Why are bodies exhumed?

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

  • you're 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. It's always best to consult with all the relatives before proceeding.

Get permission

You need to establish is whether the body is buried in consecrated ground, such as a churchyard. Municipal cemeteries usually have areas of both.

Then, you should request an application form from the appropriate authority.

The Cemetery Services manager must fill in the second part of the application form. They will also notify the Environmental Health department.

Unconsecrated ground

If the ground is unconsecrated then you need an exhumation licence from the Ministry of Justice.

Apply for an exhumation licence

Consecrated ground

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

To request an application contact the Southwark Diocesan Registry.

What happens next

If permission is granted, you'll be 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'll be charged for contractor fees, a new casket and transportation costs. This usually comes to between £2,500 to £3,000.