First-ever UK coffin exhibition opens

The BBC reports coffins and other items associated with funerals go on display this weekend at the first ever exhibition of its kind held in the UK.

Instead of paintings or artefacts, anyone visiting Belsay Hall in Northumberland will be able to see an unusual exhibition aimed at breaking down the taboo of bereavement. Organisers have gathered together a varied range of coffins and caskets, including a coffin shaped like the Angel of the North and another shaped like a canal barge.

The exhibition, called Handle with Care, will also feature a coffin which was specially built for a ski enthusiast.

Modes of transport used at funerals through the ages will form another part of the display, with several hearses, a Victorian coach and horses, and a motorcycle and sidecar hearse on display.

And a room has been set aside for “coffin preparation”, where visitors can experience coffins being fitted and trimmed.

The British Institute of Funeral Directors, who are joint organisers with English Heritage, says it hopes to give an insight into the vast array of coffins and caskets available today and to demonstrate the revival of traditional materials and crafts. 

Cars to be banned from London Crem (UK)

The Corporation of London, which runs the 200-acre cemetery and crematorium, is considering to ban private cars, apart from those with disabled badges, at weekends and on bank holidays following a survey that highlighted several safety concerns. The Corporation’s spokesperson is quoted to have said the move was in response to safety concerns and added that a bus service will be provided for visitors when the ban came into force next March.

He also admitted that the move might not be popular with some but insisted public safety at the cemetery in Aldersbrook Road, Wanstead, was paramount: “It is only a matter of time before someone gets killed. It is that bad. We have to consider public safety over public convenience.”

Funerals and entourage will be allowed with cars during Saturday and Sunday mornings as will blue disabled badge holders.

But in the afternoon the cemetery will be completely car free, with two buses providing transport. Wheelchairs are available for visitors at the front gate, said Mr Hussein. From Monday until Friday cars will be admitted to the cemetery as normal.

Cars are already banned on Sunday afternoons, and the ban’s extension to the rest of the weekend will be enforced by the security officers already manning the entrance.

The ban is to be trialled for a year and can be extended into the week if successful. 

Report says Victoria (AU) has enough crematoria

A report by the Department of Human Services (VIC, AU) questions the long-term viability of the state’s nine crematoriums, which are owned and operated by public cemetery trusts and are on Crown land. According to the report Melbourne’s five crematoriums – Fawkner, Springvale, Lilydale, Dandenong South and Altona – were operating at 52 per cent of capacity. As a consequence the State Government of Victoria (AU) will not approve any proposals to expand crematory services.

The report said there was a significant oversupply of crematoriums, particularly in Melbourne, and that their profits might not be sustainable in the long term. As a consequenc the department will not endorse any further use of public funds for new crematoriums until a financial analysis of facilities has been made.

The secretary of the Cemeteries and Crematoria Association of Victoria, Philip Bachelor, said yesterday that Melbourne’s crematoriums could cope with demand.

Dr Bachelor, the manager of technical services at the Fawkner Crematorium and Memorial Park, said there was not enough work for Melbourne’s existing crematoriums due largely to a stable mortality rate. 

Victoria has 561 public cemeteries that are administered by 526 cemetery trusts. 
The trusts comprise volunteer members who are appointed by the governor-in-council after a recommendation by the health minister. Of the 526 trusts, 14 are required to report yearly to Parliament. 
Each trust is responsible for the management of cemeteries under its control.

Historic Cemetery’s wall collapses

An 85-foot section of the Fredericksburg City and Confederate Cemetery’s brick wall collapsed. The historic wall’s collapse is thought to be an aftermath of Hurricane Isabel, which pounded the area a year ago

The Fredericksburg City Cemetery and Confederate Cemetery are surrounded by a common brick wall. In 1867 a group of Fredericksburg women, The Ladies Memorial Association, purchased the land adjoining the Fredericksburg City Cemetery. They had organized one year earlier for the purpose of caring for the graves of the Confederate dead on the battlefields. 

The association then had soldiers re-interred at the new location, which became the Confederate Cemetery. In time, headstones supplied by various Southern states replaced the original cedar posts. A life-size zinc statue of a soldier on dress parade, an impressive monument, was dedicated in 1884 to the “Confederate Dead.” The Ladies Memorial Association continues to care for the cemetery. Each year they hold a Memorial Day observance.

Six Confederate generals and more than 3,300 Southern soldiers lie buried here amid quiet, peaceful surroundings. 2,184 of them are unknown, yet the park has a roster of the known dead. Retired U.S. Army Brigadier General Daniel Davis Wheeler, a Medal of Honor recipient for actions at Salem Heights in May 1863, is buried in the City Cemetery. He married a Fredericksburg woman after the Civil War.

The Central Rappahannock Regional Library has a searchable, online roster of the Confederate soldiers buried in this cemetery. The National Park Service is currently working on a database that will eventually contain the names of all the soldiers who died in the Fredericksburg area as well as information about these people. Call (540) 373-6122 for information. 

A roster listing the interments in the Confederate Cemetery may be consulted at the Fredericksburg Battlefield Visitor Center on Lafayette Boulevard. 

Another 2000 headstones laid flat in Scotland

The Scotsman online news reports that officials that as Morningside Cemetery (Edinburgh) one in three headstones was found to be unsafe. As a consequence more than 2000 headstones have been laid flat by council workers.

The council (Edinburgh City Council), which has put up warning notices alerting visitors that some are loose enough to be pushed over even when touched lightly, has almost completed work to make the dangerous gravestones safe.

The authority had locked the gates at night and insisted grieving relatives be escorted to graves after initial analysis uncovered disturbing evidence of a “major health and safety risk” affecting one in three headstones.

It was announced today that the graveyard, which has around 6000 tombstones, was expected to open fully to the public again a week today.

The authority will be repeating a public consultation exercise introduced for the Morningside programme in the wake of widespread controversy over the handling of checks on graveyards elsewhere in the city. It launched the practice amid fears that a gravestone could topple over and kill a child following incidents elsewhere the UK.

Cemetery lost body, says family (US)

News from BRIDGEPORT, Conn. says a Shelton family has filed a lawsuit against the Diocese of Bridgeport, claiming their mother’s body was placed in the wrong grave and is now lost. The Marron family accuses the diocese of moving the headstone on Jeanne Marron’s grave to cover up the mistake.

Jeanne Marron died on June 27, 1989, at age 59 after a fight with cancer. According to the lawsuit, her body was put in the plot of Donna DeRosa, who had died around the same time, and DeRosa’s body was put in Marron’s plot. The suit then claims the cemetery put Marron’s grave marker over the DeRosa-owned plot. But in August 2001, a friend told the family that the marker had been moved and there was a new grave in its place. 

The family says it asked the diocese to open the Marron grave to make sure the body was there. The casket was found. But when the DeRosa plot was opened, the suit states, there was only a faded pleated dress inside the casket, and no evidence of papers and photographs that had been buried with Jeanne Marron.

A spokesman for the Diocese of Bridgeport said the funeral director for the Marron’s burial opened the casket in the presence of the family last year and identified her remains in the grave where the monument was originally positioned.

He said cemetery records indicated in 2001 that the Marron monument might have been positioned on the wrong grave. He said it had not been placed by employees of St. John’s Cemetery. The monument was moved to the adjoining plot, which didn’t have a headstone, he said.