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Exhumation is the removal from the ground of a body or cremated remains from their place of interment.

When exhumation is required it must be done with the greatest dignity and respect and with all of the necessary legal licences obtained and documentation duly completed. It is an offence to disturb human remains (human remains include cremated remains) without first obtaining the legal permissions.

The legal permissions to exhume are:

A Licence to Exhume issued by the Home Office
The Home Office
Coroners Section - Exhumation Applications
5th Floor, Allington Towers
19 Allington Street
Tel: 020 7035 5530/5531

An Ecclesiastical Faculty for Consecrated section
Bradford Diocese Registry
14 Piccadilly
West Yorkshire
Tel 01274 202132

Which licence to use depends on the location of the grave, ie whether it is located in a consecrated or non-consecrated area of the cemetery. Under certain circumstances both of the above licences will be required before an exhumation can take place.

How to arrange an exhumation

The first step is to contact us and we will advise what legal documentation is required and what permissions need to be obtained.

Application 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.  The registered owner of the grave if not the next of kin 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 has been obtained, permissions given by the grave owners, and the fee paid (an exhumation fee is provided on application), a time and date will be set by us in liaison with the appointed funeral director.

Use of a Funeral Director

Regardless as to what reason the exhumation is for, ie repatriation, reburial in a different grave (in the same cemetery or elsewhere) or for cremation, there is a need for the Funeral Director to be involved.  The exhumation is carried out by Craven District Council staff, once exhumed the coffin/casket becomes the responsibility of the Funeral Director.  The Funeral Director is required to be in attendance with a new coffin of sufficient size to accommodate the original coffin removed from the grave.  The body is not removed from the original coffin.  The coffin and its contents are lifted out of the grave and placed straight into the new 'shell' coffin in readiness for transportation to the final resting place.

The day of exhumation

Exhumations take place early in the morning before the cemetery is open.  This is for dignity, respect, sake of decency also health and safety.

An Environmental Health Officer for the area (Craven District) may choose to witness the exhumation.  Should this Environmental Health Officer decide that the removal of the coffin/casket will create a health hazard he/she may stop the exhumation.

Exhumation may be witnessed by a personal representative appointed by the next of kin / applicant.