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Bereavement FAQs

Which is more common - burial or cremation?

Since 1968 when the number of cremations exceeded burials for the first time, cremation has increased considerably. Current figures suggest that around 70% of all funerals are cremations.

Which is more expensive - burial or cremation?

Generally the cost of a burial is higher than the cost of a cremation. Cremation usually requires the production of medical certificates for which a fee is payable to the doctors concerned. These certificates are not required when the death has been referred to and investigated by a Coroner or when burial is required. In the case of burial, there may be additional costs such as the purchase of a grave and a memorial stone. Here are our current cremation and burial fees.

How is a funeral arranged?

Cremation and burial regulations are complex and so most people approach a funeral director and have them make all the arrangements for them. The funeral director will make sure that all the necessary legal forms are obtained and presented to the Cemetery and Crematorium Office.

Alternatively, you can arrange the funeral yourself. We can provide advice to you if you wish to do this.

Does a funeral service have to be a religious service?

No. The deceased's next of kin or executor can decide what type of service is most suitable for them. You may have a service conducted by a minister of any faith, or by a provider of a non-religious ceremony such as a Humanist. The service can be held in local place of worship followed by a short committal ceremony at the crematorium or cemetery. Alternatively the entire service can be conducted at the crematorium or cemetery. You may even wish to not have a service at all.

Burial - What service arrangements are available in the cemeteries?

There are chapels available to be used for funeral services in Harton, Jarrow, Hebburn and Whitburn Cemeteries. You may hold a service there before proceeding to the graveside for the burial. Alternatively, you can hold your service at a local place of worship, followed by a brief committal ceremony at the graveside.

Burial - What happens at the cemetery on the day of the funeral?

The Cemetery Supervisor will greet the cortege at the cemetery gates and lead the cars to the graveside (or to the chapel if the service is to be held there). The funeral directors will carry the coffin from the hearse to the graveside, where it will rest on batons whilst the minister conducts the brief committal ceremony. Finally, the coffin will be lowered in to the grave by the cemetery staff. The cemetery staff will then stand back and allow the mourners to pay their last respects at the graveside. Once all the mourners have left the cemetery, the cemetery staff will fill the grave, arrange any floral tributes and leave the area in a tidy and respectful condition.

Burial - 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 to be between each coffin and the amount of earth that must cover the last interment.

Burial - Why are there so many different types of grave available at some cemeteries ?

We have a wide range of graves available so we can give people as many options as possible when arranging the burial of a loved one. For many, the lawned grave is considered to be the best option as it is easy to maintain. However, for those who wish to have a more traditional, elaborate and larger type of memorial, an unlawned grave is the best option. Furthermore, the cemeteries are split into sections, some of which are on consecrated land. See here for more information about choosing a grave.

Burial - I own a 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 your rights as the registered owner of the grave.

Burial - I own a grave but only on a fixed lease? What does this mean?

When you buy a grave in the cemetery, you do not buy the land. The land remains the property of South Tyneside Council. Instead, you buy the exclusive right to bury in that piece of land, effectively making it a private family grave. Up until March 1975 we sold these burial rights in perpetuity. However, we now only sell them for a fixed term of between 50 and 90 years. The term can be extended at any point, but not beyond 90 years at any given time.

At the end of the term, it is the family's responsibility to renew their burial rights if they so wish. Should the rights not be renewed, the cemetery staff can lawfully remove any memorial after giving a set period of notice for you to remove the memorial yourself. If there is sufficient depth left in the grave, we also have the right to bury someone else there. We DO NOT have the right to disturb any existing burials in the grave.

Burial - The owner of a grave has died. Can the grave still be used?

Other than for the grave owner's own burial, a grave cannot be used again until a new owner is appointed. No memorial work may be undertaken either. Ownership of the 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 grave ownership please contact us.

Burial - How soon after a burial can I install a memorial?

We strongly recommend that you wait 12 months after a burial before installing a memorial. Following a burial, the grave can be subject to natural settlement for many months, meaning that the ground level can drop and need filling. A memorial placed before the ground has fully consolidated may start to sink in to the grave. However, the stonemason that you employ will be able to use their experience to let you know you when the ground is ready.

Burial - Why do I need a permit to put a memorial in place?

Prior to a memorial being placed on a grave space, the written authority of the owner of the grave must be given on an application form, authorising the proposed erection of the memorial. Memorials need to conform to cemetery regulations with regard to size, materials 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 as we can ensure that your stonemason is working to the correct standard.

Burial - Who is responsible for grave memorials?

Whilst the council is responsible for maintaining the cemetery in a safe condition, you have a responsibility to maintain your memorial in a safe condition. If you fail to do this the cemetery staff may take action to make the memorial safe. Cemetery 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 you. We strongly recommend that you insure your memorial; your stonemason will arrange this for you.

Burial - I have a lawned grave. Why can't I put a memorial over the entire surface of the grave?

Lawned graves were designed on the war grave principle (to have only a memorial of limited size at the head of the grave with the rest of the grave laid to lawn). This ensures that the area is uniform and neat, and that maintenance is easier for both the public and the council. These graves are sold on the understanding that only lawn style memorials are erected. Full memorials are only permitted on unlawned graves. Therefore, care must be taken when selecting the type of grave you wish to buy. If you would prefer a larger, more traditional type memorial you should not opt for a lawned grave.

Burial - How do I get a body exhumed?

Exhumations are generally rare and tend to be traumatic for the family involved. They can take a long time to arrange and are usually expensive.


It is an offence to exhume any human remains without first obtaining the necessary lawful permissions. Funeral directors can help you to get these.

  • A licence must be obtained from the Home Office. Exhumation licences will also contain certain conditions that have to be observed.
  • If the person is buried in consecrated grounds, permission from the church in the form of a faculty must also be obtained.
  • An Environmental Health Officer must be present at the exhumation of a body to ensure that there is no threat to public health.

Decency and safety

The Environmental Health Officer must be present at the exhumation and supervises the event to make sure that respect for the deceased person is maintained and that public health is protected. The officer will also make sure that:

  • The correct grave is opened
  • The exhumation begins as early as possible in the morning to ensure maximum privacy
  • The plot is screened as appropriate for privacy
  • Health and safety of all workers is maintained, such as protective clothing including masks and gloves, task lights and all other necessary equipment
  • Everyone present shows due respect to the deceased person and to adjoining graves
  • The nameplate on the casket corresponds to that on the licence
  • The new casket has been approved by the Environmental Health Officer
  • All human remains and all the pieces of casket are placed in the new casket
  • The new casket is properly sealed
  • The area of exhumation is properly disinfected
  • Satisfactory arrangements are in place for the onward transmission of the remains.

If the conditions of the licence cannot be met, or there are public health or decency concerns, the exhumation may not proceed.

Cremation - What service arrangements are available at the crematorium?

A full funeral service may be conducted within the crematorium chapel. Alternatively, the service may take place in a separate place of worship followed by a brief committal ceremony at the crematorium.

Cremation - What happens 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 to the chapel a few moments before the appointed service time. Once the cortege arrives, and the principle mourners are ready to proceed, the coffin will be conveyed into the chapel by the Funeral Director, unless family bearers are used. The coffin will be placed on the catafalque and the mourners directed to their seats, after which the service will proceed. At the moment during the service when the committal of the body takes place, it is usual for the coffin to be obscured from view by curtains. At the end of the service, the mourners leave the chapel and may then view the floral tributes.

Cremation - How soon after the service will the cremation take place?

Following the funeral service, the coffin is placed in a cremator and cremation commenced. In most cases, this happens shortly after the service and certainly on the same day.  

Cremation - Can relatives watch the committal of the coffin in to the cremator?

Yes. We will allow a supervised group into the crematory to witness the committal. 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.

Cremation - Can more than one body be cremated at a time?

No. Each cremation is carried out separately. The door through which the coffin passes in the cremator and the cremation chamber are only large enough to accept one coffin.

Cremation - Is the coffin cremated with the body?

The Code of Cremation Practice requires that a coffin be placed in to the cremator in exactly the same condition as it was in when it was received at the crematorium. This means that we can not, nor would wish to, disturb the coffin in any way. The coffin and all of its fittings and furnishings are made from materials suitable for cremation. The only exception to this requirement is when a temporary coffin cover is used. Please contact us for more information.

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

No. The coffin and the body inside are cremated together.

Cremation - 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 any item of jewellery after the coffin has been received at the crematorium.

Cremation - 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 3 kg. In the case 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.

Cremation - How are everyone's cremated remains kept separate?

Each deceased is allocated a unique cremation number. An identity card bearing this number and other details accompanies each coffin and the subsequent cremated remains through its time at the crematorium. A cremator can physically only hold one coffin at a time and all cremated remains are removed before the unit can be used again. Our code of ethics and practical necessity are complementary and combine to ensure that the separation of cremated remains is achieved.

Cremation - How are cremated remains treated at the crematorium?

Following the cremation process, cremated remains are removed from the cremator only when no further reduction is possible. The remains are withdrawn to a cooling area. After removal of any ferrous metals (such as hip screws) they are transferred to a purpose-made unit which reduces the remains to a fine consistency suitable for storage and eventual disposal. The remains are then stored in a suitable and carefully identified container to await scattering or collection.

Cremation - 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 next of kin). A number of options are available to the applicant:

  • the remains may be scattered in the crematorium's Garden of Remembrance (the family can be present if they wish)
  • the remains may be collected by the funeral director and given to the family to do with as they wish 
  • the remains may be placed inside a cremated remains sanctum within the crematorium grounds
  • the remains may be buried in a cemetery

Cremation - What memorial options are available at the crematorium?

There is a wide range of memorial options available at the crematorium. Please visit crematorium memorials for more information. Alternatively, we can post a brochure to you containing application forms and a price list. If you would like to call in to the crematorium office we will gladly show you around the grounds so you can see the various memorials in situ.

Cremation - Why can't I place a memorial on the Garden of Remembrance (my loved one's cremated remains are scattered there)

The Garden of Remembrance consists of a special area within the crematorium grounds which has been set aside specifically for the scattering of cremated remains. It is used constantly for this purpose and, as a result, it is not possible to put individual memorials in place. However, a wide range of memorials are available to be placed elsewhere in the grounds.

Cremation - 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 Moslems.

Cremation - Where can I find out more information about cremation?

The ICCM Charter for the Bereaved gives detailed information about all aspects of the cremation process and encompasses environmental and social aspects. South Tyneside Council has adopted the Charter for the Bereaved and we can provide information and guidance to you if you require. You can obtain a full reference copy of the Charter document from the ICCM website at

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

Yes. We hold open days every few years when the public are given a full tour of the crematorium. Alternatively, we can arrange for you to have a private tour of the crematorium. This open door policy helps to dispel the myths that surround the cremation process. Please contact us for further information.

Cremation - Is the cremation process governed by a code of ethics and working practices?

Yes. Cremation Authorities who are members of the Federation of British Cremation Authorities are required to operate strictly in accordance with the 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 do I move a body abroad?

Overseas burials

Some countries require a Cadaver Certificate before they will allow a body into the country for burial. The certificate, if issued, confirms that no epidemic of infectious disease occurred in the borough for some three months preceding the death.

Cadaver certificates

This formality of obtaining the cadaver certificate is usually handled by the undertaker, making the arrangements on behalf of the relatives. However, anyone can apply. The funeral directors will also help with anything requested by the coroner and with requirements of the authorities in the overseas country to which the deceased is going. Some of these requirements may apply for burial in another part of the United Kingdom.

The certificate is issued by the Environmental Health Officer (0191 427 7000) for the Council in whose area the person died, or is to be exhumed from before reburial elsewhere.

Repatriation of a deceased body from abroad to England or Wales

The Foreign Registration Authority will issue a death certificate which needs to be taken to the registrar of the district in which the burial or cremation is to take place. The registrar will then issue a document called a 'Certificate of No Liability to Register'. This is the document that will be given to the funeral director in order to allow the funeral to proceed.

What are my rights as a bereaved person?

South Tyneside Council has adopted the Institute of Cemetery and Crematorium Management's Charter for the Bereaved. As members, we comply with its principles. The Charter defines your rights as a bereaved person. It also sets standards of service related to burial, cremation and funerals. It is a written statement of what can be expected and enables people to judge the quality of the service received.

You can download a copy of the Charter from the ICCM website.

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