Blogs from the Crematorium

Kate Greening
Bereavement Services Manager

About Kate:

Kate Greening, 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:

20th November 2019: Other burial options

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.

2019-11-20 - Underground burial chambers, sarcophagi and above ground mausoleums at Hillview Cemetery

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.

2019-11-20 - Marble & granite memorial terrace and a series of stone mausoleums, vaults and sarcophagi at Erith Cemetery

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?

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25th September 2019: A Dead Good film screening at Worthing Crematorium Open Day

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.

2019-09-25 - Dead Good

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.

You can find out more about the film here and if you want to see the film and find out more, it is being shown at 1pm on Saturday 28th September 2019 at the Worthing Crematorium Open Day.

“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”
The Guardian

2019-09-25 - Dead Good Ceremony

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12th September 2019: National Suicide Prevention Week 2019

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

2019-09-12 - Tiffany and her cousin Andrew

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7th August 2019: Worthing Crematorium is having an open day!

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

2019-08-07 - Behind the scenes in the crematory at Worthing Crematorium

Photo: Muntham Court - before demolition - Photo courtesy of Worthing Museum & Art Gallery

Muntham Court - before demolition (744)

2019-08-07 - Worthing Crematorium memorial gardens (in cut out tree outline shape)

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31st July 2019: Can you help us with a closed churchyard mystery?

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.

2019-07-31 - St James the Less churchyard in Lancing

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 ...

2019-07-31 - Collapsed burial vault at St James the Less churchyard in Lancing

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 or the Deputy Diocesan Registrar

We would ask that you make contact by 28th August 2019.

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24th July 2019: What to do and not do with cremated remains

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

2019-07-24 - The grounds of Worthing Crematorium

Photo: One of the memorial gardens at Worthing Crematorium

2019-07-24 - 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

2019-07-24 - Ashes made into jewellery (6 rings)

2019-07-24 - Ashes made into jewellery (2 rings)

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17th July 2019: The dangers of grave digging and memorials

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.

2019-07-17 -  Our cemetery operatives preparing the hydraulic shoring

2019-07-17 - Our cemetery operatives lowering the hydraulic shoring into the grave excavation

2019-07-17 - The hydraulic shoring in the grave excavation

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.

2019-07-17 - Our cemetery operatives covering an open grave to ensure no one falls in

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.

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10th July 2019: Can I have an honour guard for my funeral service?

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

2019-07-10 - the Sir Marmaduke Rawdon Regiment of Foote - a 17th century regiment, part of the Sealed Knot Society

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3rd July 2019: Dignity, reverence and respect ... how we must treat the deceased

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.

Worthing Crematorium logo

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.

2019-07-03 - Worthing Crematorium

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.

2019-07-03 - An old slate memorial at The Church of Storms churchyard in St Winwaloe, Cornwall

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.

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