How Crematoriums Are Changing

Crematoriums are finally getting a much-needed makeover

It’s time to take another look at crematoriums as so many have made positive changes to provide a more uplifting experience.

New Look, New Feel

The gloomy rooms, tinny music and hurried services are making way for airy, elegant and uplifting spaces. And alongside their changing look, there also seems to be a new attitude towards this type of farewell.

Cremation is often chosen as it offers an alternative to a religious ceremony, often in a place of worship. In the past, this could mean a compromise and accepting a less personal farewell. But nowadays, a cremation service need not be the reluctant choice. Whether looking for simplicity or something less stuffy, many crematoriums have a modern touch that reflects the changing times. 

Harbour View’s Private Gardens

Take Harbour View in Dorset, with its own crematorium on a beautiful burial site. Built on farmland teaming with wildlife, with far reaching views across the hills of Purbeck to Poole Harbour, it is locations like this that are leading the way and shaking up the whole funeral industry.

The influence of places like Harbour View is starting to be reflected in even the most simple council-run crematoriums. Now, instead of the one-size-fits-all approach of yesteryear, many of these sites are starting to offer a much more individual service.

The Rise of Direct Cremation

Top of the list of changes is the rise of direct cremation, where no family or friends are present at the cremation and instead the ashes are returned for a personal burial or memorial service at a later date.

Once seen as simply a cost-saving option – and it is indeed a way to save – they are now regarded as a legitimate choice for those who want to do things their way.

The trendsetter who led the way on this was David Bowie. After his death in 2016, the Ashes to Ashes singer was reportedly cremated without any of his family or friends present after telling loved ones he did not want a funeral service. His ashes were scattered on the Indonesian island of Bali.

Now, according to SunLife’s Cost of Dying report, direct cremations account for 19% of cremations and 14% of all funerals (up from 3% last year) in the UK, marking an almost five-fold annual rise.

There are other influences as well. The rise in popularity of natural burial sites, the increase in more ‘individual’ funeral services and the slowly changing attitudes towards death –  with many more like us at whiteballoon talking openly and positively about end of life  – have all given crematoriums a wake-up call.

The Future is Green

With a brand new crematorium currently being built in Plymouth and Memoria’s award-winning facility in South Oxfordshire opening just a few years ago, among many new and improved sites, change is happening. Modern electric cremators reduce carbon output and new technology filters out harmful pollutants. Also, much more thought is given to how buildings can blend with natural surroundings, with careful landscaping, wild meadows and wooded areas promoting bio-diversity.
A detailed look at Plymouth’s new crematorium

Adaptable and Culturally Inclusive

Whilst civil crematoriums are religiously neutral spaces, most public and private sites provide a range of religious iconography that can be displayed on request; for example, a cross, the Sikh Ek Onkar or the Hindu Aum (Om).  Some, too, have amenities that cater to the specific needs of different faiths, such as hand-washing facilities and separate spaces for the rituals of Sikh and Hindu funerals. Specially designed sites, with multiple interconnecting spaces to accommodate much larger numbers of people and rooms with glass fronted walls to allow mourners to witness the charging of coffin, reflect a growing awareness of the needs of local populations.

At their best, the new style crematoriums are versatile, inclusive and sensitive to new and old ideas around the rituals of death. So, if you find yourself planning a funeral, consider finding out more about the crematoriums near you.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why do people choose cremation? According to the Cremation Society of Great Britain about 75% of all deaths in the UK are followed by cremation. Limited land space for burials, cost, personal choice and considerations around religion or faith are some of the reasons why people choose cremation.
How many people can I have at a cremation service? As of the 19th July 2021 there are no legal limits on the number of people who can attend funerals or commemorative events. However, venue operators may choose to set their own restrictions or limits. To see the latest rules, go to government guidance. Most crematoriums can accommodate up to 100 people, but some can cater for much larger numbers.
Can I arrange a cremation without a funeral director? Most people do choose to appoint a funeral director, however there is no legal requirement to do so. The executor or nearest surviving relative can organise the cremation, but statutory requirements must be met. 
How long is a cremation service? It varies from place to place so check with the crematorium.  The ‘slots’ you book can be anything from as short as 20 minutes up to 1 hour. Most are 30 to 40 minutes long. If you can, consider booking 2 slots so that you don’t have to rush the service.
Does the coffin, casket or shroud burn too? Yes, so it must be made of a flammable material. Any objects that don’t burn must be removed beforehand. It is possible to have a cardboard or light wood casket that is placed inside a more ornate or substantial rented casket, which is removed before before the casket enters the cremator.
How soon can I collect the ashes? The ashes will usually be ready for collection or delivery to you after 2 to 7 days. You can give your funeral director written permission to collect the ashes on your behalf if you prefer. 
How heavy are the ashes? The cremated remains of an adult will generally weigh between 4 and 8 pounds (so enough to fill a shoebox-sized container).
What do I do with the ashes? The days of ashes sitting in a nondescript urn on a shelf are long gone.  There is an ever-increasing range of options to suit all tastes, from the dramatic – being launched into space or going up with a bang in a firework – to the peace and calm of a scattering on water, or the permanence of becoming part of a vinyl record, a beautiful piece of jewellery or a work of art. Or truly live on in a loved one in the form of a tattoo!
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