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.