Blogs from the Crematorium
Bereavement Services Manager
Hello, my name is Kate Greening and I'm the Bereavement Services Manager for Adur & Worthing Councils.
I have been in the role for 18 months now and feel it's time to invite you into the beautiful, strange and sometimes surreal world of our work.
I will be the main blog writer, but I'm hoping some of my team will contribute, we will have some guest bloggers who will give another perspective about death care, we also aim to answer any death related questions you may have.
On the whole, you won't hear from us or come into contact with us unless you experience bereavement or you are working with us, so this blog is hopefully going to broaden your knowledge of what it is we do and what is involved in the world of us death care workers.
You can read Kate's current blog posts on this page below:
We're the Bereavement Services Support Officers at Adur & Worthing Councils. We deal with the administration for cremations at Worthing Crematorium and burials in Adur and Worthing Cemeteries.
We would like to extend our condolences to everyone who has been affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
It is at times like this when kindness and compassion go a long way when supporting those experiencing a bereavement. Our services have been even more important in these challenging times as many families have been unable to have the funeral they would like for, or that their loved ones deserve.
We would like to thank our amazing colleagues from other Council departments for stepping in and helping us during this unprecedented time.
We would also like to thank those who work alongside us: the many funeral directors, registration services, the NHS, including and with special thanks to our diligent and hardworking Medical Referee.
As essential workers, we have been working throughout the pandemic at Worthing Crematorium. We've increased our working week to seven days, including bank holidays, and have also had to adapt very quickly to changes in government legislation and internal work processes. We are extremely proud of how we and our colleagues have continued to deliver a high standard of service and support families in the way they deserve.
Despite some misinformation relating to funeral services, we would like to reassure residents and visitors that all of the cemeteries and the crematorium memorial gardens are open as usual for you to visit and pay respects to your loved ones. We just ask that you adhere to the government's guidelines on social distancing.
Funeral services are running as normal as possible at Worthing Crematorium. Whilst we need to ensure that everyone is kept safe, our aim is to give families as much choice and flexibility as we can to enable them to say goodbye to their loved ones.
We were very touched this week to receive a gift from a company called Ashes into Glass. They turn the ashes of loved ones into memorial glass and have brought comfort to many of the families we've supported over the years. In recognition of the hard work of our staff and volunteers during the pandemic, Ashes into Glass made us a commemorative heart. Thank you to Ashes into Glass from all of us.
Tracy, Hannah, Tiffany and Julie
Photos: Thank you heart and letter from Ashes into Glass
Photo: Sunrise at Worthing Crematorium
Philippa Reece, Adur & Worthing Councils' Parks and Foreshore Manager has been working up at the Councils' Worthing Crematorium during lockdown to help with increased workloads. Here she tells residents about one of her moving experiences.
It's been quite a journey these last 10 weeks working up at the Crematorium. I've made a lot of new friends, been overwhelmed by the care and compassion my colleagues there bring to their job and had quite a lot of lovely memories.
One though has really stuck with me. It's a story of romance, love and such great care that it will never leave me.
It is about the deaths of a couple we will call Mr and Mrs Smith to protect their privacy.
Mrs Smith had recently died and on the information that we had on her it was said that her husband was 'waiting for her' here at the Crematorium so they could be reunited.
I have to be honest about this bit, in my mind with all the comings and going here, I have to admit that as I walked off with the team member who was my 'buddy' to go and collect Mr Smith, I was thinking that we would be walking back empty handed or a huge search would begin to try and then find him. It wasn't going to be a straightforward or simple task.
How wrong I was. There he was, waiting patiently for his wife, with a note attached containing all her details including their joint wish about where they would like their ashes to be laid to rest so they could be together once again.
I have to say, I have never felt so honoured to have been able to help reunite this couple again.
We spent a great amount of time finding the perfect spot for them in the beautiful spring glade to comply with their wishes.
Who would have thought as my journey began that I could play a part in one of the most romantic stories I have ever come across.
As I continue to work here I'm now not remotely surprised that Mr Smith was here, waiting for his wife. The care, love and respect that the staff show in their work here as really been a privilege to witness and to be a part of.
This week’s blog has been written by Philippa Reece, Adur & Worthing Councils’ Parks and Foreshore Manager, who is currently helping out at Worthing Crematorium during the pandemic.
As we continue our journey of redeployment within the COVID-19 era as our response to support our peers within the council, I have been captured by the beauty and sheer abundance of wildlife at Worthing Crematorium.
I have a morning ritual with one of our resident pheasants on site as he and his lady friends linger on the main road into the crematorium. He simply will not move until his ladies have all crossed the road safely! In fact, he actually leads the way over the road and as he sees me coming along, he’ll move back into the middle to stop me in my tracks - a bit like a lollipop person.
The issue with it is, he started with two ladies and he now has SIX. This has meant that I have needed to factor in extra travel time to work as the time it takes him to get across the road takes longer and longer.
In other news, did you know there is an ancient woodland here? To my joy as the months have continued to pass, the flashes of blue have started to appear in the grounds as the bluebell season begins to arrive.
It’s a perfect opportunity to spend some time investigating the diversity of these spaces, the habitats they bring and, from a selfish point of view, enjoy the beauty that spring brings to this amazing woodland.
Stay safe, Philippa.
This week Matt Marchant, business development manager at Adur & Worthing Councils, who is normally responsible for the commercial development of many products at the councils, but is currently helping out at Worthing Crematorium during the pandemic, talks with fellow volunteer Helen Blakeborough who usually works in our Elections Team.
Last week I mentioned that people from around your Council are volunteering at The Crem, lending their skills and experience, bringing fresh perspectives and outlooks.
This time I caught up with Helen Blakeborough who usually works in our Elections Team. With the expected May local, Parish and Police and Crime Commissioner elections cancelled due to Coronavirus (COVID-19), Helen wanted to use her time well by helping others. Like all of the volunteers working extra, often unsociable hours behind the scenes, she wanted to give something back to her community, as she really does understand the pressure of getting things 'right first time'.
Prior to working for Adur & Worthing Councils, Helen worked for Imperial War Museums and aboard HMS Belfast on the River Thames, making sure things were ship-shape. She has two museum related Masters Degrees and knows a thing or two about accuracy and events.
“Working on an election to ensure it runs perfectly, especially a snap election, is like putting on a show where there are no dress rehearsals, with no opportunity to mask mistakes, made extra tricky as the general public are watching. The Elections Team are a tight-knit group of officers where everything must be checked and checked again for compliance and accuracy, which is why I thought I would be useful to The Crem during this time”.
Helen went on to say how much of her work is about knowing the legislation inside out (which she enjoys immensely!) and making sure all work is carried out, by the book.
Many procedures at the Crematorium are subject to legal scrutiny. For example, all cremations must be accompanied by double signatures throughout the journey and all accompanying paperwork must be signed and checked by the correct authority, which means that there is no room for error.
“The Crem team take great pride in their work and always put the wishes of the bereaved in the forefront of everything they do.”
Helen said that the team there have made her feel very welcome and have appreciated her help.
I asked Helen if she knew what she was expecting before her volunteering started:
“I didn't know really, many people I've spoken to asked me why I wanted to volunteer here. On my first day, I was given the tour and shown the whole process end-to-end. So far, I've found the whole experience reassuring, almost uplifting in a strange way and would be happy to share my thoughts and memories here as a positive experience, with other people”.
Many thanks Helen and keep up the good work.
Until the next time. Stay safe and all the best.
Photo: Helen Blakeborough, who usually works in our Elections Team, at the Crematorium
This week I'm once again handing the blog over to Matt Marchant, business development manager at Adur & Worthing Councils, who is normally responsible for the commercial development of many products at the councils, but is currently helping out at Worthing Crematorium during the pandemic.
After five weeks of Covid-19 lockdown, I'm starting to feel like this is the new 'normal' and memories of a get together down the pub, have begun to fade somewhat. Sad times. Mind you, I've been making the most of platforms such as Zoom and Skype to hold 'virtual' beers with mates with even the odd quiz thrown in. Every cloud has a silver lining as they say and the advantage of virtual beers means that my round bills are much, much cheaper.
Now, speaking of savings, I want to talk about how these exceptional times have brought about what I hope will be lasting positive change here. For many, including Adur & Worthing Council key workers, the lockdown has forced us all to find new ways of working, using new technologies and to investigate new ideas that we don't normally have the time to do.
Breaking the routine of one's normal work-life has encouraged different perspectives to surface and be heard. Daily meetings that were once held face-to-face across several Council sites, often nessesitating single occupancy car journeys, have been ditched for screen time. In my opinion, there's nothing quite like a juicy face-to-face debate, but there's no doubt that the Council will continue to use Google Hangouts and Zoom, long after the restrictions have come to an end. This positive action will help us reduce our spending, ease carbon emissions and save time.
The Crem is currently operational from seven in the morning 'til around midnight most days and our volunteers are also relieving some of the pressure on the permanent staff here, working tirelessly to meet the needs of the community. With a few hundred years’ tacit knowledge, the new mix of people has brought about debate around new services, used untapped skills to solve old problems and fresh perspectives on death, all things that will help Bereavement Services to evolve and grow. Tea and custard cream breaks are never dull here.
In the coming months, I will be investigating what areas of The Crem can be digitised to speed up processes, making them more accessible for the public and more efficient for staff. I’ll also be seeking out new products and services that will bring good value to the community. My job would have been much harder without the support of the staff and network of volunteers I've met during my time here so far.
As I write this, it's now nine o'clock in the evening and it must be my turn to get a round in for the team. Make that two teas, white no sugar and a strong coffee ... oh go on then, perhaps a couple of dark chocolate digestives.
Stay home, drink tea, stay safe.
This week I'm handing the blog over to Matt Marchant, business development manager at Adur & Worthing Councils, who is responsible for the commercial development of many products including Commercial and Garden Waste. He is currently working at Worthing Crematorium, near Findon Village.
When I joined the Councils in August 2018 to develop commercial strategy, I had no idea that in April 2020, I would be working behind the scenes as a volunteer crematorium technician. I didn't spot that bit in the job description.
Moving to a public body having worked for 20 years in the private sector has been an 'education'. In my first few months I wondered if this was the life for me but, as time moved on, I began to 'get it'.
Some Councils get a bad name when it comes to moving with the times and being flexible but, as I've come to realise, this reputation is far from justified here.
And for me as a relative newcomer and outsider it's been eye-opening to see the response of staff since the lockdown began.
Dealing with problems, adapting to change and supporting the community is what always comes first. There are currently many pop-up services run by volunteer staff, doing jobs they don't usually do, far outside of their comfort zone. I feel privileged to be part of the response to the crisis in these unprecedented times.
There is additional pressure on our Bereavement Services team to manage the increased demand and yet despite this, as key workers, staff from around the Councils have put themselves forward to help. Along with many colleagues, I joined the Crematorium volunteer team to support the service through these exceptional times.
Now, working at a Crematorium might not be for everyone, but I can honestly say that I have never met a team so dedicated. The compassion and reverence they show towards the work is striking. Many volunteer staff have put aside their own feelings surrounding death and have stepped-up to keep the service running smoothly.
During my time at the Crematorium I have been very lucky and privileged to be part of many of the functions that go on behind the scenes during services keeping things running smoothly. I've made new friends and have learned new skills and it's an experience that will stay with me for life. So there you are. Any doubts about I might have had a couple of years back about working in the public sector have been swept away by my experiences up at the Crem. Stay safe, stay well.
Photo: Volunteering Council employees David Peters, Matt Marchant, Helen Blakeborough, Julie Dunsmure and Jon Pace at the crematorium
While it is often difficult for most of us to talk about death, for those recently bereaved the importance of a service to remember their loved ones cannot be underestimated.
At these times the experience of loss can be very isolating so the need to mark the death of one close to us becomes a crucial part of the grieving process.
This is why we at Adur & Worthing Councils Bereavement Service have worked so hard over the last few weeks to stay open. Some in other parts of the country have closed services all together but right from the start we wanted to avoid doing this.
There has been a lot to do in the last few weeks, with a significant amount of guidelines and updates coming out on an almost daily basis. Following on from the order to close pubs, cinemas and theatres and similar public establishments the Government extended this requirement to a further set of businesses and other venues, including places of worship, except for funerals attended by immediate families.
We have followed the guidelines from the Government and our professional organisations to approach how we proceed at Worthing Crematorium and our cemeteries.
The Bereavement Services team appreciate the importance of enabling families to continue to have a service or visit a deceased loved one in one of our cemeteries or garden of remembrance.
To enable funerals to continue and keep those using our facilities and our staff safe we had to very quickly adapt our operations in order to keep our facilities open.
Not only that we have extended our operating hours at the Crematorium, we will be temporarily providing our services seven days a week, at no additional cost. We will shortly be extending funeral service times to allow us to carry out a thorough clean between services.
We have installed hand sanitizer dispensers. We have given guidelines, not rules for who should attend and advised funeral directors to advise their clients to take a risk-based approach to attendance. We are providing free video downloads of the services for family and friends to watch safely, without the need to attend in person.
My amazing team is still turning up for work every day to enable services to take place. We are practicing social distancing at the office and in the plant room. I’d like to mention the wonderful support our service is getting from colleagues across the council with many officers volunteering their time to help us.
We are fortunate to have superb funeral directors, celebrants, officiants and ministers in the area and we have been keeping in touch and sharing information. The feedback that we get from them and the families we serve helps us shape the services we provide.
The Bereavement Services team, have sadly had to close ourselves off from the public for the time being. This is giving us the unintended opportunity of finding solutions to problems that will hopefully help improve services to the bereaved even more. For example, we will soon be offering the delivery of ashes to those who may not be able to collect them from the crematorium in person.
I find what really helps me through these difficult times is just taking some time out and appreciating the little, wonderful things around me. I’m still able to find joy noticing the blue sky, the light and the spring flowers. The pictures in the blog were taken a few days ago at the Worthing Crematorium Garden of Remembrance, in the Spring Glades.
This week's blog is by my colleague Tracy Kelly, Bereavement Services Team Leader.
On the 17th February Worthing Borough Council, Bereavement Services, facilitated a Royal Naval parade at Durrington Cemetery to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the Altmark Incident.
The Altmark incident was a naval incident of World War II between British destroyers and the German tanker Altmark, which happened on 16–17 February 1940. It took place in what were, at that time, neutral Norwegian waters. Boarding parties stormed the German tanker Altmark and released 299 prisoners.
Warrant Officer John James Frederick Smith was serving on HMS Cossack at the time of the incident.
The raid was a huge boost for British Morale and prompted widespread celebrations in the British media.
Warrant Officer John James Frederick Smith, was the only British casualty of the incident. He was a Worthing man, and was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for “prowess, leadership and devotion to duty.” He died on January 8th, 1973 aged 69 and is buried in Durrington Cemetery.
Sailors from destroyer HMS Dauntless joined veterans, representatives from the Norwegian Embassy in London, the Cossack Association, the family of John Smith and the Mayor, Counsellor Hazel Thorpe for the service to pay tribute to all those involved in what became known as the 'Altmark incident'.
The Service was conducted by Cdr N J Hall RN, the President of Worthing Veterans' Association.
Photo: Paying tribute to all those involved in what became known as the Altmark incident
Photo: Royal Naval parade at Durrington Cemetery to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the Altmark Incident
A few weeks ago the Cemetery Grounds Team Leader and I visited the London Borough of Bexley to see how they meet the needs of their diverse communities and how they meet the challenges of limited space and difficult ground conditions.
They were approached by members of the community who didn't want to be cremated or buried underground. So they looked to Europe and further afield for inspiration. It is quite common in other countries, especially those where ground conditions are unfavourable, such as where the water table is high, like in New Orleans or where the ground conditions are rocky, such as Greece to have above ground graves. These burial chambers have exotic names such as mausoleums, sarcophagi and underground vaults.
Adur and Worthing don't offer anything like this so we wanted to find out what services Bexley offered, how they are managed, who purchases them and what they charge.
At Hillview Cemetery, the team worked with a private company to develop a section with a range of prepared underground burial chambers, sarcophagi and above ground mausoleums.
These are designed and laid out in one large scale project and unlike earthen graves these are prepared and ready to use when the need arises. The burial chamber is formed of pre-cast concrete and can accommodate various configurations from two body burials up to ten family members plot. The slabs and decorative features are also made from precast concrete, with memorial markers in black granite. They offer a variety of different memorial options to cater for most tastes.
We later travelled to Erith Cemetery. The cemetery had been closed for earthen burials for 20 years due to space limitations. To counter this the team identified an area of the site that had been previously considered unsuitable and created a new memorial terrace and a series of stone mausoleums, vaults and sarcophagi on the slope, which created space for 600 new graves and extending the life of the cemetery for an additional 12 years.
The materials used here are different and include marble and granite. These seem to be popular choices as they age and weather well.
The chambers, structure and primary memorials remain the property of the council throughout the period of the lease and the exclusive right of burial offered lasts for 50 or 75 years. It is the responsibility of the owner of the lease to ensure all the memorialisation and structures are kept in a continuous state of good repair.
I would like to thank our colleagues at Bexley for taking the time to show us around and share their experience of developing these sites.
What do you think? Is this something you would like to see in Adur and Worthing Cemeteries?
We are getting very excited in the Bereavement Services team as the Crematorium open day approaches this weekend.
I am especially excited to announce a 'first' for Worthing Crematorium. We are having our first movie screening at the crematorium and we are especially proud to announce the film we are screening is called Dead Good, a documentary film made by local film director Rehana Rose.
The film is an intimate portrait of those dealing with their dead, supported during the ritual of care after death by a team of women who are 'giving death back to the people'. There will be a Q&A session after the screening and Rehana and Cara Mair of Arka Original Funerals, Brighton.
National treasure Dame Emma Thompson said of this film “This is an unbelievably timely and important film. It is beautifully crafted, so comforting as well as moving and gives the wisdom forth so simply and compellingly. Everyone should see this.”
I caught up with Rehana, who has kindly answered a couple questions for us about her motivation for making the film.
Why did you make this film?
The starting point for this film is a very personal one. Over a three year period, three people very close to me died, first and foremost my mother whose funeral I had to arrange. In short succession, I was involved with three very different funerals and realised how little we know about our rights and choices around death, mourning and celebrating the life of a loved one. One of those funerals of a dear young friend of mine, was supported by Cara and her team, which was radically different from the other two and which I experienced as much more positive.
Has it changed you in anyway and any choices you have made?
The documentary took just under three years to make. I was immersed in the world of death for that period and continue to stay in touch with many of those that I met and filmed. I learnt so much, about death, about life and about choice. I have made clear to those closest to me about what I want and what I don't want when I die.
What are the most frequently question the film viewers ask you about?
Why did I make the film and how did I get such access to the three groups of people I followed.
Will you continue exploring this subject matter in future projects?
I may well, but currently I am in early stage development on my next feature 'Bloody Brilliant' a documentary in respect of the menopause.
“Emotionally charged and beautifully made”
The Up Coming
“Encouragingly breaks the taboo of discussing death”
Film Review Daily
“Beautifully crafted and sensitively shot, this is a must-see”
The Morning Star
“The final silhouetted montage shot is quite possibly the most beautiful thing you'll see on a screen all year.”
The Fan Carpet
“Leads us gently, and with obvious empathy, into surprising and enlightening areas”
We are back this week with a guest blog from a member of the Bereavement Services Team.
Hello, my name is Tiffany Fletcher and I am one of Adur & Worthing Councils' Bereavement Services Support Officers based at Worthing Crematorium.
This week marked National Suicide Prevention Day, on Tuesday 10th September (although I think every day should be suicide prevention day).
My family has been impacted by suicide through several generations and my cousin, Andrew, took his own life in 2016 at the age of 42. He had two young children.
Suicide remains among the top 20 leading causes of death globally for people of all ages. It is responsible for over 800,000 deaths in 2017, which equates to one suicide every 40 seconds.
In the UK in 2017, about 6,000 people lost their lives to suicide and it continues to be the leading cause of death of men under the age of 50.
Every life lost represents someone's partner, child, parent, friend or colleague. It is said that for each suicide, up to 135 people suffer intense grief or are otherwise affected. This amounts to 108 million people globally per year who are profoundly impacted by suicidal behaviour.
For every suicide, 25 people make a suicide attempt and many more have serious thoughts of suicide.
Would you know how to talk to someone who you thought might be at risk of suicide?
Free training from the Zero Suicide Alliance takes around 15 mins to complete and might just give you the confidence to talk to someone who you might be worried about.
Please take a look and then share it with your friends and family. It might just save a life!
If you're feeling like you want to die, it's important to tell someone.
Help and support is available right now if you need it. You don't have to struggle with difficult feelings alone.
Call the Samaritans any time, day or night on 116 123.
Photo: Tiffany and her cousin Andrew
Saturday 28th September 2019: 10am to 4pm
Have you ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes at a crematorium? Well now is your chance to come and see for yourself. We are opening our doors to the public on Saturday 28th September 2019 at 10am.
Natural Death Educator, Lyn Bayliss will be giving a talk about ideas and inspiration to create a more personal way of saying goodbye and remembering your loved one.
We will hold a 'My Funeral' workshop to help promote positive conversations about death and dying.
There will information around memorials, coffin styles and coffin transportation to help you create a more personal way of saying goodbye.
There will be tours around the crematorium chapels and crematory, where one of our members of staff will lead the tour and answer any questions you may have about any aspect of what we do. Just don't be afraid to ask.
There will be two historic guided tours around the Muntham Estate and up to the estate's private cemetery graves by local historian Chris Hare, the tours will cover the history of the area, the site and give an insight into the families who lived here all those years ago.
The cemetery dates from 1925 and was originally intended for the Thynne family of Muntham House only, but staff also wanted to be buried there and so a 'staff cemetery' was created alongside. Edward Thynne's original headstone was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens who also designed many other well known war memorials, like The Cenotaph. The site known locally as 'The Muntham Clump' commands a beautiful spot high up on the side of the Downs with a wonderful view of the surrounding countryside.
All tours are free, but must be booked in advance through Eventbrite.
'The Hungry Horsebox' catering will there on the day serving a range of hot toasted sandwiches and selection of cakes, together with hot and cold drinks. Seating will be available.
Photo: Behind the scenes in the crematory at Worthing Crematorium
Photo: Muntham Court - before demolition - Photo courtesy of Worthing Museum & Art Gallery
A little while ago one of the grounds maintenance operatives was working at St James the Less churchyard in Lancing, when he heard a loud noise.
He went to investigate and found a 6ft x 4ft x 5ft hole in the ground where a vault had sadly collapsed in on itself. He called the Supervisor who quickly arrived on site,and put up fencing and covered the hole, so no one would fall in. This is where our mystery begins ...
Let me set out the background information to the case ...
The Church of England may choose to close churchyards when there is no more space for burials. If the Ministry of Justice agrees the churchyard meets this criteria and is eligible it will pass responsibility for maintenance of the churchyard to the council.
This duty is one of our lesser known miscellaneous statutory requirements under the Local Government Act, which Councils have to carry out. This consists of maintaining the churchyards by keeping them in a decent order and their walls and fences in good repair. This also extends to ensuring the churchyard is safe for visitors, which includes memorial management.
Churchyards are covered by Ecclesiastical law, so anything that needs doing requires permission from the Church of England through the Diocesan Registrar in the form of a Faculty.
I've previously mentioned graves, especially in the case of older graves, may remain in family's descendants ownership in perpetuity, often unknown to them.
So, the conundrum is, before we can make any repairs to the grave we need to get a retrospective faculty from the Diocese for the making safe work we have done so far, and we have to try to track down any living family members. We would like to make them aware of the problem with the grave and involve them in its repair. Our next step would be to apply for a full faculty to proceed with any works we may need to do in the churchyard.
To contact any family members we first need to find out whether there are living descendants of those buried in the grave.
To that end I'm hoping this blog may reach the wider community who may know something about the living family members connected with the grave.
The people commemorated on the monument are:
- John Marshall died 20/01/1937 and Sarah Marshall died 08/05/1955
- John Marshall died 21/12/1928 and Kate Marshall died 31/08/1960
- Robert Martin died 14/10/1864 and Mary Hillyer Martin died 16/09/1876 and James Martin died 11/12/1876
- William Martin died 25/07/1852
So how can you help?
If you are a descendant of the people mentioned above, or know the identity of a descendant, please contact me firstname.lastname@example.org or the Deputy Diocesan Registrar ChichesterRegistry@wslaw.co.uk
We would ask that you make contact by 28th August 2019.
Today's post is about the multitude of things you can do with cremated remains and possibly a few things you probably didn't know you are not allowed to do with them.
It is well worth taking the time to think about what you would like to happen with your or your loved one's cremated remains before you are confronted with bereavement. In Bereavement Services we strongly advocate talking about death, dying and bereavement with the people that you love, so everybody knows what they want. These can be tricky or awkward conversations to have but can also help alleviate a lot of heartache.
Bereavement Services offers a number of options for the final resting place of your loved one's cremated remains. In Adur and Worthing we are really blessed that we live and work in such wonderful surroundings. At Worthing Crematorium, we are located in the South Downs National Park. You can choose to have ashes strewn in one of our glades, or you can purchase a private garden if you prefer to have the ashes interred in the ground.
Photo: The grounds of Worthing Crematorium
Photo: One of the memorial gardens at Worthing Crematorium
At our cemeteries we have cremated remains burial plots as well, which can accommodate either two or four sets of ashes. If you purchase a grave, you can have a number of cremated remains and/or a full body burial.
One of the main benefits of having your loved one interred or strewn at one of our sites is that you are safe in the knowledge that the details of their resting place are recorded in perpetuity. This is especially important these days, as people have an increasing interest in genealogy and want to know where their ancestors are laid to rest.
One may assume that it is OK to strew cremated remains wherever you would like. However, this is not the case.
If you want to bury or strew ashes in a cemetery, churchyard or crematorium you must make contact with the burial or cremation authority to carry out the arrangements for you. You are not permitted to carry out this function yourself. The burial or strewing of cremated remains constitutes a person's final resting place and, by law, subsequent disturbance of these sites requires a Ministry of Justice licence or a Bishop's Faculty, if the ground is consecrated.
You should be aware that the disposal of cremated remains in a watercourse or on public land without consent may be an offense. Many people want a sea strewing or strewing off the pier. Always contact the relevant local authority or land owner to understand what might or might not be possible. You will find that most will try to help you achieve the ritual you need or want.
There are a number of alternative and creative options for cremated remains disposal. You might want to consider using a small amount of ash to create a memento or keepsake. Bereavement Services, for example, can turn some of the ashes into jewellery. Other options we've seen and heard about are ashes made into beautiful glass products, ashes put into tattoo ink, ashes into vinyl records, Viking burials at sea or ashes made into a diamond or even having a fireworks display made with the ashes and sending them to the moon!
Photos: Ashes made into jewellery
Note: I wish to start my blog with an apology to anyone (myself included) born after the metric system was brought in. As we know a lot of cemeteries have been around for such a long time that all the measurements remain imperial. Sorry about that.
This week we have been learning about controlling risks in cemeteries and crematoria. Several of the team have been working with the Institute of Cemeteries and Crematorium Management, our professional body, to attain our City & Guilds Level 3 in controlling risks in these environments. The purpose of the course is to make cemeteries and crematoria safer for those working there, providing a safe burial experience for bereaved people and the general public who visit them. The focus of this blog will be on cemeteries.
One of the many hazards that cemetery operatives face is grave digging. Our deepest excavations are 8ft deep, which can accommodate three coffins. Until I stood above one of these excavations, with it's sharp vertical sides I didn't appreciate how potentially dangerous it could be.
Excavations over 18 inches have a threat that they could collapse and cause injury or death by crushing. So any excavation over this depth must be shored. Shoring is a system when the walls of the grave are supported to prevent collapse. Adur & Worthing Bereavement Services use several different types of shoring for different purposes. We find we use hydraulic shoring and timber shoring the most. We are using hydraulic shoring in this example.
You may notice the soil at the bottom of the grave is a different colour to the more chalky top layer. This is a perfect example of why we use the shoring.
Burial law requires us to leave six inches of undisturbed earth between burials and the final burial must have three feet of good earth over it. In this area we are blessed with perfect ground for burial, chalk is free draining, solid, but not always easy to dig.
There are other risks to consider when grave digging. Our graves used to be dug to 4ft centres, that is four foot from the centre of one grave to the centre of the next. It is an undeniable fact that humans are getting bigger and we are finding that these petite dimensions are inadequate for all our populations today, where people are generally taller and broader. In the new section at Durrington Cemetery our grave centres will be 5 feet. Making the graves safer for our cemetery operatives to dig and more suitable for the future populations.
Any grave that is left unattended must be completely secured to ensure no one falls into the grave. We have special grave covers that are locked in place to ensure complete security whenever possible.
Our cemetery operatives and the public may also be in danger of dangerous memorials. These are memorials, that over time have become loose, are in a poor state of repair and could topple and crush someone.
It is commonly misunderstood that the burial authorities (the councils), are responsible for maintaining memorials once they are in place in the cemetery. This is not the case. We are responsible for maintaining a safe environment and for maintaining the grounds. The memorial owner is responsible for maintaining the memorial once in place. An example of this is that a wife may purchase a double grave for herself and her husband, she is the grave and memorial owner. She has responsibility for the maintenance of the memorial. After she and her husband die a process will then need to be followed in order to legally transfer the rights of burial and memorial ownership.
In times gone by, graves were sold in perpetuity, meaning the descendants of the grave owner would still be responsible and have the rights to any remaining burial space within a grave and the memorial maintenance forever. This changed in 1977 when the law change to limit the duration of burial rights and memorial rights to no more than 100 years.
We often now find ourselves in a position where the grave and memorial owner has died and ownership of the memorial or grave has not yet legally transferred to another party. In these circumstances the council will step in to make the memorial safe. If at a later date the councils are contacted for a transfer of ownership the cost of making the repairs are kept on file and charged to the new owner once the new transfer of ownership has taken place.
I will be talking more about grave ownership and memorials management in later blogs, this is a growing area of interest to many who wish to trace their family history.
This was the question we received a few weeks ago, when Worthing Crematorium were approached by a family who requested something a little bit different for the service of their loved one.
The request was for an honour guard to be carried out by the Sir Marmaduke Rawdon Regiment of Foote a 17th century regiment, part of the Sealed Knot Society a charity that commemorates UK history in a number of ways. Principally they perform reenactments in local communities based around battles, skirmishes and sieges of the English Civil War.
The deceased was a member of the regiment and the family had requested whether it was possible for the regiment to attend the funeral in full attire, with pikes, staffs, swords and muskets and carry out an honour guard as a mark of respect for the deceased.
This was the first time we had been asked for something of this nature and initially we were concerned that the noise might be disruptive to the family using our other chapel at that same time.
The Bereavement Services team are keenly aware how important it is for a funeral service or death ritual to be meaningful to everyone involved so we decided to explore what was required to enable this ritual to take place before making a decision.
First, we reached out to the local police to find out what was needed or if it was even possible. We were quickly contacted by Firearms and Explosives Licensing Unit and were surprised to learn this could go ahead on the basis that the police would be provided with information about who would be carrying and firing the muskets, a risk assessment and proof of public liability.
At this point we still had to think about what other impacts firing the muskets might have on other users of our service. We informed the funeral director of the other service to notify them of the possibility of an honour guard taking place. We also had to consider visitors to the memorial garden, so we ensured that everyone who arrived at the crematorium were notified by the car park attendant that there would be an honour guard at a particular time.
Since we had everything in place, we gave permission for the honour guard to take place.
One of our pleasures in Bereavement Services is seeing the rich diversity and imaginative funeral service and death rituals. These are the memorable services and they provide an enormous amount of comfort and joy in what is an extremely difficult time.
I see our developing role in Bereavement Services in facilitating these important rituals and family traditions for bereaved people. After all it's an important moment in celebrating a person's life and what was important to them.
So - in answer to the question posed in the blog title ... Yes, with some advance notice you may indeed be able to have an honour guard.
Photo: the Sir Marmaduke Rawdon Regiment of Foote a 17th century regiment, part of the Sealed Knot Society
Working in bereavement services is challenging and very meaningful work. First and foremost we treat the deceased with dignity, reverence and respect. We support the bereaved through the experience of laying their deceased family or friends to rest.
We work a lot with funeral directors, stone masons, celebrants and ministers, hospitals, religious organisations, as well as many council colleagues. We run Worthing Crematorium and Memorial Gardens, several active cemeteries and numerous disused churchyards across Adur and Worthing.
The team only have one chance to do things right and this is always in the forefront of our minds when providing our service and during any decisions we take. The choices we make, really can feel like life and death sometimes and this really puts many things in our own lives into perspective. The team members come from many backgrounds and have come to this service due to a commitment to supporting the bereaved. One thing we all have in common is a strong empathy for those who use our service.
This is not a job that comes up at careers fairs or is recommended by career advisors. How does one even become a Bereavement Services Manager? There is no set career path, however many in our ranks have worked their way up from entry roles, such as trainee crematorium technicians or support officers, others come from the funeral, emergency or coroners services. My route was that I worked in another council service and saw that Bereavement offered an interesting and rewarding career.
My personal journey to bereavement services is down to a convergence of many personal interests and relevant work experience. In my distant past I studied art and particularly enjoyed photographing cemeteries. I've travelled to many locations just to visit the cemeteries, such as Prague and Paris. I particularly like to look at the typography, the artistry of monuments and how nature gently takes the cemeteries over.
This is a recent picture I photographed at St Winwaloe, The Church of Storms (isn't that a lovely name?) churchyard in Cornwall. I particularly love the carving on this old slate memorial, it amazes me that the lines are still as crisp as the day the marks were made.
I have always had a curiosity about death, probably because it happens to everyone and there is no definite answer that everyone agrees with about what happens to them after they die.
We live in a society that is uncomfortable discussing death, dying and bereavement and I too still struggle to find the right words sometimes, but I'm still learning.
The Bereavement Services team are incredibly passionate about the work we do and are keen to tell our stories. If you think bereavement services is a sleepy little operation, you are in for a surprise.