Frequently Asked Questions: Bereavement, Cremation and Cemeteries

Frequently Asked Questions: Bereavement, Cremation and Cemeteries

Bereavement help and advice is available from the following organisations:

The Bereavement Advice Centre
Age UK
Child Bereavement UK
Child Bereavement UK - Ideas for Families Holding a Funeral When You Cannot Meet
Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide
Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Charity
Policy Statement for Infant Cremation


Can I get help with funeral costs?

If you are on a low income you may be able to get help. For more information visit the Government's Funeral Payments page.



Do any religious groups forbid cremation?

All current Christian denominations, including the Roman Catholic Church, allow cremation, as do Sikhs, Hindus, Parsees and Buddhists. It is however forbidden by Orthodox Jews and Muslims.

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. Families can arrange their own Minister to conduct the service or the funeral director can do this for them. Alternatively, you may prefer a civil ceremony be conducted, or even no service at all.

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. They will also make the practical arrangements for the collection of the deceased and will obtain the necessary medical certificates and provide help with registering the death.

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. Please contact the Bereavement Services Office for advice.

Do relatives need to decide at this stage about the disposal of the cremated remains?

No, the funeral director will discuss this with you, the cremated remains can only be removed from the crematorium by a funeral director but they can store the cremated remains for you or they can be left at the crematorium for 14 days, while a decision is made.

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

Yes. The Bereavement Services Office must be informed that you wish to view the committal when the cremation is booked. A maximum of 6 people can attend the committal. Advice on procedures can be given prior to the cremation.

Is the coffin cremated with the body?

Yes. The ICCM (The Institute of Cemetery and Crematorium Management) Guiding Principles state that the container and the body shall be placed in the cremator and cremation commenced. 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 permission and in the presence of the applicant for cremation (usually the executor or next of kin).

How soon after the service will the cremation take place?

The ICCM Guiding Principles state that the container and the body shall be placed in a cremator and cremation commenced no later than 72 hours after the service of committal. Where cremation may not be carried out on the same day, the applicant for cremation shall be notified. This means that under normal circumstances the cremation is usually carried out shortly after the service and certainly on the same day.

Can more than one body be cremated at a time?

No, each cremation is carried out separately. 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.

Are coffins sold back to funeral directors for re-using?

No. The coffin and the body inside are cremated together. There are occasions where the deceased or the family of the deceased have opted for using a cardboard coffin in which their loved one will be cremated. When this happens families sometimes want to have a more aesthetically pleasing coffin or container on the catafalque during the service. Families therefore will opt for either a pall (a cloth covering the cardboard coffin) supplied by the family or a 'cocoon coffin' (an outer shell that covers the cardboard coffin) supplied by the cremation authority or will decorate a cardboard coffin themselves. Neither the pall nor the cocoon is cremated. It is important to understand that the pall and cocoon do not contain the body of the deceased; they are simply superficial coverings for a cardboard coffin.

Should items of jewellery be left on the body for cremation?

It is preferable that all items of jewellery be removed from the body before the coffin is conveyed to the crematorium. The funeral director should ascertain your wishes in respect of this matter when the funeral arrangements are being discussed. It will not be possible to recover items of jewellery after the coffin has been received at the crematorium.

How are cremated remains kept separate?

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

What happens to the cremated remains after cremation?

The law relating to cremation requires that cremated remains are disposed of in accordance with the written instructions of the applicant (usually the executor or nearest surviving relative). At the West Road Crematorium there is a Garden of Remembrance where cremated remains can be dispersed. Cremated remains can also be buried or scattered in any of the city cemeteries. They can be stored in indoor and outdoor columbaria at the crematorium, contact the Bereavement Services Office for further details.
 Cremated remains can be removed from the crematorium in a suitable container for disposal elsewhere but only by a funeral director. This may include interment in a grave in a cemetery or churchyard, dispersal at another crematorium or dispersal privately in another area selected by the family. Suitable permission should be obtained from the appropriate authority in these cases.

What is the Garden of Remembrance and what facilities may be provided there?

The Garden of Remembrance is a special area that can be found through the archway at the West Road Crematorium. This area is set aside for the scattering of cremated remains. The garden is used continually for this purpose and so it is not possible to mark the exact location of individual cremated remains. The Garden of Remembrance is a focal point for visitors and includes a variety of memorial facilities.

What memorial facilities are available at the West Road Crematorium?

Most crematoria have some form of memorial facility. The most usual form of permanent memorial is the Book of Remembrance. At the West Road Crematorium the Book of Remembrance can be found in the Hall of Remembrance and the entries are available for viewing on a chosen anniversary date. Wall mounted plaques, memorial vases, indoor and outdoor columbaria can be leased for set periods. Your funeral director should be aware of the memorial options available but enquiries should be directed to the Bereavement Services Office.

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

Yes. A guided tour of the West Road Crematorium can be arranged by contacting the Bereavement Services Office. You do not have to make an appointment you can visit the crematorium at any time during opening hours. 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 surrounding the cremation process. On seeing the cremation process the viewer can be reassured that all cremations take place individually, 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 cremated remains.


Graves and Memorials

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. 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 between each coffin and the amount of earth that must cover the last interment.

Why are there so many different types of grave available at Newcastle upon Tyne Cemeteries?

We have 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. You may make an appointment with the cemeteries officer via the Bereavement Services office, to discuss the choice and location for a  grave. The cemeteries officer or another member of staff will show you a maximum of two areas of the same type, where possible. The exceptions to the selection process will be where space can be found in an active area of the cemetery next to an existing family grave, this is not guaranteed. The selection process has been introduced to ensure that the cemetery spaces are fully utilised and for logistical purposes for access.

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

The lawn grave was designed with the principle of having a memorial of limited size at the head of the grave with the rest of the grave laid to lawn. This means maintenance is easier to accomplish with large mowing machinery being used to keep the area in a neat condition. These graves are sold on the understanding that only lawn style memorials are erected. Large 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 or kerbstones then you should not opt for a lawn grave.

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

Graves are normally prepared for burial at least one full day before the funeral and are covered overnight. The ICCM Guiding Principles for Burial Services states that immediately after the mourners have departed from the graveside, the grave shall be entirely backfilled and made tidy. This work is completed on the day of the burial and coffins are not left uncovered overnight.

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 Bereavement Services Office 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.

Can anyone witness the grave being filled?

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

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

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 the National Association of Memorial Masons (NAMM) Recommended Code of Practice, it is possible to erect a memorial almost immediately. On graves where the headstone is erected directly on the excavated area of the grave the ground should be allowed to settle and consolidate before erecting a memorial.

During this period the cemetery staff will monitor any sinkage that becomes apparent and top up periodically with topsoil until settlement ceases. This period may differ from cemetery to cemetery and section to section due to differing soil types and conditions. Even after settlement has ceased it is advisable to ensure that your memorial mason adopts the NAMM Code of Practice as mentioned above.

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, you (or your family) can renew the right at the end of the current lease. At Newcastle the lease is sold for 50 years.

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 of the grave. 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 you r rights as registered owner of the grave. 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. However, after the grave is full for coffined burials cremated remains caskets or urns may still be buried within the grave.

What happens when the lease expires?

When you buy a grave in Newcastle upon Tyne you purchase the exclusive Rights of Burial in that grave for a 50 year period. It is vitally important that you keep the Bereavement Services Office fully informed should you change address otherwise they will not be able to contact you. Near the end of the lease you should contact the Bereavement Services Office for further information.

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. Please contact the Bereavement Services Office for further information.

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 are sold, or to be more correct, 'granted' together with the rights to erect a memorial on the grave in accordance with the rules and regulations of the cemetery. It is important that you select the correct area of the cemetery that will allow you to have the type of memorial that you require as regulations differ from section to section. This can be checked out by contacting the Bereavement Services Office and making enquiries about the choices and options available.

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 lease 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.

Bereavement Services staff carry out routine inspections of memorials in the cemetery 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, according to Newcastle upon Tyne City Council Cemetery Regulations. We recommend that adequate insurance is taken out on your memorial.

I need to buy a headstone. Do you recommend stone masons?

No, we are not permitted to recommend anyone. Do not entertain any monumental mason who approaches you in the cemetery or who calls to your home. A list of memorial masons allowed to work in Newcastle upon Tyne cemeteries is available from the Bereavement Services Office.

How do I locate a family grave?

We regret that we are currently unable to put our cemetery records online. If you are trying to locate a grave within our cemeteries please contact Bereavement Services with the name of deceased, date of death and if possible the cemetery they were buried in. There may be a fee for this service.


If you have any further questions please contact Bereavement Services.


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