Crematorium asks families to NOT leave personal items in a coffin

The Crematorium and Memorial Group (CMG), which operates Surrey & Sussex  Crematorium, has politely asked families to resist the temptation to leave personal items in a coffin.

Tuesday, 13th July 2021, 9:42 am
Updated Tuesday, 13th July 2021, 9:44 am
The Crematorium and Memorial Group (CMG), which operates Surrey & Sussex Crematorium, has politely asked families to resist the temptation to leave personal items in a coffin.

Placing personal items with loved ones who have died is a custom that dates back thousands of years and exists throughout many cultures. Historians have discovered that ancient Egyptians, Romans, Vikings and Anglo-Saxons all did this and the bereaved continue to have an understandable compulsion to follow the practice today.

However, The Crematorium and Memorial Group is asking families not to leave such personal items in the coffin without asking first, as they may unintentionally pose a safety or environmental risk.

Combustible items such as alcohol, mobile phones or battery-powered devices can all cause an explosion if cremated. Hard objects such as golf or bowling balls can be propelled during the cremation process causing substantial damage to the equipment. Plastics used to manufacture items such as fishing rods and sporting goods can emit poisonous fumes once set alight.

Personal mementoes such as wooden rosary beads, unframed photographs, religious texts or handwritten tributes on paper or card can all be left in the coffin.

“We work with local funeral directors to help families have a respectful funeral for their loved one,” said CMG’s Technical Services Manager, Tony Davidson. “We understand that mourners may wish to leave items in the coffin, but we respectfully ask that they talk to us or their funeral director about alternative ways of personalising the funeral. The worse case scenario is that these items damage the cremator or injure a colleague causing a delay to other family’s funerals. Clearly nobody would want this to happen.”

CMG’s advice is echoed by Brendan Day, Secretary at The Federation of Burial & Cremation Authority: “For many years we have provided guidance to funeral directors on items which should not be placed in coffins with the deceased. We recognise the importance of personalising a funeral, however, to protect the environment and crematorium staff it is necessary to exclude items which have the potential to produce harmful emissions and even explosions.”

Jewellery and medals can also be cremated but cannot be recovered afterwards. CMG advise families not to leave items of sentimental or financial value in the coffin that they wish to keep and to be sure to remind their funeral director to remove any items before cremation takes place.

Staff at the crematorium are not legally permitted to open a coffin once it is placed in the chapel prior to the service.

“There are a number of alternative ways we can help a family to personalise the funeral,” said Crematorium Manager, Nina Martin-Richmond. “Our state-of-the-art audio/visual equipment has access to thousands of pieces of recorded music from traditional hymns to classical masterpieces to the latest pop or rock artists. We can also upload family photographs or home movies, and these can be played throughout the service to provide memories for the entire congregation.”

Flowers have always been a traditional tribute, but Nina says they don't have to be an 'elaborate or expensive display'.

She added: “Flowers from the family’s garden can be just as meaningful. Mourners can also add a personal touch by writing a special memory or tribute on paper and including this in the coffin. If a family wished to include a small personal item with the ashes when they purchase a memorial, we would encourage them to talk to us about this option.”

Items that have been placed in coffins prior to cremation:

Chocolate

Cigarettes and cigars

Alcohol

Mobile phone

Golf clubs and balls

A favourite book

Soft toys

Fishing rod

Takeaway meal

Computer game