I am going to use London as a case study here. However, the same principle applies for all cities as far as I am aware.

A recent Royal London report highlighted the cost of purchasing a new grave in a city graveyard. The report says:-

“It is interesting to note the most expensive locations are in or immediately around London, and are for burials rather than cremations. London has a particular problem with a shortage of burial plots.”

So, I decided to do a bit of Googling around some London boroughs to see how much they are charging for the purchase of a new grave plus the interment fee to bury one person. I found several council websites unforthcoming, so this is not a comprehensive list – neither have I left any cheaper offerings off the list for effect!

These are their charges for basic graves on short leases. Most, it seems, have more desirable spots at a premium, longer leases and also unmarked communal graves.

Screen shot 2015-12-29 at 12.13.48

So, only two boroughs bury for just under 2k and this is the price to the residents of those boroughs only.   If you get buried outside of your ‘manor’ you can expect to pay double or treble fees. Basically if your borough has completely run out of space, you are stuffed*, or have to find between 5 to 15 thousand pounds for a grave. The London average is over £3250.

I appreciate that municipal cemeteries are expected to keep their graveyards looking neat and tidy and that overgrown grass would likely initiate angry letters about neglect to the local press.   This maintenance burden to the tax payer is often the justification for what seem to most folk to be exorbitantly high fees.

These charges are not exclusive to the municipal cemeteries either, private corporate business also has a role to play and profits to make. Kemnal Park, for example, is a privately owned cemetery in south east London, and it has equivalently high charges. They even have what should be a lower maintenance woodland section but are still charging £3,150 for 25 years rising to £7,050 for a 99 year lease.

london1Using a natural burial site can be one way of getting a more affordable burial but again, as we have seen from the ‘woodland/natural’ site mentioned above, they are widely variable.

It is such a shame that ill – informed, bereaved relatives may be steered towards cremation as the only affordable option to these high cemetery fees. Unfortunately it seems that profit driven, ergonomically concerned funeral directors are more interested in maximising the use of their men and vehicles, preferring several trips to the crematorium rather than losing half a day getting a family to an out-of-town, reasonably priced, natural burial ground.

There are, of course, funeral directors who will help and there could be other compromises. The family could collect the deceased from the funeral director or take charge at the end of a church service and drive themselves and the deceased to the out-of-town resting place. Many old fashioned and inflexible funeral directors would have a fit at the mere thought of it!

The Good News is……

…that within striking distance of London there are several, wonderful, natural burial sites that will happily accommodate families from ‘the smoke’ without charging them double or treble fees for being outsiders. It is interesting to note that some do this for the same price that some crematoria are now charging! (Dignity crematoria fees have now hit £900 .) Add to that the doctor’s ‘Ash Cash’ fees, that are not payable for burial, and you have possible cremation disbursement fees of £1060.

Therefore, for the same price as cremation and for £1000 and under, fully inclusive prices (plot and grave preparation), and within two hours of Westminster: –

Screen shot 2015-12-29 at 12.15.16

Of course, these travel times are taken from central London and are greatly reduced for those in the outlying boroughs of greater London. For example, our charity’s site, Eden Valley, in North West Kent is driveable in 20 minutes from Croydon or Bromley and costs a quarter of the local authority cemetery prices.

london2I should also point out that families choosing these natural burial grounds also save on the need to have a gravestone. The erection and permission to erect at council sites are also chargeable. In total, having a gravestone can easily hit another £1000 , a further cost that families don’t consider when comparing prices at the initial funeral arrangement stage.

Do I need to add that the natural burial sites are beautiful, positive places to visit? Or that they are time rich and as nature reserves, offer a constructive legacy? No, you know this!

Rosie Inman-Cook


Natural Death Centre charity


*Taxidermy of human remains has happened but that would be a very different bit of research – submissions welcome!