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Allerdale cemeteries and bereavement services

Brigham Cemetery in west Cumbria

We understand that it can be difficult to make decisions about burials and we aim to make this as easy as possible for the bereaved.

Cemeteries play a vital role in the grieving process; they are also an important part of our heritage and a valuable source of architectural, historical and cultural information. Cemeteries have an important role as an environmental resource. Most importantly they are the final resting place of our loved ones and a source of solace for the bereaved.

We have a wide range of options for burial irrespective of faith. We have graves available in woodland, lawn, traditional and public areas and we also have different options for the burial of ashes (cremated remains).

We provide free help and support on all aspects of bereavement and are available to advise in person, by letter, by telephone or by email. We can also help you find relatives or friends who are buried in our cemeteries.


How to contact Bereavement Services

Email: bereavement.services@allerdale.gov.uk

Telephone: 01900 702620

Personal appointments are available at Allerdale House, Workington . Call to arrange.

Opening times:

  • Monday to Friday - Office hours
  • Evenings, weekends and bank holidays - emergencies and funeral bookings only.

Cemeteries and closed churchyards

We manage eight cemeteries (click each one for details):

We maintain 12 closed churchyards:

All Saints, Cockermouth

St Mary's, Abbeytown

St Michael's, Workington 

All Souls', Maryport

St Mary's, Harrington

St Mungo's, Dearham

Banklands, Workington

St Mary's, Maryport

St Nicholas, Flimby

St John's, Workington

St Mary's, Sebergham

St Paul's, Causewayhead

Please find below a list of frequently asked questions and their answers.

Download this FAQ


Who is responsible for the provision of the council's burial services?

The burial service is managed by the Bereavement Services Section, Allerdale House, Workington, Cumbria CA14 3YJ.
Telephone: 01900 702620 
Email: bereavement.services@allerdale.gov.uk


What services does the council provide?

Facilities exist for adult and infant burials in both purchased and public graves. A Cemetery Chapel is available for funeral services. The cemeteries are open to the public at all times (pedestrian access only after 4pm).

For funeral bookings and further information, contact the bereavement services office. 


Who can I contact for information?

For cemetery provisions, funeral bookings and further information contact the bereavement services office.


Must I use a funeral director to arrange a funeral?

No, bereavement services staff will advise those wishing to organise a funeral themselves. For those who wish to use a funeral director, a list of local funeral directors can be obtained from the bereavement services office.


How can I arrange an environmentally friendly funeral?

Bereavement Services publishes leaflets which include differing formats for burial, including: coffins and alternatives, meadow burial and burial in private land. Copies are available from the office.
 

What is the Charter for the Bereaved? 

Promoted by the Institute of Cemetery and Crematorium Management and by the Confederation of Burial Authorities, the charter sets out 35 rights or standards of service against which burial and cremation can be judged.

A reference copy of the charter is available to view at the Bereavement Services office but an appointment must be made in advance. 


Can I find family history information?

A record of all interments is held and maintained in the bereavement services office. During normal working hours bereavement staff will assist visitors to locate graves but an appointment must be made in advance.


Why are graves dug 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.


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

The lawn grave was 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). In this manner the limited area available for burial is best utilised. In addition, maintenance is easier to accomplish with large mowing machinery being used to keep the area in a neat condition.

These grave rights 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.
 

Are graves filled in immediately after a funeral?

Graves are prepared for burial at least one full day before the funeral and are covered overnight. The ICCM Guiding Principles for Burial Services says that when 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. 
 

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 arranged. This will ensure that the family's wishes are met and that their safety is protected during the backfilling process. 


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

Where individual foundations are provided for lawn memorials, these are 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.


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 ever and authorities cannot go against that law. However, the law does permit grant of ownership to be renewed at the end of the current 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 the number of years specified within the authority’s fees and charges. 


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 your 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 burial cremated remains caskets or urns may still be buried within the grave.


What happens when the lease expires?

When you buy a grave right you purchase the exclusive Rights of Burial in that grave for a set period of time. At the end of the period you should be given the option of renewing the Rights for a further period. It is vitally important that you keep the bereavement services 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 lease period, your rights to erect and maintain a memorial cease. 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.


Who is responsible for the memorial?

The burial authority is responsible for maintaining the cemetery in a safe condition but you have a responsibility to maintain your memorial in a safe condition throughout the period of the Exclusive Right of Burial. 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 or laid flat. 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 carry out repair at no extra cost to you. 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 the National Association of Memorial Masons (NAMM) recommended code of practice and seek a guarantee from your memorial mason.


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. There is a set procedure to follow to transfer the rights and each case must be looked at individually. If you need to transfer ownership when all owners are deceased you will need to contact the bereavement services office where staff will arrange for a transfer to take place with due compliance with law. 


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 cemetery that will provide you with the type of memorial that you require as regulations differ from area to area. This can be checked by contacting the bereavement services office and making enquiries about the choices and options available.


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 bereavement services 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 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.

Download our funeral expenses leaflet


The loss of a loved one can be a difficult time. The last thing anyone wants to worry about at this time is the cost.  A number of people who have anticipated the costs and have not wanted to burden their family or friends have a pre-paid funeral plan.  

For whatever reasons, sometimes money is an issue. The state believes that all people are entitled to a minimum of a simple, decent and respectful funeral. The help available is:

  • Cost of the disposal will be met by the state (for a simple burial or cremation) Included for a burial, the gravediggers fees & the grave cost, or for a cremation, the cremation itself and the medical fee. It does not include provision of flowers, obituaries or any ceremony costs (religious or not). 
  • Up to £700 of funeral expenses (includes the coffin, the hearse, care of the deceased and the funeral director's expenses)

The payment is granted by Jobcentre Plus. You can also find out more on the Gov.UK website.
 

Who can get help?

To qualify, you or your partner (for the purposes of this grant, partner is defined as spouse, or someone you live with as if you are married to them) must be receiving one of the following benefits or tax credits:

  • Income Support
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Working Families’ Tax Credit
  • Housing Benefit
  • Council Tax Benefit
  • Disabled Person’s Tax Credit

If you receive any of these benefits, you can claim help with the funeral through the Social Fund of the Jobcentre Plus (claim pack SF200). The financial help you get is limited.

In addition, it must be reasonable for you to have taken responsibility for the funeral expenses. This would usually mean that you were the partner of the deceased; if they had no partner, then close relative or very close friend. The Department for Work and Pensions will ask about the circumstances of the close relatives of the deceased.
 

Circumstances that may lead to ineligibility

The DWP wants to target this payment to the people who most need it. Under these situations the payment may be reduced or not granted. The following will be deducted from an award:

  • Any assets of the deceased available to you or your partner
  • Any lump sum which is due on the death of deceased for funeral costs
  • If any of the closest kin do not qualify for the payment
  • Any funeral grant, where the deceased was a war pensioner
  • Any contribution for the funeral from a charity or relative (of both yourself or the deceased)
  • Any savings you have over £500 (£1000 if you are 60 or over).  The savings may be in your name, or your partner’s name.

This list is not an exhaustive list but a guide to some of the circumstances that may be a barrier to financial help.
 

Recovering the costs from the deceased person’s estate

As the funeral costs are the first claim against someone’s estate when they die, the DWP are allowed to recover the funeral expenses if they had any assets, saving any insurance policies. Where the deceased had a surviving partner, the value of the home in which they lived is ignored and the personal possessions left to relatives do not normally count.
 

How to claim

You can claim a funeral payment from the date of death and up to three months after the date of the funeral. Funeral payments are sent to you and usually made by giro cheque in the funeral director’s name. To claim, contact your local Jobcentre Plus office for form SF200 or go to the Gov.UK website. This form should also be available from your local library or from post offices.

The deceased must have been ordinarily resident in the United Kingdom at the date of death and the funeral must normally take place in the UK. However, in certain circumstances, a funeral payment may be made for a funeral which takes place elsewhere within the European Economic Area. The amount awarded will be restricted to the amount which would have been paid if the funeral had taken place in the area where the deceased had lived within the UK. 

If you need any further information, contact Bereavement Services on 01900 702620.

There are different types of funeral - independent, council and cremation.
 

Download our independent funerals leaflet


Independent funerals

It is often assumed that funerals can be arranged only with the services of a funeral director. Some people, however, find great comfort from being involved, partly or totally, in the arrangements.

If the death occurs at home, contact the general practitioner who attended the deceased during their last illness. The GP will confirm the death and issue a certificate stating the cause of death. The GP may give you the certificate straight away or advise you to collect it from the surgery later.

If the death occurs in hospital, normally the doctor attending will issue the certificate to you or it will come via the hospital's administration office.

When a death occurs and the doctor attending is unable to state the cause of death, or where a medical practitioner had not recently attended to the deceased, the Coroner will be informed.

The next of kin or person arranging the funeral must take the certificate issued by the doctor to the Registrar of Births and Deaths within five days of the death. Most registrars operate an appointment system, so it is worthwhile telephoning your local district office first.

When you register the death, make sure that all the details are given fully and correctly because it is very difficult getting changes made later. It is advisable to obtain extra copies of the death certificate in order to claim the deceased's assets at a later date.

If the Coroner has been involved and an inquest is to be held, they will issue a form to the Registrar who will issue a Coroners Order for burial.

When an inquest is not held, the nearest surviving relative can register the death only when the Coroner has confirmed the cause of death to the Registrar.

Before any burial can take place, certain forms are required by law to be submitted to the burial authority. Contact the Bereavement Services office to discuss what is required.

If the death occurs in hospital, the mortician may agree to keep the body in the hospital mortuary until the day of the funeral, possibly at no charge.

If the death occurs at home, a local funeral director may agree to provide the mortuary facility.

Many people do not wish to collect the body of the deceased themselves. This part of the funeral can be contracted out to a funeral director. Where the body has to be removed from a hospital, contact the mortician first and check the documentation required.

If you intend to use an estate car or van, ensure the coffin or container will fit in it. You will need help to handle the coffin. It is advisable to have at least three people.
 

Download our Funeral Directors leaflet


Council funerals

Section 46 of the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984 places a statutory obligation on local authorities to make funeral arrangements for those who die without anyone willing or able to make arrangements for them.

In all cases of local authority burial, the costs are borne by the authority and are recoverable against any estate of the dead person wherever possible.

The council receives requests from individuals and organisations about those who have died with no known next of kin. Each request is dealt with on an individual basis.

The council cannot guarantee that the information requested will be disclosed as any information related to a death may be exempt from disclosure under the following exemptions provided by the Freedom of Information Act:

  • Section 31 - Law enforcement and prevention of crime
  • Section 41 - Information provided in confidence
  • Section 40 - Personal information

Cremation

Although Allerdale does not have the facilities to offer cremation, bereaved families can bury or strew cremated remains in any of the council's cemeteries. Maryport cemetery has a memorial wall where inscribed plaques or vase blocks can be placed. These can be leased from us. Contact bereavement services for details.

The nearest crematoria are at Distington and Carlisle.

Copeland Borough Council
Distington Hall Crematorium

Distington
Workington
CA14 4QY
Tel: 01946 830561


Cemetery & Crematorium Office
Carlisle Crematorium

Dalston Road
Carlisle
CA2 6AT
Tel: 01228 817390

Carlisle Crematorium is open Monday to Friday between 8.30am and 4.30pm and weekends and bank holidays from 1pm to 4.30pm.

Public toilets, including disabled provision, are available during opening times within the crematorium building and within the cemetery grounds.

Free parking is available next to the crematorium building and vehicle access to the cemetery grounds is available, during opening hours, from Richardson Street.

Drivers are asked to park considerately on the roadway, leaving space to pass and not to park or drive on the grass.

Link: Carlisle City Council - deaths, funerals and cremations

 

Is cremation more expensive than burial?

No. Generally the cost of a grave is much higher than the fee charged for cremation although the funeral charges are similar for both services. The only additional charge for cremation arises when the death has not been referred to a coroner and two doctors need to be paid for the necessary certificates. This does not apply to burial.
 

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.
 

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.
 

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. Cremation authorities that are members of the Institute of Cemetery & Crematorium Management's (ICCM) Charter for the Bereaved will provide advice to persons arranging a cremation without the use of a funeral director.
 

Is the coffin cremated with the body?

Yes. The ICCM Guiding Principles state that the container and the body shall be placed in 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 express 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?

Under normal circumstances the cremation is usually carried out shortly after the service and certainly 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 72 hour period.
 

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). Most crematoria have a range of options which might include scattering or burying in the garden of remembrance, placing in a columbarium, interring in a small family vault or niche. Options for memorials are also available which 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.

Cremated remains may also be buried in family graves that are full for coffined burials. Alternatively you may be able to purchase a new cremated remains grave in a cemetery.

There is no need to make a hurried decision with regard the final resting place of the remains with most 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 may receive a letter asking if you are ready to go ahead. If you are not simply tell the crematorium that you need more time (a fee may be applicable). Should a crematorium receive no reply to their letter they may legally scatter or bury the cremated remains within their grounds after giving two weeks written notice.


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.
 

Where can I find out more information about cremation?

The Institute of Cemetery and Crematorium Management Charter for the bereaved gives detailed information about all aspects of the cremation process and encompasses environmental and social aspects. Cremation authorities that have adopted the Charter for the Bereaved will provide information and guidance and you can obtain a full reference copy of the Charter document from the ICCM website.
 

Link to Carlisle Cemetery and Crematorium page on carlisle.gov.uk

Download our memorials guide

Download our monumental masons list


Many people wish to place a memorial on the grave of their loved one. Memorials allow them to mark the grave and to add a personalised tribute. We have a few simple rules to make sure that memorials are safe, well maintained and in keeping with the character of the cemeteries.
 

What is a memorial?

A memorial is anything above the level of the ground that is placed on the grave as a tribute to those buried there. Headstones, vases and plaques are the most common memorials. Some people choose more unusual memorials, such as pieces of sculpture.


Can I place a memorial on a grave?

If you want to place a memorial on a grave you must hold or purchase memorial rights for that grave. If you do not own the grave, you must also obtain the permission of the grave owner, if there is one, or contact us to discuss whether you can purchase the rights. 
Memorial rights are granted for the lease period. This may be extended at the end of the period.
 

What kind of memorial can I have?

You may apply to us to have any kind of memorial. Memorials are generally approved as long as they are of a safe construction which should last for at least the period of the memorial rights. We also consider whether the memorial is in keeping with the section of the cemetery where the grave is, and whether it might be offend other cemetery users. 

This does not mean that you are limited to traditional designs. We are keen to encourage unusual and individual memorials, which add to the character and interest of the cemetery.

If we refuse permission you will be given a full written explanation. 

Please note, kerbs around graves are permitted on the older sections in some Cemeteries with the permission of the Bereavement Services Officer. The covering of graves with chippings isn’t allowed because of health and safety issues. This is to keep grounds maintenance costs down for the bereaved.
 

When can a memorial be erected?

After a funeral we level the earth on the grave and put the flowers and wreaths on top. After two weeks (may be longer depending on condition of floral tributes) we remove all floral tributes and dispose of them. 
 
You may put up a wooden cross up to 500mm (18”) high on the grave temporarily. You may leave flowers in a non-breakable container – do not use glass, ceramic or thin plastic until a memorial can be installed. Do not plant anything directly into the soil. 

A permanent memorial may be erected six months after a full interment. This allows time for the ground to settle. However you do not have to wait six months to apply.  

A memorial for a cremation plot may be erected any time following the interment of ashes.
 

Must I use a stonemason?

Fixed memorials must be fitted by a stonemason who is a member of the British Register of Accredited Memorial Masons (BRAMM). This is to ensure that the memorial is securely fixed and safe. 

You may wish to commission a memorial from a sculptor or memorial artist who is not BRAMM registered. You may do this as long as the memorial is fixed by a BRAMM registered stonemason.

The stonemason will advise you what is available and then submit an application on your behalf.

Our Approved Contractors leaflet lists local BRAMM registered contractors and memorial artists. You may use a stonemason who is not on the leaflet as long as the fixer is BRAMM registered. Contact details for BRAMM.


Restoration and cleaning

Restoration and cleaning must be carried out by a BRAMM registered stonemason. You should apply to us for permission before the work is carried out.
 

Access

Adjacent grave spaces will be required for the placing of spoil on occasions and access to graves at these times will be limited. The grave will be fully reinstated to its original appearance once the interment has taken place.

On very rare occasions we may have to remove your memorial for safety reasons so we can access the grave. If we do so we will be fully responsible for restoring your memorial in a safe and clean state after the funeral.
 

Safety testing

We have a legal obligation to test memorials for safety. This ensures that the cemetery is a safe environment for staff and visitors to the cemetery. If your memorial is found to be unstable, and is deemed to be dangerous and liable to cause injury we will lay it down to eliminate the risk. If possible we will contact you to explain that repairs are needed and it is ultimately your responsibility to make good any remedial works. If we are unable to contact a present owner we will deal with the problem by laying down.  
 

Vandalism

Unfortunately vandalism does happen occasionally in cemeteries. We will prosecute anyone caught causing vandalism but we cannot be held liable for any damage caused by the irresponsible actions of others. 

We strongly recommend that grave owners take out insurance to protect their memorials. Your stonemason can advise you about this.
 

Does the council have an approved list of memorial masons?

Yes. Download our monumental masons list here.


Other types of memorial 

We also offer the opportunity to purchase memorial trees, benches and plaques on benches in the cemetery grounds.

Download our funeral director leaflet


Information on using a funeral director

The information included in this leaflet will help you understand how funeral directing operates and will enable you to ask questions appropriate to your needs when you consider the arrangement of a funeral.  

Funeral directors can set up in business without training or qualifications and no licence is necessary. No universal standard applies and consequently, separating a good funeral director from an indifferent one is difficult.

Some funeral directors are members of professional organisations, which may operate a code of conduct and complaints procedure. The National Association of Funeral Directors (NFAD) and the Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors (SAIF) are examples of these.

Most funerals are sold as a ‘package’ and it can be difficult to obtain the actual price of each component. This creates particular difficulties should you wish to dispense with some components. 

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has suggested that ‘price transparency’ should apply to funeral directing charges. This would result in a known charge being made for each part of the funeral, allowing the bereaved to select more, or less, in accordance with their needs.
 

The law

Common law recognises that a funeral consists of a sequence of tasks and events, all of which must be satisfactory. 

Where a single element is unsatisfactory, the payment of the entire funeral account may be disputed by the person paying for the funeral.

The disbursements are not part of the funeral directors charges and must be paid. In some areas, the disbursements may have to be paid in advance of the funeral. 

It should be noted that whoever orders the funeral becomes liable for the funeral costs.


Funeral director list

  • Co-Operative Funeral Services, Maryport & Workington - 01900 818100 or 01900 603873
  • Tom Edgar Funerals Service, Workington - 01900 603388
  • A. Sandelands, Seaton, Workington - 01900 602753
  • S. Johnston, Maryport - 01900 814319
  • Nelson Chicken, Cockermouth - 01900 823236
  • F & W Green, Keswick - 017687 72246
  • D.R. Mounsey, Aspatria - 016973 21794
  • M. Szandurski, Aspatria - 016973 20551
  • John Hill Funeral Services, Wigton - 016973 42635
  • H. Scott, Silloth - 016973 31173
  • D. Studholme, Wigton - 016973 45318

Download our embalming guide


Embalming is defined as the preservation of a body from decay.  Originally this was done with spices, but more recently through arterial injection of embalming fluid.

Historically this process was identified with the Egyptians and the mummification of bodies.  In fact this complicated and extreme method was abandoned, although in recent centuries ways of preserving bodies has received considerable attention. 

Varying levels of success were achieved but probably due to expense, they were utilised by very few people.  

In the past 30 years the commercial promotion of embalming has increased and is particularly evident among larger commercial funeral directors in urban locations.  In rural areas where small funeral directing businesses predominate, embalming is rare. 

The current common use of the word ‘embalming’ is misleading.  The process is generally referred to as ‘cosmetic embalming’. It is used to improve the visual appearance of the body and to prevent deterioration in the period leading up to the funeral.  It has no long term preservative value and cannot be compared to the Egyptian process of preserving bodies for a long period.

The decision as to the merits of embalming is very personal and must lie with the individual although a number of issues should be considered.
 

Is embalming necessary?

There is no evidence that a body poses a threat to the living, except where a death was due to a ‘notifiable disease’.  However, when a person dies of a ‘notifiable disease’, embalming is not permitted.

No evidence exists of any funeral director, cemetery or crematorium staff catching an infection from an unembalmed body.  Embalmers suggest that the process thoroughly disinfects the body and removes any risk, however slight, to any person who may come into contact with the body.  
On the other hand, it would seem logical to assume that if a real health risk existed, embalming would be a legal requirement, which it is not.

The British Institute of Embalmers says: “The visual characteristics of a badly damaged body may be improved by additional specialised treatment where time is available.  To be effective, it may be necessary to carry out the treatment over more than 24 hours. Effective cosmetic treatment in such cases may also decrease the trauma of sudden death, and the benefit is almost always acknowledged by the bereaved”.

It should be noted that if the person required a high intake of drugs during their terminal illness, their body can deteriorate rapidly.  This can be delayed by refrigeration.
 

Environmental issues 

The embalming process involves removing the body fluids and replacing them with a solution of formaldehyde, often containing a pink dye.  The body fluids are treated and disposed of via the sewer.  One or two gallons of embalming fluid can be used and the effect of this on soil organisms and air quality following a burial or cremation needs further independent research.  The chemical is used by funeral directors and embalmers who carry no responsibility for its impact on the cemetery, crematorium or community.

In some burial schemes, such as woodland burial, all chemicals may be prohibited.  This restriction may apply to embalming fluid as well as to horticultural chemicals.
 

Viewing the deceased 

Careful consideration should be given as to whether you intend to view the deceased.  If you do not intend to view the deceased then there appears no valid reason to choose embalming.

You should also appreciate that if you wish to view the body, you will be required to pay a fee for using the funeral director's chapel of rest or repose.
 

The quality of embalming

The British Institute of Embalmers (BIE) offers training and certification for members to maintain an identified standard of embalming.  Their members may be self employed and provide a service to funeral directors.  It takes a minimum of one hour to correctly embalm a body.

Some comments by the bereaved have suggested that following embalming; the facial features of the deceased have been altered. Also, the ‘drawn’ appearance of the person prior to death has been reversed by the unnatural filling-out effect of the embalming fluid. It appears that these are the results of poor quality embalming.  If this occurs, you may wish to check with your funeral director whether the embalmer is qualified.
 

Do you have a choice?

You should expect to be informed about the embalming process and the advantages it offers.  It should only be undertaken where an effective result is judged to be achievable.  Unfortunately this does not always occur.  

The process of embalming may be routinely carried out as an inclusive part of the funeral ‘package’, without expressed permission. The decision is important as the process will involve an additional cost on the funeral account.

In fact, the BIE has issued a code of ethics which supports the need to make a specific decision about embalming.  This states: “The client’s informed consent, preferable in wring, must be obtained”.

If you are opposed to embalming, it may be advisable to expressly forbid it.

Cemeteries

Several cemeteries within the Borough have had areas designated for “natural burials”. These areas will not take on the neat and tidy look of the rest of the cemetery, but will adopt a more “back to nature” look with the planting and subsequent growth of many species of wild flowers. The cemeteries identified are located at Cockermouth, Harrington Road in Workington and Maryport.

The graves are recorded on plans and are individually numbered.  This is to ensure a correct record is kept and the grave can always be found.

The burials for a double grave would, in this case, be side by side and not a double depth as in a more traditional cemetery grave.

Download our natural burials leaflet

Download our natural burials (with images) leaflet

Download our rules and regulations (meadow burials) leaflet


Coffins and containers

The burials must take place in a biodegradable (natural wood / non-veneered / cardboard / bamboo / wicker) coffin, shroud or other suitable container.

The natural wood coffins should be made of wood from a managed tree forest.

Download our how to make your own coffin leaflet


Cremated remains

There would be provision for the strewing or burial of cremated remains. The strewing would involve lifting the turf and pouring the remains into a pre prepared excavation. Burial of cremated remains would involve interment in a biodegradable vessel such as casket, urn etc. 
 

Funeral arrangements

The option of meadow/green funerals are not reserved for specific religions in certain areas. It would be the families of, or relatives, who decide on whether a religious, secular or no service would be needed.   

The personal completion of a funeral can often help the bereaved in coming to terms with the death of a relative or friend.  This can help the grieving process, particularly where the wishes of the bereaved person are being fulfilled.
 

Memorials

There are no memorials (headstones, vases, crosses etc) allowed in these areas. However, we do encourage the planting of native bulbs and wild flowers or the scattering of native wild flower seeds.

To encourage the growth of the wild flowers it is necessary to impose restrictions. People walking to individual graves would create paths and trample the wildflowers, destroying the living memorial we propose to create. Care must be taken when visiting these areas. You may be able to plant a tree as a memorial. Contact Bereavement Services for further information.

A natural burial is not for those who prefer a neat and tidy grave with a headstone but for those who love wildlife and wish to create environmental benefits for future generations. 
 

Natural burial

Several cemeteries within the borough have had certain areas designated for “natural burials”. These areas will not take on the neat and tidy look of the rest of the cemetery but will adopt a more “back to nature” look with the planting and subsequent growth of many species of wild flowers.

The cemeteries identified are located at Cockermouth, Harrington Road, Workington and Maryport.

Allerdale’s cemeteries are operated in accordance with rules and regulations. These rules impose certain restrictions and requirements on users of the cemeteries which we expect users to observe.

If you need help interpreting the rules and regulations, please do not hesitate to contact staff at the bereavement services office on 01900 702620 or email bereavement.services@allerdale.gov.uk 

Download our rules and regulations


Grave Right / Deed

Please keep the grave deed safe as it is evidence of your ownership of the right.  You have purchased a right of burial, which ensures that any further burial must be of the grave owner, or a burial authorised by the owner.  

It is important to note that you have bought a ‘right’, and not the land, which still remains in the ownership of Allerdale Borough Council.

All new graves are purchased for a period of 50 years unless otherwise stated on the deed.
 

Transfer of deed ownership

Where the current grave owner is still alive and wishes to transfer ownership to another person a form of Assignment must be properly completed and returned to the bereavement services office.  A form of Assignment is available upon request from the bereavement services office.

Transfer of ownership of a grave may take place where the registered grave owner is deceased by submitting a completed statutory declaration form, available from the bereavement services office. This form must be signed by a solicitor or a commissioner of oaths then returned with the appropriate fee to the bereavement services office where a new deed will be issued with the amended information.
 

Graves – general information

Nothing identifying the grave, fences, enclosures, trenches, kerb surrounds, border stones or memorials will be permitted on any meadow grave space. 

The council has a right to remove from any grave any items that may interfere with the grounds maintenance of that area after serving notice to the registered owner. Any items seen to be causing an immediate hazard or danger will be removed immediately without notice.  The council has the right to remove and dispose of any floral tributes, flowers, plants etc. that have withered or died or have become unsightly on any grave.  Bulbs may be planted around the area of the grave.

Native trees are encouraged within meadow burial areas; please ring the Bereavement Services office for details. 

The cutting of the grass on any meadow grave space will not be permitted.

After burial all graves will be tidied up and left in an acceptable condition by the cemetery staff.  The levelling of graves during the period of settlement will be carried out by the cemetery staff on a regular basis after the burial.
 

Winter conditions

We only treat frozen roads and paths to imminent funerals. As anniversaries occur every day of the year we never close the cemeteries even though snow and ice exist. Exercise extreme care during visits throughout the winter months.
 

Dogs in cemeteries 

Dogs are allowed in cemeteries but must be kept on a lead at all times. Owners are responsible for cleaning up any fouling caused by their dog(s).  
Cemeteries are included in the Dogs (Fouling of Land) Act 1996 and under this act owners who fail to clean up after their dogs can be prosecuted. In addition, the council employs environmental wardens to enforce the act.
 

The Local Authorities Cemeteries Order 1977

Attention is drawn to the above act and any amendments thereto. This order provides that no person shall:

  • Wilfully create any disturbance or commit any nuisance in a cemetery
  • Wilfully interfere with any burial taking place
  • Wilfully interfere with any grave or vault, any tombstone or other such memorial, or any flowers or plants on any such matter
  • Play any sport or game

The order provides that every person who contravenes any prohibition specified above together with any prohibition specified in Article 19 of the order shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine. 
 

Fees and charges

The fees and charges payable to the council in respect of grave spaces and other matters in connection with the cemeteries are approved by the council. 

Download the fees and charges guide


Memorials 

No memorials are allowed on meadow graves. We encourage the planting of native wild flowers and bulbs. Native trees are allowed with prior consent from the Bereavement Service office. Depending on the position of the grave and the ground conditions it may not be possible to plant a tree on the grave itself.

Download our burials at sea guide


This type of burial is recognised, not only within the sailing community, but also as a tradition that permeates all communities.  This tradition, however, has to be balanced against a number of concerns, including our obligation to protect the marine environment, the living resources that it supports, human health and an increased use of the sea.    

A free licence is required and available from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).  However, there are less than 50 burials at sea a year and are only allowed at the following locations:

  • near Newhaven, Sussex
  • The Needles Spoil Ground, to the west of the Isle of Wight
  • in the Tynemouth off the Northumberland coast

DEFRA does not encourage burial at sea, as there have been occasions where bodies buried off the coast have been washed up on shore.  Also, there are concerns about fishing vessels trawling the bodies back up.  Naturally, this can cause considerable distress to relatives, friends of the deceased and all concerned.

To avoid this risk, DEFRA recommends the scattering of cremation ashes at sea. This can be undertaken without a Food & Environment Protection Act (FEPA) licence.

You can arrange a burial at sea through a funeral director or apply for the licence yourself. The costs for this type of burial, through funeral directors and local companies offering this service can vary greatly. (The FEPA licence is free of any charge).  

The following are the considerations DEFRA keeps in mind when considering a FEPA licence application for burial at sea:

  • registration of the death with the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages
  • preparation of the correct documentation
  • obtaining of a FEPA Licence for burial at sea
  • preparation of the body
  • obtaining the correct coffin or shroud
  • organisation of the burial / ceremony


Navy burials

The navy conducts its own burials at sea, for those veterans who wished to be buried at sea.  For more detailed information contact the Base Chaplain via the place from which the deceased served.

Download our burials on private land leaflet


Burial on private land

There is an increased trend for maximum consumer choice.

The number of burials on private land has increased significantly. Much of this is due to the Natural Death Centre, a charity formed to support a less formalised routine for funerals, as well as a better approach to death generally. It has issued a handbook and a further publication called Green Burial, which explains how to arrange these burials within legal and planning requirements.

There are advantages to this form of burial. It allows you to organise a very personal funeral, in which you maintain total control and you are able to reduce costs by avoiding the use of a funeral director.  

Depending on the circumstances, it may be difficult to obtain the services of a funeral director to assist with this type of burial.
 

Location

Most locations fall into two categories, on farmland or in a garden.
 

Farmland

These locations are rarely overlooked and will not offend neighbours or the general public. A limited number of burials over a period of time may not constitute a ‘change of use’ and no planning approval is necessary, especially when the deceased is related to the property owner.

Exceeding a ‘limited’ number of burials, or burying unrelated persons may require planning approval as this situation could be seen as a change of use or for ‘mixed use’ if farming is also to continue. The planning department should be consulted for advice.
 

Garden 

This situation is complicated by the close proximity of neighbours.  They may oppose or be offended by the burial.  Although they may not pose legal objections, it may not be conducive to good relationships and the social implications should be considered.  Otherwise, the aspects outlined under farm burials are broadly similar.   

You need to consider carefully if you wish to bury / be buried on private land.  Often the reason for this is to keep departed loved ones close by, but it would have a number of effects:

  • Firstly, the value of the land or property will be affected by a burial within its ground. Although it is difficult to determine the actual drop in property value, it is likely that prospective buyers would not consider purchasing such a property. You are also advised to notify any individual or mortgage company that has an interest in the property.
  • If you move later, then you may have to deal emotionally with the separation and access to the grave may be denied or restricted by a change of ownership. Bodies can be exhumed & moved (the licence required is free).  This,  however, will require professional help that will have a significant cost.   

The following information explains the regulations that allow you to inter a body on a plot of land owned by you.  There are five issues to consider:

  • Position of the burial
  • Creation of a “Burial Register”
  • Contacting the coroner's office
  • Contacting the police
  • Consideration of a memorial


Position

It is essential that you obtain permission to complete a burial. 
To comply with Environment Agency guidelines, the burial site must:

  • Be at least 250 metres away from any well, borehole or spring that supplies water for human consumption or is to be used in farm dairies
  • Be at least 30 metres from any other spring or water course
  • At least 10 metres from any field drain (draining to a water course)
  • Have at least one metre of subsoil below the bottom of the burial cavity. Allowing a hole deep enough for at least one metre of soil to cover the burial.
  • When the burial cavity is first dug, the bottom of the hole must be free of standing water.

Failure to comply with these guidelines can lead to the body being exhumed.
 

Burial Register

You will need to seek legal advice from a solicitor regarding the creation of a “Burial Register”.  This is a record that is kept with the property that indicates:

  • Who is buried on the site
  • Where they were buried
  • When the person was buried

This is a necessary record. If the land is sold, some building work enacted, or a serious land-slip occurs, then the police and whoever owns the property will need to know about the site to adjust their plans.
The body could be exhumed by any new property purchaser and reburied in a cemetery. There are legal means (restrictive covenant) by which you can ensure the grave remains untouched, but this will involve costs and other uncertainties.
 

Registering the Death / Coroner's Office     

A certificate of burial issued by the Coroner or Registrar of Birth and Deaths will have to be obtained. The detachable section of this is to be completed and returned to the registrar by the person arranging the burial. It is important to note that the details of the burial, including location, are not recorded by the Registrar. If you are burying a body on your own property, then please contact the Coroner's Officer to advise the site of the burial. The Coroner keeps records of the deceased referred to them.  
 

Memorials

You may wish to erect a memorial to the person you have buried. As any memorial is considered under national planning law, you may need to seek planning permission to have the memorial erected (possibly even for small memorials). Under some circumstances planning permission may not be required. You should first contact the council’s Planning Department for advice.

If you wish to plant a tree in memory of your loved one, then you need to check the deeds to your property.  There are normally no planning issues associated with the planting of trees.

We hold the Charter for the Bereaved Gold standard, which means we work to an additional set of standards and rules and provide a first class service to the public. We have held the gold standard for the last six years.

We are corporate members of the ICCM (Institute of Cemetery & Crematorium Management). The aim of the ICCM is to raise standards for the bereaved.

We also work to the ICCM safe Code of Working Practice for all operations on site.

We are responsible under LACO 1974 (Local Authorities Cemetery Order) to manage and run the eight cemeteries.

Memorials are fitted through masons who are qualified under the BRAMM scheme and all fix to the current British Standard BS8415.

Grave ownership must comply with the Statutory Declaration Act 1935.

We have legal responsibilities for:

  • Burial of the dead 

  • The safety of memorials. We undertake a five year rolling programme of memorial inspections (we have around 25,000) as we have a statutory duty under Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 and the Management of Health & Safety at Work regulations 1999

  • Storage and upkeep of the registers, maps and records

  • Cemetery and closed churchyard maintenance 

  • Section 46 of the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984. This places a statutory obligation on local authorities to make funeral arrangements for those who die without anyone willing or able to make the arrangements. These are known as Council Funerals.

For help and support
OrganisationWebsitePhone
What to do when someone dieshttps://www.gov.uk/after-a-death
Commonwealth War Graves Commissionhttps://www.cwgc.org/
The Institute of Cemetery and Crematorium Managementhttp://www.iccm-uk.com/
Age Concernhttps://www.ageuk.org.uk/
Citizens Advice Bureauhttps://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/
The Compassionate Friendshttps://www.tcf.org.uk/
Cruse Bereavement Carehttps://www.cruse.org.uk/
Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths (SIDs)http://www.sids.org.uk/0207 222 8001
24 hour Cot Death Helpline0207 233 2090
National Association of Widowshttp://www.nawidows.org.uk/0247 663 4848
Stillbirth and neonatal death society (Sands)https://www.sands.org.uk/0207 436 7940
Child Death Helplinehttp://childdeathhelpline.org.uk/0800 282986
Counselling Directoryhttps://www.counselling-directory.org.uk/