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Coronavirus: updates, advice and guidance

Burials in Colchester Cemetery

Information about Burial services and how to purchase a grave


  • Grave options
  • Purchasing the Exclusive Right of Burial
  • Burial times
  • Burial services

The beautiful Cemetery opened in 1856, and since then over 64,000 burials have taken place there. Some of the Victorian memorials are amazing. The 57 acre cemetery is home to a diversity of wildlife, including jays, woodpeckers, owls, bats, muntjac deer, foxes, badgers and many, many squirrels.

The original Victorian tree planting scheme was devised by Benjamin Cant to arboretum standard, and many of those magnificent mature trees still remain, complemented by many others planted over the years. In all there are in excess of 1,250 mature trees, plus a multitude of beautiful plants and shrubs. The many species of fungi to be found in the Cemetery can be spectacular too.

Grave options

Colchester cemetery is divided into several sections, offering the choice of a variety of grave options.

  • Lawn graves - these are the most usual choice. They look neat, are easily accessed, and are maintained by the cemetery groundsmen.
  • Religions and denominations - the lawn cemetery has sections for Roman Catholic burials (MM), Church of England burials (KK), and a section for the burial for those of different religions, different denominations, and no religion (NN).
  • Traditional graves - there is a multi faith and multi denominational area (OO), which allows traditional, large and kerbed memorials to be erected. The Muslim (JJ) and Jewish burial areas (JBA) allow traditional memorials, too.
  • Cremated remains - this area (LL) is set aside for the burial of cremated remains. Up to 4 sets of cremated remains may be buried in each grave space.
  • Baby Burial Garden (BBG) - this is a tranquil baby burial area opened in 2005, which allows small kerbed memorials to be erected if required. Baby burials are also welcome in all the lawn sections, and in the area set aside for traditional memorials.
  • Military graves - there is an area of the cemetery set aside for military burials (BB), although families may choose any of the other cemetery sections if they wish.

Purchasing the Exclusive Right of Burial

  • When a grave is purchased the purchaser is not, in fact, buying the land the grave occupies, but rather is purchasing the right to be buried there, or to say who else may be buried there. This is called purchasing the Exclusive Right of Burial. Rights may be purchased for a set number of years. In Colchester the rights may be purchased for either 50 or 100 years. At the end of the period the rights may be renewed for a further period.
  • When the purchase is made a grave Deed is issued by the burial authority. This is a contract between the burial authority and the grave owner. The conditions of the purchase are set out on the Deed.
  • It is not actually necessary to purchase a grave in order to arrange a burial, but your choices will be much more limited if you don't. Please ask your funeral director or the staff of the Crematorium & Cemetery office for more details.

Grave depths

In Colchester cemetery graves may be dug to 2 depths:

  • 183cm (6ft) which allows for 2 burials in the grave 
  • 137cm (4ft 6ins) which is a single grave depth
  • And in some circumstances, to 240cm (8ft) to accommodate 3 burials, but this is not possible in all burial areas.

Burial times

Burials may take place between 9.00am to 3.00pm Monday to Thursday and from 9.00am to 2.00pm on Fridays, from March to October. In the winter months, November through to February, burials may take place between 9.00am and 2.00pm Monday to Friday.

Burial services

Burial services may take place at local churches or other suitable premises; in the crematorium chapel; or at the graveside. If the service is held elsewhere there will be a short service of committal at the graveside too.

Burial documentation

A completed notice of interment is required for each burial. This notice sets out all of the information required by the cemetery for completion of the burial records and also for the preparation of the grave. Sometimes it includes an application for a grave purchase, too. In addition a registration document, or a Coroners form in lieu of a registration form, is required.

Funeral directors will be able to help with all the arrangements and preparation of the required documentation.

Funerals without a funeral director

If families choose not to use a funeral director to make the burial arrangements, the staff of the crematorium and cemetery office will be happy to help them.


Exhumations may occur for a number of reasons, including:

  • movement from the original grave to another at the request of the family
  • repatriation of the body overseas
  • transfer from a cemetery scheduled for re-development
  • as a result of a court order because forensic examination of the body is required

Exhumation is a serious and expensive process, and should not be undertaken without a lot of thought. The legal process requires that the whole family agree that exhumation is the right choice.

  • It is an offence to exhume any human remains without first obtaining the necessary lawful permissions. Funeral Directors, in connection with the burial authority, will help in obtaining these.
  • If the body is buried in un-consecrated ground a licence must be obtained from the Home Office. The exhumation licence will set out the conditions that have to be observed.
  • If the body is buried in consecrated ground, permission from the church authorities (a faculty) must be obtained.
  • If the body is to be reburied in consecrated ground, a faculty must be obtained.

Usually the exhumation will take place early in the morning, while the cemetery is still closed to the public. The area in which the exhumation takes place should be screened off, in order to maintain the dignity of the deceased, and to preserve public decency. In order to ensure that public safety and decency are preserved throughout the exhumation process, an Environmental Health Officer must be present. If the conditions of the licence cannot be met, or there are public health or decency concerns, the exhumation may not proceed.