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Cemeteries and Crematoria - FAQ

Burials and Cremation - Frequently Asked Questions

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Burials

What is an Exclusive Right of Burial?

When a grave is “purchased” it is the right to bury in that grave which is purchased, not the land. Purchasing the Exclusive Right of Burial means the grave can only be used for a burial or scattering of cremated remains with the exclusive permission of the owner of the right of burial. All Exclusive Rights of Burial are granted for a fixed period of time, presently Birmingham City Council grants rights of burial for 75 years. The right to erect a memorial is also granted with the Exclusive Right of Burial.

What is a Grant of Exclusive Right of Burial?

When an Exclusive Right of Burial is granted a grave deed is issued to the owner. This is called the Grant of Exclusive Right of Burial. This should be kept in a safe place, as it should be produced when the grave is to be used. Please advise us of any change of address so we have up to date records.

Can I select a grave?

Yes, please contact the relevant cemetery office to arrange an appointment.

Can I sell back an unused grave?

Yes, the Council will buy back graves, which have not been used and will refund the amount originally paid at the time of purchase.

How many burials will a grave take?

Each grave will be for a pre-determined number of burials. All new graves are usually for one or two burials. Please contact the relevant cemetery office for further information.

Must I use a Funeral Director to arrange a burial or cremation?

If you do not want to use a Funeral Director it is possible to make the arrangements yourself. Families tend to arrange burials and scatterings of cremated remains directly with the relevant cemetery office.

What is the interment fee?

The interment fee is the burial fee. This fee is for the grave excavation at the time of the funeral.

When does a non resident fees apply?

A non-resident fee applies when the person to be interred did not reside in the Metropolitan District of Birmingham at the time of his/her death. In this circumstance the Exclusive Right of Burial fee will be enhanced. When an Exclusive Right of Burial is pre-purchased by a person who is not a resident of the Metropolitan District of Birmingham this enhanced fee also applies. Anyone who did not reside in the Metropolitan District of Birmingham at the time of death but had already purchased the Exclusive Rights of Burial to a grave when a resident of Birmingham will not incur any additional fees based on residency.

How is the non-resident fee calculated?

There is not a set calculation for this fee. The fees are set in accordance with the City Council’s Corporate Charging Policy. They are reviewed on an annual basis following benchmarking exercises with both neighboring and Core City Authorities.

Why are there different interment fees dependant on the grave purchase date?

Graves purchased prior to 1st April 1993 are subject to an increased burial fee, as at the time of the original purchase the Cemetery Maintenance Fee was not charged. If the grave has been used between the date of purchase and April 1993 the lower burial fee applies. All graves purchased after 1993 have had the Cemetery Maintenance Fee incorporated in the Exclusive Right of Burial fee.

What is a standard grave?

A standard grave has a width of 4ft and can accept a maximum coffin/casket width of 30”. If the coffin/casket width exceeds 30” a 5ft width grave will be allocated.

Is the 5ft width grave more expensive and how is this fee calculated?

The cost increases pro rata. The fee is calculated by dividing the standard grave fee by 4 to give the price per foot and then multiplied by 5 to give the grave fee.

What is a concrete header?

A concrete header is a foundation raft in place at the time of burial. A lawn grave with concrete header incorporates the cost of this foundation slab in the fee.

What can I put on my grave?

Grave Memorials, flowers and temporary memorials are permitted in the cemeteries in accordance with the relevant Rules and Regulations please follow the link. Before any planting on a grave takes place the permission of the Bereavement Officer must be obtained. Please contact the relevant site office for more details.

How long do I have to wait to put a memorial on my grave?

This will depend on what type of grave you have. If the grave has a concrete header or is a cremated remains plot the memorial can be erected immediately following an interment. For all other types of graves we recommend that you do not erect a memorial for at least six months following an interment to allow the ground to consolidate.

Who is responsible for the repair to a memorial?

The owner of the Exclusive Right of Burial is responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of the memorial. Under the Local Authorities Cemeteries Order 1977 the City Council may take action necessary to remove a danger which arises by reason of the condition of a memorial. We will write to you if your memorial is deemed unsafe.

Why has my grave sunk?

Following an interment a certain amount of consolidation of the disturbed ground will take place. This may be greater than normal following heavy rain. The staff will routinely top up the grave until the consolidation has stopped.

How long are floral tributes left on graves?

The cemetery will not remove floral tributes unless they have remained on the grave for a long period of time and have become dilapidated. Families may remove old tributes, dead flowers and wreaths from a family grave and take them home with them or convey them to the nearest wastebasket.

Can I park my car in the grounds?

Cars should be parked on the car parks where provided and must not obstruct driveways or sidewalks. Vehicles must not be parked on the grass.

Are dogs permitted in the grounds?

No dogs unless Guide Dogs for the visually impaired or hard of hearing are permitted in the cemetery or crematoria grounds. It is an offence to bring a dog into a cemetery or crematoria unless it is a Guide Dog.


Cremation

How many of the deaths which occur in Great Britain each year result in cremation?

Cremation has become the preferred method of disposal in Great Britain. Approximately 70% of all recorded deaths are now followed by cremation.

Are there any religious groups, which forbid cremation to their members?

All Christian denominations, including the Roman Catholic Church, allow cremation. Cremation is also acceptable to Sikhs, Hindus, Parsees and Buddhists but it is forbidden by Orthodox Jews and Muslims.

Is cremation more expensive than burial?

Generally the cost of burial is much higher than the fee charged for cremation. Cremation usually necessitates the production of medical certificates for which fees are payable to doctors concerned. These certificates are not required when the death has been referred to and investigated by a Coroner (Procurator Fiscal in Scotland) or when burial is required, although in this case, in addition to the charges for interment, a number of other fees for grave purchase, memorials and grave maintenance may be incurred.

What service arrangements are available at the crematorium?

A full religious service may be conducted at the crematorium within the time allowed for each funeral. Alternatively, a service may take place in any separate place of worship followed by a brief committal ceremony at the crematorium. Families can arrange for their particular Minister to conduct the service or when required Funeral Directors may secure the services of a suitable Minister on behalf of the family.

Is it necessary for the cremation to be associated with a religious ceremony?

The deceased's family can make any service arrangements, which they consider to be appropriate. Secular services can be conducted at the crematorium or, if required, no ceremony need take place. Memorial services can be conducted separately from the cremation ceremony in local places of worship by arrangement with the Minister concerned.

How is a cremation arranged?

A number of arrangements need to be made following a death. The responsibility normally falls on the Executor or the nearest surviving relative who may wish to approach a professional Funeral Director who will undertake some of the various tasks on their behalf. The Funeral Director will need to discuss with the family their requirements concerning the service arrangements and will assist in completing the necessary statutory and non-statutory forms. The Funeral Director will make the practical arrangements for the collection of the body and will obtain the necessary medical certificates. It will be necessary to register the death and information will be provided by the Funeral Director to assist in completing that duty.

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

The Funeral Director will discuss with relatives the alternative arrangements which may be adopted for the disposal of cremated remains. It is likely that a form of authority will be required to be signed advising the crematorium of the wishes of the family. If they are undecided it will be possible for the cremated remains to be retained, either at the crematorium or at the Funeral Director's premises, pending a decision.

What are the normal options for disposal of cremated remains?

All crematoria provide a Garden of Remembrance where cremated remains can be dispersed. Some crematoria provide niches where containers may be placed for limited periods. Cremated remains can be removed from the crematorium in a suitable container for disposal elsewhere. This may include interment in a grave in a cemetery or churchyard, dispersal at another crematorium or dispersal privately in a particular area selected by the family. Suitable permission should be obtained from the appropriate Authority in these cases.

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

The Gardens of Remembrance consist of special areas, often adjacent to the crematorium, set aside for the disposal of cremated remains. They are used continually for this purpose and as a result it may not be possible or appropriate to mark or identify the exact location of individual cremated remains. The Gardens are normally arranged to provide a focal point for visitors and may include a variety of memorial facilities.

What memorial facilities are available at crematoria?

All crematoria have some form of memorial facility. The most usual form of permanent memorial is the Book of Remembrance. The book is usually displayed in a special memorial chapel and entries are available for viewing either automatically on the anniversary of the date of death or on request. Some crematoria provide wall or kerb mounted plaques in stone or metal although these are normally purchased for a limited period only. Roses, trees and shrubs may be dedicated at some crematoria for periods which may be extended by agreement. Donations are often accepted for the provision of items to be used at the crematorium or for the embellishment of the buildings or grounds. The Funeral Director should be aware of the memorial options available but direct enquiries to the Crematorium Registrar will ensure that full details are provided together with a scale of charges.

What is the procedure followed at the crematorium on the day of the funeral?

The mourners will normally gather at the crematorium in the waiting room or close to the entrance of the chapel a few minutes before the appointed time of the funeral service. It is not usual for the ceremony to commence before thepublicised time. When the principal mourners are ready to proceed, the coffin will be conveyed into the chapel by the Funeral Director unless family bearers are used by request. The coffin will be placed on the catafalque and mourners will be directed to their seats after which the service will proceed. At the moment during the service when the committal of the body takes place the coffin may be obscured from view by curtains or withdrawn from the chapel. At the end of the service the mourners leave the chapel and may then inspect the floral tributes.

What happens to the coffin after the committal?

The coffin is withdrawn into the committal room where the nameplate is carefully checked by crematorium staff to ensure the correct identity. An identity card will then accompany the coffin and the resultant remains until their final disposal or removal from the crematorium.

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

The reception of the coffin in the committal room and its introduction into a cremator can be witnessed by arrangement with the Crematorium Registrar. It is preferable to advise the Funeral Director of these requirements as early as possible when making the funeral arrangements.

Is the cremation of a body governed by a code of ethics and working practices?

Cremation Authorities who are members of the Federation of British Cremation Authorities are required to operate strictly in accordance with a Code of Cremation Practice. This Code, which provides the only ethical standard of cremation practice in Great Britain, is often displayed in the public areas of the building.

How soon after the service will the cremation take place?

The cremation will usually be commenced shortly after the service. The Code of Cremation Practice specifies that the cremation is always completed on the same day as the service.

Is the coffin cremated with the body?

The Code requires that the coffin be placed in the cremator in exactly the same condition as that in which it was received at the crematorium. Crematorium regulations require that the coffin and all its fittings and furnishings be made from materials suitable for cremation. The Environmental Protection Act 1990 has placed a new responsibility on Cremation Authorities to ensure that the process is completed under controlled conditions, which will minimise the impact on the environment. In these circumstances it will be necessary for any items included in the coffin for presentation or viewing purposes to be removed by the Funeral Director before the coffin is conveyed to the crematorium. It will not be possible for any floral tributes to be included with the coffin for cremation.

Should items of jewellery be left on a 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 any items of jewellery after the coffin has been received at the crematorium.

Can more than one body be cremated in a cremator at the same time?

The Code insists that each cremation is carried out separately. Exceptions may be made for instance in the case of mother and baby or twin children providing that the next of kin has made a specific request in this regard.

What happens to the cremated remains after the cremation?

At the conclusion of a cremation the cremated remains are removed in their entirety and conveyed to a treatment area in a special container. Ferrous metals used in the construction of the coffin or metal used in medical implants are extracted and retained for separate disposal. Non-ferrous metals which may include an unrecognisable element of precious material will not be salvaged for any purpose and will be disposed of in accordance with the requirements of the Code of Cremation Practice and invariably this will be by burial in the crematorium grounds.

What procedures are followed to ensure that cremated remains are kept separate?

A cremator can physically accept only one coffin at a time and all remains are removed before the unit can be used again. The identity card referred to previously accompanies the coffin and cremated remains throughout the process until final disposal. The code of ethics and practical necessity are complementary and combine to ensure that the separation of cremated remains is achieved.

How are cremated remains treated at the crematorium?

Cremated remains are removed from the cremator only when no further reduction is possible. The remains are withdrawn into a cooling area and finally into a special container for transfer to a purpose made unit which, after removal of ferrous metals, will reduce the residue to a fine consistency suitable for storage and eventual disposal. The remains are enclosed in a suitable and carefully identified container to await dispersal or collection.

What quantity of remains will there be following a cremation?

The cremation of an adult will normally result in the presentation of cremated remains weighing between 2 and 4 kg. In the case of a body of an infant it may not be possible to guarantee that any remains will be collectable. This is due to the cartilaginous nature of the bone structure.

What happens to the cremated remains strewn in the ground?

The cremated remains, which have assumed a granular form, are normally distributed over a wide area of ground. Chemical reactions resulting from exposure to the elements quickly break down the remains so that within a few days little trace of them can be observed. Some crematoria follow the practice of dressing the area where the cremated remains have been dispersed, with a suitable mixture of loam and sand.

Can cremated remains be interred and their position marked with a memorial?

The Gardens of Remembrance attached to a crematorium do not provide for the erection of permanent memorials. Cremated remains interred in Gardens of Remembrance are not normally contained in a casket or container of any kind.If it is required to inter cremated remains in a grave with traditional facilities for memorialisation, suitable enquiries should be made to the Registrar responsible for the selected cemetery.

Can cremated remains be retained by the family pending final disposal?

The Applicant for cremation may collect and retain the cremated remains if required. Cremated remains can be retained at the crematorium for a limited period although a charge may be made for this facility.

What arrangements can be made to ensure that cremation is the selected method of disposal following death?

Clear instructions in writing should be given to the person who will be responsible for making the funeral arrangements. Such instructions are not binding in law and it will therefore be necessary to ensure that the person instructed is someone who is likely to carry out the wishes of the deceased. The final decision will rest on the executors.

Can more information be obtained concerning cremation and if required can a crematorium be visited by members of the public?

The matters referred to previously may be discussed in more detail with the Registrar of the local crematorium. The Registrar will be pleased to answer further questions and make arrangements for any member of the public to be accompanied on a visit to the crematorium.