But what about the ashes?

A bag containing cremated remains inside a cardboard box

Recent disturbing incidents in the news continue to cause bereaved families across the UK worry and concern about whether they have been given the correct cremated remains of the person who has died.

We thought it would be helpful to have some clear information in the public domain about exactly what you should expect when you have arranged a cremation and asked for the cremated remains to be returned to you.

We are immensely grateful to Julie Dunk, CEO of the Institute of Cemetery and Crematorium Management (ICCM) for providing us with accurate and up to date information, and to Natasha Bradshaw, Superintendent at Mortlake Crematorium in London, for supplying us with the photos used to illustrate this piece. 

Important points to note

Throughout the cremation process, correct identification is an essential element. Crematoria follow careful procedures to ensure that the identity of each coffin received for cremation is checked, and that all of the cremated remains from each individual cremation are kept separate, and collected and placed in one, clearly labelled container. 

The commonly used word for cremated remains is ‘ashes’, which implies a soft, light substance such as when paper is burned or the remnants of a wood fire. This is very misleading when used to describe the substance that you will receive after a person has been cremated.

  • Cremated remains are like a gritty sand, there may be tiny, fine, dust-like particles, but the bulk of the material will be more like gravel. The colour will range from off-white to dark grey.
  • Cremated remains don’t smell and are safe to touch. If you want to transfer them from one container to another, be aware that there will be dust; you may want to wear a mask to avoid breathing this dust in.
  • Cremated remains of an average adult will weigh around 2 – 4 kilos (4 – 8lbs). This is the equivalent of around 2 – 4 bags of sugar. People are  often surprised by the weight.
  • Cremated remains will be returned to you in a container. This may be a cardboard box, with the cremated remains in a plastic bag* within the box, or a plastic jar with a screw top, with the cremated remains either loose or in a bag inside. (*Some enlightened crematoria are now using paper bags rather than plastic.)
  • There will also be a certificate issued by the crematorium called a Certificate of Cremation. This confirms that the cremation took place and may be needed if you are going to scatter or bury the cremated remains at a crematorium or in a cemetery or churchyard. If you are going to keep the cremated remains, or scatter or bury them somewhere private, you can either keep or dispose of the certificate.
  • Whatever type of container is used by the crematorium or funeral director, it should have an identification label with the name and possibly other details such as a cremation number and a date of cremation. There should be a label on the outside of the container, as well as one on the bag inside, if this is used. Some crematoria place a pottery disc in with the cremation, which is then transferred to the cremated remains so they can be identified.
  • If you have chosen your own container for your person’s cremated remains, then either the funeral director or the crematorium will ensure that they are transferred into it. All identification should be available for you to see (the labelled original container, and/ or the labelled internal bag) and the Certificate of Cremation will accompany your container.
  • When you collect cremated remains from a crematorium, you will be asked to sign to show that you have collected them. It’s important to note that only certain people will be allowed to collect them; the person who applied for the cremation or somebody nominated by them, such as the funeral director. You may be asked to provide identification, such as a passport or driving licence to make sure that you are the right person. 
  • If a funeral director has collected cremated remains for you, you will need to make arrangements with the funeral director directly to have the cremated remains returned to you. All documentation and packaging should be as described above.

We hope that this information will provide reassurance to anyone who is worrying about the provenance of the cremated remains they have received. 

Where there continues to be a concern – if, for example, the container or labelling used seems inadequate, or if no Certificate of Cremation was provided to you with the cremated remains – we suggest contacting the funeral director and crematorium concerned and asking them any questions you might have. Hopefully, they will be able to put your mind at rest; issues with the provenance of cremated remains are extremely rare. 

At the Good Funeral Guide, we do our best to help and advise anyone who has had a difficult experience with a funeral, although of course our powers are limited. 

If you have ongoing concerns about cremated remains returned to you, do contact us by emailing Fran at fran.hall@goodfuneralguide.co.uk and we will see if we can assist you.

How much does cremation cost in 2022?

With well over 3/4 of British funerals now culminating in cremation, and with the relentless promotion of direct cremation on mainstream TV channels, we thought it was about time to look at the cost of being cremated in 2022. 

The Competition and Markets Authority’s Funeral Market Investigation Order 2021 mandated that all crematoria must publish their prices, which has made this research possible (even if not easy!) – we are extremely grateful for this new transparency.

Some important provisos  before we start – for the purpose of this blog post, and to avoid completely drowning in numbers, we are only focusing on the cremation fees here, not the full price for a funeral. Once funeral director fees are added on, the total costs will, of course, be significantly higher. 

We have looked at the price charged for a standard adult cremation, with a ceremony at 11.00am or thereabouts, where varying prices are shown for different times of the day. 

We aren’t comparing the multiple different prices for direct cremations, or ‘attended direct cremations’, we’re simply looking at the standard cremation fees published by the crematoria companies.

There are lots of numbers and links, but we’ll try to make it easy to follow – we’ll break it up with some gorgeous photos by Rachel Wallace taken at the wonderful Mortlake Crematorium, run by a collective of four London Boroughs (and where cremation fees are among the lowest 10% in the country!) 

The first and most obvious finding is that there is an absolutely enormous disparity across the country. You could almost describe it as a postcode lottery. 

The tremendously useful league table from The Cremation Society of Great Britain (CMS) shows an astonishing range of fees; the 2021 fee for a single standard adult cremation ranged from £392 to £1,100,  a difference of £708. 

Citizens of Belfast have access to the lowest cremation fees in the United Kingdom, with the local authority run City of Belfast Crematorium currently charging residents of the city a very reasonable £408. But back across the Irish Sea, for those of us in the rest of the UK, things are very different.

The CMS league table tells us that there were 312 crematoria operating in 2021, and of these, (excluding Belfast), 90% of them charged more than £700, while the latest cremation statistics from the same source show that the average total cremation charge in the UK in January 2022 was £867.75.

The crematorium with the highest standard fee is the independently owned Parkgrove Crematorium in Angus, Scotland, where the fee for an adult cremation is £1,100.

Head south to Oxfordshire and a ceremony at a ‘premium time’ (12.00, 13.00 or 14.00) will cost you even more – £1,140 for a lunch time ceremony at either of the two Memoria run crematoria – North Oxfordshire Crematorium and South Oxfordshire Crematorium

Now, it’s an interesting thing that there are three crematoria serving Oxford and the surrounding area – all privately owned, the above two owned by Memoria, and a third, Oxford Crematorium, owned and run by Dignity PLC (now rebranded as The Crematorium and Memorial Group). A 60 minute ‘slot’ at any of these three crematoria will cost a minimum of £1,070 (at the Dignity crematorium), while the two Memoria crematoria both charge £1,090 for an 11am booking.

Down in the seaside town of Brighton, however, there are two crematoria, one local authority run, the other privately owned. Woodvale Crematorium is run by Brighton & Hove City Council, and charges £715 for a cremation, while half a mile away, Dignity operate The Downs Crematorium and somehow manages to undercut the local authority with a cremation fee of £678. A whopping discount of £392 compared with the Dignity price of £1,070 for a cremation in Oxford – or at nine of their other crematoria across the country.

Prices at the remaining Dignity crematoria (there are 46 in total) range between £675 at Stockport Crematorium (that’s a one-off, the lowest price charged by any crematorium in the group, and perhaps reflective of the fact that there are 13 other crematoria serving the Greater Manchester area) to £1,060, which curiously is the fee charged by both of the Dignity owned crematoria which serve the people of Norwich, Earlham Crematorium and St. Faiths Crematorium

No other crematoria are located in the city, so to find a lower cost cremation fee in the Norwich area you’d need to travel half an hour west to the privately owned Breckland Crematorium (£895), head 23 miles north to Cromer Crematorium, operated by the Westerleigh Group (£1,040), take a 50 mile round trip to the local authority run Great Yarmouth Crematorium (£895) or drive a similar distance to the Memoria crematorium Waveney Memorial Park (£945). 

Dignity aren’t the only company that appear to be sensitive to the pricing of nearby crematoria – over in Retford, in Nottinghamshire, a 11.00am cremation at Memoria’s Barnby Moor Crematorium is priced at £775,while the Westerleigh owned Babworth Crematorium, two and a half miles away, charges £825. 

These are among the lowest prices charged by either operator; all of Memoria’s other crematoria charge between £930 – £1,090, while Westerleigh has one crematorium charging less (Aylesbury Vale Crematorium at £699) and 35 other crematoria charging between £850 – £1,115. (The Westerleigh crematorium at Aylesbury Vale is just three miles from Bierton Crematorium which is operated by three local councils and charges a cremation fee of £700.)

It is clear that a large part of the cremation fee charged by crematoria is the hire fee for the ceremony space, as there are significantly discounted fees for early morning and unattended cremations – most crematoria charge between £350 – £500 for a direct cremation, but as the majority of people still choose to hold a ceremony, the disparity across the country in prices of the cremation fees that families are required to pay is shocking.

Setting aside the coincidence of (extraordinarily) similar fees to close competitors or sister crematoria in some locations, the range of prices charged by the same operators in different areas and the very significant difference between the lowest and highest fees around the country, the situation of crematorium fees is more concerning in the light of initiatives from two of the cremation companies:

Pure Cremation Ltd (they of the cutesy daytime TV adverts) operate Charlton Park Crematorium, which is where the cremations arranged under their nationwide direct cremation service are carried out. 

The crematorium can also be used by families not employing Pure Cremation, and prices range from £450 for a direct cremation to £900 for an hour in the ceremony room. 

So far, so par for the course. Until you see the advertisements placed by Pure Cremation in the trade magazines for the funeral sector.

What the company is offering to funeral directors that partner with them is a preferential cremation fee  – £250 where the funeral director delivers the coffin to Charlswood Park, and collects the cremated remains by appointment,  £350 where the Pure Cremation team collect the coffin from the funeral home and return the cremated remains by hand.

The copy on their website page for partners states ‘Some people only want the simplest direct cremation at the lowest possible cost but would prefer to be looked after by a local firm. Our low cremation fees mean that you can say “Yes” to serving these families at a price that they feel good about… yet still achieves a healthy margin for you.’

This sounds excellent from a client’s point of view; a local funeral director service, an efficient direct cremation and the cremated remains returned to them. All at the lowest possible price (assuming that the saving on the cremation fee is passed on by the funeral company concerned, of course).

It also makes it clear that the actual cost of cremating an adult is less than £250.

Otherwise, Pure Cremations wouldn’t be offering this service at this price.

Memoria appear to have been similarly struck by inspiration at the idea of partnering with funeral directors, although they have a slightly different take on it. They are also offering discounted cremation fees to select funeral directors – £300 in this case for direct cremations, £400 for small, attended funeral ceremonies before 11.00am.

A letter from former owner and current Group CEO, Howard Hodgson, landed on the doormats of funeral directors recently, notifying them of an upcoming Memoria TV advertising campaign promoting ‘affordable, local and attended cremation funeral services as an alternative to direct cremation’, and inviting them to become a Memoria Brand Partner.

According to the FAQ’s on the website, a Memoria Brand Partner is ‘a funeral director who works exclusively with Memoria to offer the attended local funeral service – the Personal Funeral Service – to bereaved families as an alternative to Direct Cremation. Memoria is also to be their exclusive provider of their direct cremations.’

Brand Partners will benefit from ‘preferential cremation fees for both Direct Cremation (£300) and the Personal Funeral Service (£400)’ as well as branded marketing material and the backing of Memoria TV and digital advertising at no cost to their business.

Somewhat less appealing to most funeral directors, perhaps, is the fact that Memoria will, as part of the contractual arrangement required in exchange for the preferential cremation fees, set the total price of the Direct Cremation and Personal Funeral Service – £990 and £1,395 respectively. 

It seems to us that this initiative by Memoria is not just an attempt to push back at the rise of direct cremation by promoting low cost, attended funerals, but it is also an attempt to enlist sufficient funeral directors to carry out the logistics of the ‘arranging’ elements of a funeral by enticing them to sign up as exclusive partners with discounted cremation fees. (Something similar was attempted by Memoria’s sister company, Low Cost Funerals, now rebranded as Affordable Funerals and listed at Companies House with the same directors as Memoria. Affordable Funerals already offer Direct Cremations and Personal Funeral Services at the same prices as those that we’ll see advertised by Memoria and their partners over the coming months).

The prices charged to non-affiliated funeral directors for direct cremations are listed as £450 at each of the Memoria crematoria, 50% higher than the £300 fee that Brand Partners will be charged for each cremation. 

For small funeral directors, this is a significant amount to offset as part of their total package price. It could render it impossible for non-affiliated funeral directors to compete in price against companies who sign up as a Memoria Brand Partner – the former would have to provide all the services involved in organising a cremation for £540 after paying the £450 cremation fee, while the Brand Partner would have £690 left to cover the costs of overheads, staff, vehicles, coffin supply, insurance and so forth. 

Effectively, Memoria’s initiative could make it impossible for small funeral businesses to offer direct cremations at a competitive rate in areas where there are no other crematoria available and where other funeral directors are partnering with Memoria and receiving discounted cremation fees. If this happens, then the ultimate loser will be the bereaved people whose choices will have been diminished.

So, what have we learned from this long (and possibly quite boring) deep dive into cremation fees? Mainly the following:

  • That private companies are doing what they are supposed to do, i.e., making money.
  • That an individual cremation can be carried out for under £250, with the company providing the service still making money from it.
  • And that bereaved families are being charged an extraordinarily huge amount of money for the room hire for their funeral ceremonies. More than £800 an hour in some cases!

Armed with this knowledge, what can the public do?

We recommend – as always – asking a lot of questions before committing yourself to making funeral arrangements with any company. Think about what matters to you, make a list of things that you want to know, then call funeral directors and ask them. 

If you are planning to have a funeral ceremony prior to cremation, you could explore the possibility of hiring a venue for the ceremony then arranging for the cremation to take place separately, perhaps early the following day at a reduced rate. 

You may find that you can hire a village hall for the whole day for a ceremony and a reception for less than the cost of a 40-minute ceremony in a crematorium chapel. Or your local pub might be willing to let you book it for the day and have a ceremony in the garden. Maybe you or a relative have space to hold a ceremony at home? You do not need to be confined to holding a ceremony at a crematorium. Once you begin to think of alternative places and spaces, all kinds of possibilities may occur to you.

You could enquire about other crematoria rather than the one closest to you – do a Google search for ‘crematorium in *your area’. Look at the crematoria websites, they all list prices for both funeral services and for direct cremations, and many will show different fees for different times of the day. Often, local authority owned and run crematoria will charge less than the privately owned ones, although not always.

All funeral directors are required to list the fees of their local crematoria on their Standardised Price List which must be shown on their website, so you may be able to get an idea of costs in your area by checking these, but then double check with the crematorium itself in case fees have changed recently.

You may be considering a direct cremation? If so, be particularly wary of companies advertising themselves as direct cremation providers online. 

We will be writing about this subject in detail in a dedicated blog post in the coming weeks, but for now we can summarise by recommending you always approach a company with a physical presence, a proper funeral director rather than an internet-based provider. Ask them exactly where the cremation will take place, and when. Ask for a breakdown of their advertised ‘direct cremation’ fee. Ask them if they and their staff will take the coffin to the crematorium, or if this part of their service is subcontracted. Ask them if any part of their service is subcontracted, and if so, to whom.

Remember, you are the client. You are paying for a service, and you have every right to know what you are paying for.

A word from our patrons

Following the blog post about the online direct cremation providers published on the blog on February 1st, we have had some responses from two of our patrons, Carolyn Harris MP, and Ken West MBE, both challenging some of the points made.

This is warmly welcomed – the Good Funeral Guide has always welcomed debate, and alternative viewpoints such as these make a valuable contribution. We are particularly glad to have patrons who are so engaged and interested in the work we do, and who take their roles as patrons so seriously – they’re definitely not patrons in name only!

Here are their thoughts – the first, from Carolyn, in the form of an article by Gabriel Pogrund that first appeared in The Times in January:


‘A Labour MP whose father has died has spoken about the “strangely intimate and liberating” experience of grieving during the pandemic.

Carolyn Harris, the deputy leader of Welsh Labour and Keir Starmer’s parliamentary private secretary, lost her father Don over the festive period.

A funeral for the retired bus driver, who died after getting a chest infection aged 89, took place in Swansea on Monday, with just nine people permitted to attend.

Harris, 60, whose son Martin died aged five, has campaigned on funeral poverty and secured a government fund for parents unable to afford to bury their children in 2019.

However, the former barmaid and dinner lady said that having a no-frills funeral was surprisingly satisfying because it meant that she could tell the truth about her father.

According to a transcript of her eulogy, she said: “You all knew him well and there’s no point in me painting the picture of a saint or a paragon of virtue.

“He was a man whose working life was loved behind the wheel of a bus. A man of few words, and ‘this round is on me’ was not one of them.”

Harris told relatives that, despite his flaws, he was a “good man”: “I was the entire focus of both my parents’ worlds. They indulged my passion for ballroom dancing and they also encouraged my weird obsession with politics when I was eight years old.

“Although he never told me, I know he was proud of me and was always asking his neighbours if they had seen me on the telly,” she added.

Harris said that the funeral was refreshing because “I didn’t feel I had to create a personality to please an audience”.

“I didn’t want to say my father was the kindest, most generous man ever, because people in the room would know that he wasn’t. The times I’ve gone to a funeral and people are saying, ‘He’d give you his last,’ and I’m thinking, ‘Oh no he wouldn’t.’

“We’re the ones who lost him and I was really glad not to share it with everyone. Saying what I wanted to say helped me grieve.”

Nor was she distracted by “who did or didn’t turn up”, “whether so and so sent flowers” or “keeping up with the Joneses”, she added.

The funeral was a direct cremation, which involves either a basic service or none at all, and is attended by only a few people. The option is usually reserved for those facing funeral poverty or the dead who have no next of kin.* Editor’s note – this is actually factually incorrect. A direct cremation is an unattended cremation that takes place with no ceremony of any kind, and can be chosen by anyone, not just people facing funeral poverty or without relatives. Carolyn’s father had a simple cremation.

However, they are naturally more Covid-compliant and have become common during the pandemic.

Harris said the event cost her £1,300, which, according to the Money Advice Service, is less than the average cost of a cremation (£3,250) or burial (£4,321). She said: “It’s phenomenally cheap. People are paying £4,000 – £5,000 for funerals but are they paying that because it’s what they want or it’s what other people expect them to do?”

Despite declining to put a notice of her father’s death in local newspapers, Harris spoke out about her experience of grieving to take away the stigma of certain types of funerals today.

“I still haven’t put it in the paper about my dad. I didn’t want to tell people and then they would be asking, ‘When’s the funeral?’ I wanted to tell them in a month or two, ‘It’s happened and it’s all over’. I don’t want to make anyone else feel guilty or think about what to send or say. I wanted it to be about us and ultimately him”.’


Ken West had some further observations about direct cremation, which he was happy for us to share:

“Although I dislike the concept, I feel that personal animosity must not be allowed to intrude. Did I imagine it or did the CMA appear opposed to the idea by stating that the market for Direct funerals would not become significant? Stating this, they seemed to be reflecting the universal objection of funeral directing to the idea. None of us should say that because there can be no objection whatsoever to a family disposing of the body and then holding a memorial service subsequently. When Nicholas Albery from the NDC died, his funeral took this route. His natural burial was private and we all attended a subsequent service in a church in Piccadilly. The adverse criticism I hear about direct cremation, all apocryphal, suggests that the problem arises when people book direct cremation but don’t understand what they are buying. They then expect a service to take place which they can attend. All these stories are clearly intended to demean the concept and I hear little that supports the idea. 

The promotion of Direct Cremation as ‘simple’ or ‘no frills’ also rather annoys me. In the 1990’s, when I managed funerals at Carlisle, we did many ‘Family Arranged’ funerals. The bereaved arranged these with one of my staff, all of whom became adept at organising a funeral. In truth, some funerals of the elderly, with few family or people involved, were arranged in little more than 30 minutes. The claim by the NAFD that 80 hours input goes into each funeral is absurd. The cremation application was quickly filled in. The family had to subsequently deliver the registration certificate and doctors forms to our office. We had a supply of coffins to buy and they could deliver the coffined body to the crem, where it was put into the fridge. They had to supply any flowers or order an obituary.  If they could not collect the body themselves, we had a number of funeral directors who would pick up a coffin, collect the body and deliver it to the crem for around £100. 

With the coffined body in the fridge, it was little or no work to slide it through to the chapel just prior to the service. A celebrant or vicar took the service in the usual way. At no time would we deny them a service, neither would we dictate that they used inconvenient times, like 9 am. The clergy and celebrants knew we offered this service and they were not surprised if a member of the family, rather than a funeral director, rang them up to arrange a service. I see a Community Service offering this option. It does not require a funeral director or a hearse and limousines, which dramatically reduces costs. It puts power back into the community, not least because the clergy and celebrants appreciate their revised role and are freed from all funeral director influence and control.”

He goes on:

‘Overall, I disagree with the disruptors post. I come from 1950’s council house poverty in rural Shropshire. What this post suggests is that a person in poverty goes cap in hand to a local funeral director to ask for special treatment. That is demeaning, especially when we know that so many local funeral directors are part of a larger group. This approach might have worked in the 1950’s when a local funeral director understood and cared for his community. He knew the address and school of the deceased and could, if he so wished, reduce charges almost to a cost base. He would deftly handle the family without highlighting their poverty.  I accept that there are funeral directors who still operate this way, but they both rare and difficult to find. Overall, the industry has failed. Most funeral directors are now employees and, even if sympathetic, don’t have the ability to reduce prices.  

The value of Direct Cremation, whether we like it or not, is that the family don’t have to disclose their financial situation, and they stay in control. In many cases, what they are doing is what the bereaved asked them to do on their deathbed, that is, to avoid funeral debt. Holding a ceremony at a later stage over the ashes is not fundamentally wrong, just a new way of doing funerals.  

These disruptors have identified opportunities created by a failed funeral market. Their offering is promoted on price alone, which is a big risk. A further risk is that the CMA Report cast doubt on whether the Direct Funeral would increase at all. The disruptors are doing this because the funeral industry has clearly ripped people off and one of the internet’s roles is to shake up failed services.  How the body is handled, how it is stored, who does this and where is it kept, these are not valid considerations in respect of these funerals. They are typical subjective issues which have always been used by funeral directing to justify high prices, even though they often failed. When I recall local funeral directors, I knew of cases where bodies were dropped down stairs, or where the widow was excluded from the bedroom when the partner’s body was collected. Small bodies were routinely put in big coffins and rattled about inside. Bodies were (are) transported miles to funeral hubs. People are entitled to ignore these issues, even to see the body as an item of waste. 

It is also misleading to suggest that local funeral directors are all of a kind, that is, sympathetic to the disadvantaged. I worked with hundreds of small funeral directors over my work period. Some served rural areas or council estates, had no airs or graces and used old vehicles. Others, with the new shiny hearse and matching limo’s, saw themselves as above such standards, that they were up-market. I know that many of these did not offer lower prices and simply did not want working class funerals. They must still exist and would, I believe, maintain their prices through arranging loan or credit facilities. They would base this on promoting the traditional funeral and demeaning all alternatives, such as Direct Cremation. They are not, and would not operate, as a social service. 

My comments are not an endorsement of what these disruptors are offering. Indeed, it begs the question as to whether any crisis purchase should be allowed through the internet, which is altogether another question. Transparency is essential though, no matter who does the funeral. However, I would not take a firm view until consumer surveys gives us reliable evidence of their impact on the market.’

Crematorium Attendant of the Year 2017

     Richard Hooker from Mortlake Crematorium

For such an important role, there were surprisingly few nominations in this category this year, resulting in just three finalists. The judges hope that next year far more celebrants and funeral directors will nominate these unsung heroes who oversee thousands of funerals each year, ensuring that everything goes to plan.

Picking a winner from the three finalists wasn’t easy, but it was eventually decided on by the testimony of the crematorium buy cialis 20mg online manager, who wholeheartedly endorsed this person for their quiet, gentle nature, their kindness and generosity, their complete reliability and their care for their work.

Winner – Richard Hooker at Mortlake Crematorium

Runners up – Paul Jansen at Golders Green Crematorium and the team at Cardiff Crematorium Thornhill


Category sponsor: The Association of Independent Celebrants

The 2017 Good Funeral Awards were generously sponsored by Greenfield Creations

 Award photograph by Jayne Lloyd



Best Crematorium in the UK 2017

                                     The team from Memoria Ltd.

This category had a good field of entrants this year, with 13 finalists and entries citing facilities, environmental issues, service times, fees, bereavement services, training, events and grounds maintenance.

Selecting a winner from among these entries was not easy, and the judges ended up with three deserving runners up which all deserve mention.

The winner was decided both on the quality of facilities and staff and the testimonials from families and funeral directors:

Winner: South Oxfordshire Crematorium and Memorial Park

Runners up: Kettering Crematorium, Mortlake Crematorium and Seven Hills Crematorium


Category sponsor: Scattering Ashes

The 2017 Good Funeral Awards were generously sponsored by Greenfield Creations

Photograph by Jayne Lloyd

The future’s bright, the future’s…..

Editor’s note: Since writing this article, we have been informed of some serious misgivings about the Ecolation offer, and we would advise any readers to consider the points raised by Mary in the comments below. For clarity, the Good Funeral Guide does not endorse ecolation as a process as it is as yet unproven.

We have decided to leave the post on the blog as it was written in good faith at the time, however it is also our understanding that there have been some internal changes at ecoLegacy and Tony is no longer involved. 

Towards the end of last year, we listened to Tony Ennis of ecoLegacy speaking at the ICCM conference about his soon-to-be released new alternative to cremation. What he had to say to the packed conference room was so fascinating that the GFG decided we needed to know more. So on a chilly January morning, Fran hopped on a flight to Dublin to spend the day at the ecoLegacy HQ.

‘I have to say, I went to Dublin not really knowing what to expect. Everything I had heard from Tony made sense, I’d done lots of background reading about him and his project, and it all appears to be 100% genuine. But I also thought that this was too good to be true, and that there had to be a catch.

I have to report, dear reader, that if there is one, I haven’t found it. It is quite possible that I was privileged enough to be among the earliest people to be shown something that is groundbreaking – and game changing – for the ways that we deal with our dead.

Everything that I saw and was told makes sense. The people involved are passionate and genuine. Huge amounts of research have been done. Various processes have been trialled and found wanting, so the engineers started over and tried a different way until they found the solution. The potential issues with current law in the UK have been addressed. There are very eminent bodies overseeing and interested in what Tony is doing (his work is being overseen by Imperial College), and the main players in the funeral industry have all already been to Dublin to be shown the unit and given the tour as I was.

It seems to me that it’s simply a matter of time before the first ecoLegacy unit is available to UK clients – and probably not much time at that. Then we will see how the public respond to something completely new. My instinctive feeling is that it will be phenomenally successful.’

Read the information from ecoLegacy for yourself below.

And if you have any questions, write them in the comments. We’ll get Tony to respond.

“Basically, ecoLegacy has developed “cremation 2.0”, a next-generation, environmental and ethical alternative to burial and cremation called ecoLation. It will ensure a greener planet and cleaner air. The company has its headquarters in Ireland and is currently operating in the UK and the US.

The idea was inspired by Philip Backman, a US scientist and teacher, who came up with the original idea around 1971, the same year Tony Ennis was born. ecoLegacy’s goal is to make Phil’s vision a reality and scale it globally and this is currently happening with initial orders coming in from all across Europe and the US. (more info here http://www.ecolegacy.com/philip-backman-a-moment-of-clarity/)

ecoLation is a flameless form of cremation. It has developed a thermal process that uses cold and heat and pressure. It reduces emissions and poisons from reentering the earth’s precious and delicate eco systems.It is respectful to the body, it is respectful to the family and it is respectful to the planet.

So what happens when a loved one dies and has chosen ecoLation?

First they cool the body to just the right temperature. The body is placed inside a pod, the temperature is lowered and the body is chilled.  Water is released back and forth over the body reducing the remains down into ice particles. These particles are filtered through to a unit that recreates the earth’s natural process that normally takes thousands of years.

All toxins and chemicals we build up while living are neutralised and the result is completely organic nutrient rich remains. A tiny seed – of a plant, a tree or a flower can be placed into this powder and, coupled with soil, water and love, you or your loved one can grow into a beautiful strong tree or your favorite flower.

In terms of efficiency, the unit uses electric energy to get up to temperature and to create the right conditions. However, as the remains are ecoLated, they break down on a molecular level and release a very clean bio gas. This gas is turned into heat energy which is then used to power the system.  Whilst there will always be an energy requirement, it is brought back as close to zero as possible through our technology.

In the next 70 years, the Earth’s population will reach and probably soar past 10 billion people.

ecoLegacy offers an ecological choice to funeral directors and families that will ensure a greener planet and cleaner air and thus a healthier ecosystem.

Unlike burial and cremation, ecoLation offers a pure, more sustainable choice and breathes new life into the earth in plant form.

In the next 100 years, at current rates, we will need to bury or cremate more than 10 billion people. A staggering 54% of the world’s population lives on just 3% of the land, in cities, where the urban landscape cannot accept further burial or afford the pollution side effects of burning our dead. Typically funeral home clients have the two standard alternatives presented to them, but from an environmental, ecological, ethical or indeed practical standpoint, neither of these two methods are sustainable for the long term.

Current burial rates are unsustainable in our modern world.  More and more we can detect the effects of burial from fluids leaching into our soil and water courses. This hazardous waste also contains embalming fluids and, in recent times, a huge degree of chemicals from end of life drugs administered. Not to be overlooked either are the harmful pathogens that live on after we die, or the veneer on the coffins etc. We are running out of space too.

Cremation, a method becoming more popular, has relatively high pollution levels,  releasing on average 400kg of CO2 per body into the atmosphere. Cremation is also responsible for a number of other pollutants and dioxins and of course it consumes fossil fuel in the form of either oil or gas.

ecoLation is clean. There are no emissions of harmful chemicals. The body is ethically treated and all metals and foreign compounds removed. There are no chemicals active, no diseases still alive, no issues in relation to leaching and no carbon / heavy metals or dioxins. The remains are totally sterile, totally natural and totally clean. It’s a new way to be remembered.”

Crematorium of the Year


Martin Birch of Thornhill Crematorium, Cardiff

This year’s winner is particularly praised for addressing funeral poverty in imaginative ways, not least through participation in the pioneering initiative of the local authority funeral scheme, which challenges the rising cost of funerals, while making the funeral purchase more transparent. Approximately 12% of cremations carried out at this crematorium use this service.

Performing around 2,700 cremations annually, Thornhill Crematorium has a 98% satisfaction rating from families who choose it

Rated as providing gold standard provision for both cremation and burial under the Charter for the Bereaved criteria, recent outstanding improvements to their premises have included refurbishing both chapels and changing the structural layout at no additional cost to the Authority through an innovative budget strategy.

With strong environmental awareness and a comprehensive recycling scheme, this year’s winner has attained Green Flag status, an acknowledgement of being one of the best green spaces in the country.

Runner up in this category: Mortlake Crematorium

Category sponsor: Scattering Ashes

Good news for Dignity shareholders


Bereaved families in the Oxford area may be a little less pleased to know that the cost of having a relative cremated at their local Dignity owned crematorium will be £999 from next week onwards.

Just a short journey towards London, a cremation at South West Middlesex Crematorium will cost £490 (source Funeralbooker report on UK Cremation Costs here).

We wonder whether it is just Oxford, or all 43 Dignity owned and operated crematoria that are hiking up their prices?

Quoting from Dignity’s Annual Reports & Accounts 2015:

We are the largest single operator of crematoria in Britain with a growing portfolio of well-established and state of the art crematoria that meet the needs of the local communities we serve. In 2015, we carried out 57,700 cremations representing 9.8 per cent of total estimated deaths in Britain”

57,000 x £999…… just under £56 million according to the GFG intern who was a whizz at maths.

Funeral poverty anyone?


Is this the worst crematorium in Britain?

Every year we celebrate the best of the funeral industry with the Good Funeral Awards.  There isn’t a ‘Worst Crematorium of the Year” award but if there was such an accolade, we have a strong contender.

Introducing our readers to West London Crematorium, as photographed on Thursday 30th June 2016.

Decaying curtains, stained carpets, seating you wouldn’t want to sit on, general disrepair and so much more.

Shoddy’s a good word.  As is lazy.  So is unacceptable.  All befit the state of this crematorium.

Our question: Is this the worst crematorium in Britain?  It’s over to you.

West London Crematorium
Kensal Green, Harrow Road, London, W10 4RA
Owned and managed by the General Cemetery Company
W: http://www.kensalgreencemetery.com/crematorium/index.html
Cost of cremation: £650

Ed’s note – we’ve contacted the General Cemetery Company and asked for a response.  We’ll keep you updated.  

Sacred Stones

Sacred Stones

The barrow, its shape, its natural stone, its location, instantly gave me the same feeling of the past being an essential part of the present, of our lives being a shared history. Of peace and calm and connection. And I am drawn to the barrow as a place of rest and pilgrimage for exactly those reasons.” Anna Pugh, Bedford.

Last week we visited Willow Row, the round barrow destined to house hundreds of cremated remains that is being constructed in Cambridgeshire by Sacred Stones Ltd. Three of the company directors were there to meet curious locals and others fascinated by the prospect of a Neolithic style barrow being built in the 21st century.

Toby Angel is a former business development manager who met stonemasons Martin Fildes and Geraint Davies just after they had completed work on the long barrow at All Cannings in Wiltshire. Thinking back to his aunt’s cremation service, Toby recalled just what an impersonal experience it had been ‘at an ugly, municipal building’. He felt that there had to be a better way, and when he met Martin and Geraint, he realised that the privately commissioned barrow that they had just created in Wiltshire was it.

A vision of providing a modern interpretation of ancient burial mounds across the UK was born, and now the first of their sites is becoming a reality, in a secluded spinney on farmland near St. Neots. Willow Row round barrow, once complete, will have 345 niches where urns of cremated remains can be placed in hand crafted niches. Most will have space for two urns but there will also be some larger ones where four or five urns can be placed together. Single capsules will also be available, made of Portland Stone and sealed with beeswax.

Sitting in the inner circle of what will become the central chamber, we quizzed Toby and Martin about their ambitions. There was no mistaking the passion that has gripped them personally as the project has taken shape, and both men talked eagerly about what the creation of Willow Row meant to them. There was a strong sense of connection to our ancestors who toiled with stones thousands of years ago to create barrows for their dead to be laid to rest in sacred surroundings. Even Geraint the stonemason, a man of few words (but immense forearms..) became animated when he was explaining how the beautiful limestone being used in the construction tells him where it wants to go. “If it’s not the right place for it, it doesn’t work,” he said.

The organic growth of the barrow belies the years of craftsmanship involved in its design and construction, and even in this early stage it is clear that Willow Row is going to be a beautiful and very special building that will blend into its surroundings in a totally natural way. Sheltered from the environment by the surrounding trees and bushes, the barrow will eventually be covered with topsoil and look as if it has been there for thousands of years. The only sound you hear as you approach it is birdsong, and despite the surrounding fields being part of a working arable farm, there is peacefulness in the chosen spinney around the barrow that is perfectly in keeping with the reverence of it becoming a final resting place for hundreds of people.

We have asked Toby to write a guest blog for us over the coming months as Willow Row reaches completion, and to keep us updated with how his vision, inspired by ancestral rituals and rites, becomes a reality. We liked the idea tremendously. Only time will tell if the people of Cambridgeshire and the surrounding areas do so too, but in the meantime Toby and his co-directors have plans to build more barrows in Hampshire, Herefordshire, Shropshire, Buckinghamshire, Somerset, Yorkshire, Scotland and Wales.