Public funerals

We have a duty to bury or cremate a person who has died where no arrangements have been made under Section 46 (1) of the Public Health Act 1984.

This usually happens when:
  • a person dies without leaving a will and there is no known next of kin
  • the next of kin is unable to either pay for or arrange the burial or cremation.

Before we make any arrangements we will try to look for the next of kin. To do this, we will look through old records held on our database or search the deceased's home.​​​​

What happens at a public funeral

Whether the funeral is a burial or a cremation, we will hold a committal service in our chapel or at the graveside. On those few occasions when there are no mourners, the crematorium staff and funeral directors staff are always present.
The cremated remains of the deceased are usually scattered in the garden of remembrance unless we find other specific instructions in the deceased's possessions or will. Burials take place in a communal grave.

Recovering our costs

When a person dies without leaving a will, their estate is known as 'Bona Vacantia', which is Latin for 'ownerless goods'.

Where possible, we take money from the deceased's estate to pay for the funeral and any administration costs.

If the deceased leaves an estate above the value of £500 after funeral expenses and all debts are paid, then we will pass it to the Treasury Solicitor. They will manage the estate on behalf of the state and publish details on the Bona Vacantia website.
The website has information on valuing the estate of someone who has died.
Note that we cannot become involved if arrangements have already been made for a funeral to take place.

Money we spend on public funerals

  • 2018/19 we spent £14,020.40 on 14 public funerals (11 men and 3 females)
  • 2017/18 we spent £5,442 on 7 public funerals (7 men) 
  • 2016/17 we spent £6,548.20 on 12 public funerals (3 females and 9 men)
  • 2015/16 we spent £6,047 on 10 public funerals (2 female and 8 male)
  • 2014/15 we spent £5,667 on 8 public funerals
  • 2013/14 we spent £4,235.67 on 7 public funerals
  • 2012/13 we spent £6,392.20 on 12 public funerals
  • 2011/12 we spent £3,048.80 on 7 public funerals.


Death in a hospital

If a person dies in hospital, it is the responsibility of the hospital to arrange and pay for a funeral where either:
  • relatives can't be traced
  • relatives can't afford to pay for the funeral and do not qualify for the Government's Funeral Payment.

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