Skip navigation • Access Keys • Site Map • News and Events • Complaints •

Durham Crematorium

Home // FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Some people express concern about the ethics and practice of cremation - a concern which may be based on religious beliefs or a matter of personal principle.

We hope this information will reassure them and dispel the popular misconceptions about the subject.

Select a question below to jump to the answer:



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

Yes. Today all Christian denominations, including the Roman Catholic Church, allow cremation but it is forbidden by Orthodox Jews and Moslems. It is the normal method for Sikhs, Hindus, Parsees and Buddhists.

Top of Page


Can I keep the cremation ashes if I wish to or must I dispose of them?

You may do what you wish with the ashes and may keep them with you if this is desired. Some crematoria will place ashes in a repository at the crematorium if this is desired and an annual charge is made for this facility.

Top of Page


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

Yes. Normally two persons are permitted to attend and the superintendent should be advised in advance of this wish.

Top of Page


Do I have to sign anything else at this stage?

You will probably be asked how you wish to dispose of the cremation ashes. If you know what you want at this stage, you will be asked to sign an authority for the crematorium to carry out your wishes. If you are undecided, DO NOT sign any authority. Most crematoria will retain cremation ashes for a month, giving you time to make a decision.

Top of Page


Does the cremation take place immediately, or are the coffins stored up until a number are ready to be cremated?

Where possible, the cremation will follow immediately after the service. The Code of Cremation Practice, which is adhered to by the members of the Federation of British Cremation Authorities, requires that the cremation shall take place on the same day as the cremation service.

Top of Page


How can I ensure that I am cremated when I die?

Clear instructions in writing should be given to the person who will be responsible for your funeral when you die. Such instructions are not binding in law, so you should ensure that the person instructed is someone who is likely to carry out your wishes. The final decision will rest with your executors.

Top of Page


How do I know I shall get the right cremation ashes?

As explained, each coffin is identified on arrival and the identity card is placed on the outside of the cremator as soon as the coffin is placed in it. The card stays there until the ashes are removed, and it is then transferred to the cooling tray. The ashes then go to the preparation room and the card stays with them, finally being placed in the urn which contains the prepared remains. As each cremator will only accept one coffin, and the ashes must be withdrawn before the cremator is used again, all cremation ashes are kept separate throughout the process. The size of the cremation chamber of the cremator is about 7 ft long x 2 ft.6in. wide by 2 ft.3in high.

Top of Page


How is a cremation arranged?

The Cremation Regulations are still quite complicated, and it is wisest to approach a funeral director immediately death occurs and advise him that you desire to arrange for a cremation. Discuss with him how soon you wish the cremation to take place and whom you wish to officiate at the service, also the form of service. The funeral director will then do all that is needed to procure the necessary statutory forms for the cremation. You will need to sign the statutory Form A if you are the executor or the next of kin, or are authorised by either to do so. The death will have to be registered and you will be advised how to do this.

Top of Page


How many people use cremation today in Great Britain?

1968 was the year in which the number of cremations exceeded disposal by burial for the first time, since when the proportion has increased and now approaches 70% of all funerals.

Top of Page


If I want to know more about cremation and perhaps inspect a crematorium, how should I go about it?

Telephone or visit your local crematorium and discuss the matter with the Superintendent there. He will be pleased to answer your queries and conduct you through the crematorium to see how it is operated.

Top of Page


If the ashes are strewn on the ground, what happens to them?

As the highest biochemical activity exists on the surface of the soil and the cremation ashes are in a small granular form, weather and biochemical action quickly break down the ashes to form part of the earth and within a short time there is no trace of them. Where ashes are strewn, it is the practice to dress the area with suitable loam/sand mixtures to cover the remains.

Top of Page


Is cremation more expensive than burial?

No. Generally the cost of a grave is much higher than the fee charged for cremation. The funeral director’s charges are much the same for both services. The only additional charge for cremation arises when the death has not been referred to the Coroner, therefore, fees to two doctors have to be paid for the necessary certificates. This does not apply to burial. With cremation there are no later costs for headstones, grave care, etc., which arise with burial.

Top of Page


Is more than one coffin cremated at one time in a cremator?

No. The only exceptions permitted to this rule are in the case of a mother and baby or twin children, when the next of kin requests that the two be cremated together.

Top of Page


Is the coffin cremated with the body?

Yes. The Code of Practice requires that nothing must be removed from the coffin after it has been received from the chapel and it must be placed in the cremator exactly as received.

Top of Page


Must there be any religious ceremony with cremation?

No. This is not obligatory. A civil ceremony can be conducted or there may be none at all. On occasions, a memorial service is conducted separately from the cremation ceremony.

Top of Page


Of what do the prepared ashes consist?

The ashes are now totally bone ash and weigh usually between 4 lb and 6 lb. They are in a state which will permit them to be strewn.

Top of Page


Preparation of the ashes has been mentioned – what does this entail?

When the cremation is complete, that is when there is no further combustion taking place, the cremation ashes are withdrawn from the cremator into a cooling tray. Often cooling is accelerated by means of air blown on to them by means of a fan blower. When cool, the ferrous material is removed by means of a magnetic field. The remaining ashes are then placed into a machine which reduces the remains to a fine white ash. All non-ferrous metals are cleared and disposed of in accordance with the Code of Practice.

Top of Page


What about precious and other metals?

The temperature at which a modern cremator operates (between 800C and 1000C) is such that such metals are fused with other material so that they are not recognisable. The Code of Practice states that any metallic material resulting from a cremation should be disposed of in accordance with the instructions of the cremation authority and recommends that this should be done by burial at a depth within the crematorium grounds.

Top of Page


What are the gardens of remembrance at a crematorium?

The gardens of remembrance consist of areas set aside for the disposal or cremation ashes. Usually these areas have been dedicated for the purpose by representatives of the Christian churches. Ashes may be strewn or buried but without any spot being reserved by any one person, nor are individual memorials permitted in such gardens to mark the spot. This is because the areas are used again and again over the years and will be for as long as the crematorium is in operation.

Top of Page


What can I do if I wish to bury the ashes and have a gravestone?

In such a case, it would be necessary to have the ashes buried in a cemetery or churchyard where provision is made for this to be done. The gardens of a crematorium are not a burial ground within statutory law and, when the ashes are buried there, it is merely an extension of the idea of strewing and the ashes are not enclosed in an urn.

Top of Page


What happens about the handles and other coffin fittings?

Crematorium regulations require that all fittings shall be of combustible material and normally the handles and name plate are today made of hard plastic. Ferrous nails and screws do not burn and stay with the ashes until they are withdrawn from the cremator when they are subjected to a magnetic field which removes them.

Top of Page


What happens at the crematorium on the day of the funeral?

The coffin is usually brought into the chapel followed by the mourners in procession. While it is being placed on the catafalque, the mourners take their seats and the service proceeds. At the moment when the committal of the body takes place, the coffin may be obscured from view by means of curtains closing round the catafalque, or the coffin may be withdrawn through a gateway , or it may be lowered from the catafalque and descend into a committal room below. The method varies at each crematorium, but the most common method today is the use of curtains. At the end of the service, mourners leave the chapel and may inspect the floral tributes before leaving.

Top of Page


What happens to the coffin after the committal?

It is withdrawn into a committal room where the name plate on the coffin is checked with the cremation order to ensure correct identity. The coffin is then labeled with a card prepared by the crematorium giving all the relevant information. This card will stay with the body from now on until the final disposal of the cremation ashes.

Top of Page


What happens to the cremation ashes?

In eighty per cent of cases, the cremation ashes are strewn or buried in the gardens of remembrance at the crematorium. A few crematoria have niches where urns may be placed, but these are usually on a rental basis and, if not renewed periodically, the ashes would be strewn or buried. The alternative is to remove the cremation ashes from the crematorium in a suitable urn for disposal elsewhere. This may be by burial in a family grave or by strewing the ashes at another crematorium, or in some favourite spot. However, it must be borne in mind that when ashes are strewn in other places, e.g. graves, churchyards, etc., prior permission must be sought and any local rules or regulations obeyed.

Top of Page


What memorials are possible at the crematorium?

Usually the only permanent form of memorial available is an entry in the Book of Remembrance. This book is usually displayed in a special Memorial Chapel and each day the entries for that day are on display so that a person is remembered on the anniversary of the death. Some crematoria allow wall plaques or plaques on kerbstones, etc., but these are usually for a limited period and require to be renewed periodically by further payments. At some crematoria it is, also, possible to dedicate a rose bush or other garden item with a small plaque, but this again is for a limited period with the option of renewal on further payment. Again, some crematoria are able to accept donations of such items as seats, stained glass windows, etc., where a memorial inscription may be permitted, while others have memorial funds to which relatives can make donations and the monies are used to provide additional embellishments for the grounds or buildings. If you are anxious about memorial facilities at the crematorium, you should enquire of the funeral director at the time of making the arrangements in order to ascertain what facilities are available. This can avoid disappointment at a later date.

Top of Page


What religious ceremony can I have with cremation?

The service for burial and cremation is the same apart from the form of committal sentences and the service may take place in one’s own church or chapel with a short committal service in the crematorium chapel, or the whole service may be conducted in the crematorium chapel. You may arrange for your own minister to conduct the service. The form of service should be arranged with the minister and, if hymns are to be sung at the crematorium, the organist there should be advised in advance.

Top of Page


What would you recommend to people about leaving an item of jewellery on a body?

The best advice is that it should be removed after death, unless it is intended that it should be cremated. Once the coffin has been placed in the chapel, there is no way of recovering such items.

Top of Page