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Myth busting at Tesside Crematoria

First and foremost I must apologise for plagiarism, not something I tend to do, but this really couldn’t be improved upon.  The main reason I reproduce like this on occasion is so that good stuff like this does not get lost in the morass that is the web. So I hope I can be forgiven – originally written by BY TONI GUILLOT with pictures from Ian Cooper. This aticle is from the Gazzette Live in Tessside – this ia the Link

The journalist asked Colin Duncan, bereavement services manager for Middlesbrough Council to answer a few questions and bust a few myths. Although these points are answered in other places on the site the detail is very informative.

Q. How many furnaces do you have?

A. We don’t call them furnaces or incinerators. As they are specifically designed for cremations, they are called ‘cremators’.

We have five of them here at Teesside Crematorium, two were installed when the crematorium was opened in 1961 and three were installed in 2010.

Q. How big are the cremators? Are they only big enough for one coffin?

A. A standard coffin for a cremation measures 28” wide and our cremators range from 28” to 42” wide.

They are not large enough to take more than one coffin at a time – and we have never attempted to.

Q. How long does it take to cremate a coffin? And what temperature do the cremators reach?

A. In our older cremators the temperature often reaches 1200°C although the modern cremators generally reach between 900 and 1100°C.

It normally takes about 80-90 minutes to complete a cremation although larger coffins sometimes take up to two hours.

Q. In an average working day, how many coffins are cremated?

A. We can provide up to 24 services per day, although we rarely have that many services.

On average throughout the year we have 11 services between our two chapels.

We can easily manage to complete all cremations on the same day, although there are very rare occasions when failures to one or more cremators cause us to have to delay a cremation.

Q. Do coffins get reused? Are the handles removed? Or are all coffins sealed?

A. Coffin lids are secured before they are brought to the crematorium and once a coffin has been placed on the catafalque – the wooden framework which supports the coffin – in the chapel, it is cremated with all its contents.

We let funeral arrangers know the sizes of our cremators so that the full coffin, including handles, can fit inside the hearth.

It’s very important therefore that, with the exception of certain surgical implants, whenever possible only natural, combustible materials are placed inside the coffin.

Q. How do you ensure that the ashes don’t get contaminated or mixed together?

A. After each cremation, the ashes are allowed to cool and the remains are swept into an ashes container.

In this way, the hearth is cleared of virtually all ashes from the previous cremation before another coffin is placed into the cremator.

An identity card with the name of the deceased accompanies the coffin to the cremator, and then accompanies the cremated remains throughout the remainder of the journey.

Q. Are pieces of jewellery or precious items removed from the coffin beforehand?

A. No. Funeral arrangers are encouraged to remove precious items before the service as they generally do not survive the process of cremation.

Crematorium staff never tamper with coffins or remove jewellery.

We follow a voluntary ‘Code of Cremation Practice’ which specifically requires us to cremate the coffin and all contents, and then to dispose of all cremated remains in accordance with the instructions that we have received from the funeral arranger.

Q. What happens to items which have not been cremated fully?

A. The remains of any jewellery or other items are either recycled with other metals from the coffin or returned to the applicant on request.

Teesside Crematorium takes part in a national not-for-profit metal recycling arrangement, which return all proceeds to local charities.

The applicant for each cremation is invited to take part in the arrangement and may decline if they wish. For cremations that take part in this arrangement, metal is removed after cremation.

Q. How long before the coffin goes into the cremator after the service?

A. Usually this happens immediately, but sometimes if we have had several services beforehand, the cremation may not begin for a few hours.

It virtually always happens on the same day and we would inform the funeral arranger if the cremation was going to be delayed until the following day.

Q. What is the quirkiest thing, if any, that has happened at a funeral service?

We once carried out a service for a helicopter pilot and at the beginning of the service a helicopter appeared over the chapel and took a bow before flying away.

And more recently we held a service for a lady who had graced the stage in local operatic and theatrical productions. And so as part of her service, when the time came for the curtains to be closed around the coffin, we arranged a brief curtain call which was received with great applause.

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