inspection and stability test and any defects found are repaired.

14. Who is responsible for the memorial?

Whilst the burial authority is responsible for maintaining the cemetery in a safe condition you have a responsibility to maintain your memorial in a safe condition throughout the period of the Right to Erect and Maintain a Memorial. If you fail to do this the cemetery staff may take action to make the memorial safe. Westerleigh Group carry out routine inspections of memorials in their cemeteries and when one is identified as being unstable and likely to fall and injure someone it might be cordoned off, laid flat or have a temporary support installed. You will receive a letter in these circumstances and it will be your responsibility to arrange suitable repair. Should your memorial still be under guarantee the memorial mason will be responsible to carry out repair at no extra cost to yourself.

Should you ignore the notice sent to you your memorial may well be laid flat and when the lease expires you will not be allowed to renew it until repairs are made. Should no repairs be carried out and after further notification the memorial may be lawfully removed from the cemetery. Your memorial mason also has a responsibility to provide a memorial of merchantable quality and to erect it in a safe manner. You should insist that the memorial is erected in accordance with British Standard 8415 and the National Association of Memorial Masons (NAMM) Recommended Code of Practice and seek a guarantee of conformity from your memorial mason.

15. What happens if / when all the owners have died?

Ownership of the exclusive Right of Burial in a grave can be transferred from a deceased owner via that owner's estate. The means of transfer can be very complex and while there is a set procedure to follow, each case must be looked at individually. If you need to transfer ownership when all owners are deceased you will need to contact the cemetery office where staff will arrange for a transfer to take place with due compliance with law.

16. Why can't I have what I want on the grave?

When a new grave is purchased it is not the ownership of the land itself that is purchased, but the rights to have burials take place in that grave. These rights 'granted' together with the right to erect a memorial on the grave in accordance with the rules and regulations of the cemetery. It is important that you select the cemetery that will provide you with the type of memorial that you require as regulations differ from area to area.

17. Why is a permit needed?

Prior to a memorial being erected on a grave space, the written authority of the owner of the grave must be given on a permit / application form, authorising the proposed erection of the memorial. Memorials need to conform to cemetery regulations with regard to size and fixings, and the memorial also needs to be checked for stability under health and safety regulations. The cemetery staff need to check that the memorial conforms to regulations and will be erected in a safe manner. To a certain extent this helps protect your interests although you will remain responsible for the maintenance of the memorial in the future. You may ask your memorial mason for a workmanship guarantee or in fact details of insurance.

Some authorities will issue a separate Right to Erect and Maintain a Memorial and the purchase of this right will be made on submission of the application to erect a memorial. Other authorities may combine the Memorial Rights with the Burial Rights.

18. I want to bury ashes into the grave. Why do I have to decide whether there will be any more burials before this can be done?

It is against the law to disturb human remains without licence (including ashes in a casket or urn), and therefore no further burials will be possible in the grave until a licence has been obtained. Ashes can be buried in the grave at full depth, in which case they will not be disturbed by further full body burials, but by having to excavate a grave to this depth there will be additional charges for opening the grave.