Exhumation is the removal of human remains from their place of interment. They are very rare and are only allowed in exceptional cases - for example when 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. When an exhumation is needed it is done with the greatest dignity and respect.
Guidance note on exhumation
Apply for an exhumation
It is illegal to proceed with an exhumation, or open a grave, without lawful authority.
Different permissions are needed depending on whether the deceased is buried on consecrated or unconsecrated ground, and where they will be moved to.
You will need to get permission ("bishops faculty") from the
Southwark Diocese and then, if needed, a
licence from the Ministry of Justice.
|Consecrated ground||A different grave plot that is also consecrated||Bishops faculty|
|Consecrated ground||Re-interring in exactly the same consecrated grave plot||Bishops faculty|
|Consecrated ground||Unconsecrated ground||Bishops faculty|
Ministry of Justice license
|Unconsecrated ground||Unconsecrated ground or consecrated ground|| Ministry of Justice licence|
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
A funeral director needs 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.
Our environmental health officer will have to be present to witness the exhumation. 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