Exhumation is the removal of human remains from their place of interment. Exhumations are very rare and are only allowed in exceptional cases. However, when an exhumation is needed it is done with the greatest dignity and respect and with all of the necessary legal licences and documentation completed.
Apply for an exhumation
It is illegal to proceed with an exhumation without lawful authority. Even the act of opening a grave without removing any remains requires legal authority.
Different permissions are needed depending on whether the deceased is buried on consecrated or unconsecrated ground. You will need to get permission (faculty) from the
Southwark Diocese and then, if needed, a
licence from the Ministry of Justice (MoJ)
There is also a guidance note on exhumation [PDF].
4 Chapel Court
Borough High Street
|Moving remains from consecrated ground||To a different grave plot that is also consecrated||Bishops faculty|
|Moving remains from consecrated ground||Re-interring in exactly the same consecrated grave plot||Bishops faculty|
|Moving remains from consecrated ground||To unconsecrated ground||Bishops faculty|
Ministry of Justice license
|Moving remains from unconsecrated ground|| To unconsecrated ground or consecrated ground|| Ministry of Justice licence|
Reasons why exhumations are required
Sometimes the deceased are returned to their country of origin, or where it has been discovered after the burial that the deceased wanted to be cremated
There are circumstances however when exhumation is necessary and the law makes provision for this whether the exhumation is sought by an individual or by a local authority.
How to arrange an exhumation
Applications must normally be made by the next of kin of the deceased, or with the written authority of the next of kin attached to the application.
If the registered owner of the grave is not the next of kin, they must also give written permission for the exhumation to take place. If there is more than one registered grave owner then all owners must give written permission.
Once all legal documentation and permissions have been obtained and the fee paid a time and date will be set by us in liaison with the appointed funeral director.
An exhumation may be witnessed by a personal representative appointed by the next of kin or applicant.
Use of a funeral director
There is a need for a funeral director to be involved. It is up to the client and the funeral director to arrange for the appropriate licences.
The exhumation is carried out by our staff but once exhumed the coffin or casket becomes the responsibility of the funeral director.
The body is not removed from the original coffin. The coffin and its contents are put into a 'shell' coffin for transportation to the final place of rest.
The day of exhumation
Exhumations take place early in the morning before the cemetery is open. This is for the sake of decency and also health and safety.
Our environmental health officer will have to be present to witness the exhumation. However if they decide that the removal of the coffin or casket will create a health hazard they may stop the exhumation.
Tel: 020 3876 8806