Burial of a loved one is seen as their final resting place where they will find peace and tranquillity. From time to time, due to varying circumstances it may be necessary to move the remains of an individual from a grave. This process is called exhumation.
Exhumation in its simplest term means the removal from the ground of a body or cremated human remains. It also covers the disturbance of remains within a grave, particularly when a grave is re-opened for burial. There are many applications per year to exhume human remains for varying reasons. These can be from personal family reasons to mass exhumations for town developments.
To exhume human remains, you must first apply for an exhumation licence before it can take place. There are two types of licence available for exhumation, a Bishops Faculty and a ministry of Justice Licence. Normally you will either need one or the other, although there are certain circumstances where you may require both.
Within burial grounds, the land is termed either Consecrated or Unconsecrated. The term “consecrated” means dedicated to the service of God according to the rites of the Church of England. A Bishop to the Church of England carries out consecration of land.
The type of ground remains are to be exhumed from and to where they are going to be exhumed too determines the exhumation licence that is required. If human remains are to be exhumed form a grave in consecrated ground to be re-interred in consecrated ground in another burial ground, you will only need to apply for a Bishops Faculty.
Under certain circumstances where remains are being moved from consecrated ground, to be either re-interred in the same consecrated grave plot or unconsecrated ground, both a Bishops Faculty and a Ministry of Justice Licence will be required. If an exhumation is to be carried out from unconsecrated ground to either unconsecrated/consecrated ground, only a Ministry of Justice Licence is needed.
A Bishops Faculty can be obtained by application to the Church of England Diocese for the area where the deceased is interred. The address can be found in the “Crockfords Clerical Directory”. There may be a charge for the application which can take 4 to 6 weeks to come through. You can apply for a Ministry of Justice Licence from Coroners Unit, 5th Floor, Steel House, 11 Tothill street, London, SW1H 9LJ or ring 0207 2100049.
An application may not take very long to come through. Part of this form must be filled in by the burial authority. Written authorisation must also be sent from the cremation authority if the remains are to be cremated after being exhumed.
Normally, a specialised exhumation firm will carry out the removal of the remains. They are generally carried out early in the morning and an Environmental Health Officer for the Local Authority will be in attendance along with a Funeral Director and Council Bereavement Services staff.
It can be expensive as you have the actual expense of the exhumation, a new outer coffin and the cost of either a burial or cremation. If an exhumation takes place in a Dudley MBC cemetery and the grave is now empty, the owner of the grave can sell back the burial rights to the authority.
If you have any queries on exhumation within the Dudley authority, please contact the Bereavement Services Manager using the contact details below.