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Interment of ashes – What you need to know

The interment of ashes, simply means to keep the ashes in a permanent place. This is usually a burial plot, but it can be a niche in a columbarium .

Interment of ashes provides a good option for:

  • those with religious faith (particularly those of a Catholic faith),
  • families that already have members buried at a specific location; and
  • those that want permanence and a sense of tradition that a graveyard or cemetery can provide.

The main burial options

  • Local Authority cemetery – run by the Local Council and can include burial plots at crematoria
  • Churchyard or burial ground – these can be owned/run by either the Church (Church of England or the Catholic Church)
  • Natural Burial Ground or Green Burial Grounds which aim for a much more natural burial. They tend not to allow headstones, but some will allow grave makers. We are fans of this charity – Natural Death Centre which has more advice.

There are around 14,000 cemeteries and burial sites in the UK

How soon after the funeral can I bury the ashes?

You will need to arrange a time suitable with the site provider, they tend to need at least two days notice to prepare the grave, but individual timings can vary.

How do I get a plot?

You will need to purchase a plot from the site owner. Alternatively, can chose burial in a family plot if you are entitled. You will need to contact the site owners to find out if plots are available.

There is often little or no space in older churchyards and urban sites.

Who can be buried in a family plot?

It depends on who has a claim on the grave. So, for example if you wished to be buried in the same plot as your grandmother and she had two children and six grandchildren but there is only space for four ashes caskets then you will need the consent of the other parties.

It is likely that if the plot was purchased by grandparents of the deceased that it will be complicated to work out. The first thing to do is approach the body that runs the site.

What do plots cost?

Hugely variable on several factors:

  • Age of the site – older cemeteries attract a higher price
  • Available space – relates to the above
  • Notoriety of the site – also relates to the above
  • Regional variation:  For example, rural Wales is very good value, Central London is extremely expensive if available at all
  • If you lived in the area, some sites make an additional charge if the deceased was not a resident

Pricing is not consistent, and it is difficult to compare. It is not just the cost of the plot, the cost of the excavation is separate. There are other things too, for example – there is the cost of the service, a headstone, if required, and headstone maintenance.

Here are a few examples (correct at the time of publishing)

Plymouth Local Authority Site – 50-year exclusive rights ashes plot, no service, no headstone – £875

Bristol Local Authority – 30 years exclusive, headstone and the first interment – £1600

Bury Council (near Manchester) – no clear time frame, cost for resident of the area, plot and interment fee, no headstone – £745 

Croydon Council (Borough of London) – 50-year lease, interment fee, no service, no headstone – £1770

As you can see it is not easy to compare. However, it should give you a rough idea. All the above come with a wide range of options and caveats.

What paperwork do I need?

You will need to provide a cremation certificate before the interment of ashes. This is more than likely should you choose to bury outside of the locality, in another county for example.

You will need to have paperwork signed to demonstrate you have the right to bury there. The deeds of the plot and notification of internment of ashes form (these vary).

Who officiates at the ceremony?

It depends where you choose, if it is on church land, you will need to speak to the vicar or priest, it is almost certain that they will wish to conduct a service. However, the content of any service can be a matter of negotiation.

If you choose a local authority cemetery or natural burial ground, you will need to arrange someone to conduct the service for you (or you may be able to do it yourself). Your funeral director should be able to help you also to point you in the right direction.

What do the ashes need to be contained in?

Again, it depends on the site. Our rule of the thumb is to use an urn appropriate for the site. The more formal the site the more formal the urn. Natural Burial Sites will insist on those that biodegrade more quickly and contain no toxins, varnishes etc. Some interments don’t need an urn at all. In such situations the ashes will be poured into the plot through a funnel.

Can the site be disturbed?

It depends, ashes interred in a rural church graveyard are unlikely to be disturbed. With urban sites it is a different picture. Many plots are ‘leased’ over a number of years eg 50. Should you not renew the lease, then the plot might be reclaimed in the future.

Also, in certain cases old graveyards have been moved to make way for new infrastructure.

Can I remove the ashes in the future?

Churchyards have different rules to those of local authorities. Firstly, churchyard plots are consecrated (blessed). This means moving the ashes (exhume) later (eg for reasons of access) will be very difficult. Local Authorities will allow exhumation, if the correct procedure is followed. However, most have areas of their cemeteries that are also consecrated: this area then falls under church jurisdiction. Green burial grounds do not tend to be consecrated.

This is dealt with under or section on Exhumation.

Interment of Ashes


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