Why are bodies exhumed?

Sometimes it is necessary to exhume a dead body. This may be because:

  • you are moving house and want your loved one's grave to be moved near your new place
  • the remains need to be transferred from one cemetery scheduled for development to another
  • a court has ordered further forensic examination.

Exhumations are rare and tend to be traumatic for the family involved. They can take a long time to arrange and are usually expensive - around £2,500. For these reasons, it is always best to consult with all the relatives before proceeding.

Getting permission

The first thing you need to establish is whether the body is buried in consecrated (blessed, such as a churchyard) ground or not. Municipal cemeteries usually have areas of both.

Then, you should request an application form from the appropriate authority. If the ground is unconsecrated then you need an exhumation licence from the Ministry of Justice. Contact the Ministry of Justice's Coroners and Burials Division for more information or to request a licence.

Consecrated grounds

If the person is buried in consecrated grounds, you must get a 'faculty for exhumation' (a licence) from the Church of England. The fee is £180.35.

You can request an application by telephone, fax, or in writing, to the Southwark Diocesan Registry.

Further information

If you have any queries or issues, get in touch with the Cemetery Services manager. The Cemetery Services manager must fill in the second part of the application form. He or she will also notify the Environmental Health department.

If permission is granted, you will sent the date and time of the exhumation. It will happen out of working hours, usually around 4am or 5am.

An Environmental Health officer will be present to make sure the deceased person is treated with respect and that there is no threat to public health.

You may attend if you wish, but we do not recommend it as it can be very distressing.

You will be charged for contractor fees, a new casket and transportation costs. This usually comes to between £2,500 to £3,000.