Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Memoranda

Memorandum by Professor Douglas J Davies (CEM 82)

  1.   Re-using Old Graves: Popular British Attitudes, 1995, Douglas Davies and Alistair Shaw, Shaw and Sons, Crayford, Kent ISBN 07219 1470 5.

  This volume was the outcome of an extensive research project I was asked to conduct. It was funded by over 70 local authorities involving 1600 interviews with people in their own homes. This is the most thorough study of attitudes to cemeteries, death etc available in the UK. It should prove of worth to members of your sub-committee.

  2.  It may also be of interest for you to know of my various other research projects which have embraced specific studies of crematoria in Britain and Europe as well as on death in general. These include publications on British Crematoria in Public Profile, 1995, British Cremation Society, and Death, Ritual and Belief, 1997, London, Cassell. I have also conducted research on popular attitudes to cremation and burial in mid Wales—preceding the building of the Aberystwyth Crematorium, and at York City Crematorium. I mention these projects etc just in case you might find my own contribution of some use.

  3.  You should know that I am both an anthropologist and a theologian.

  4.  Given the detail available on the above volumes there is no point in my highlighting any particular features except to say that I think it very timely to raise the issue at the Government level since I think popular attitudes are more and not less open to change on the topic of death.

  5.  If there is one item that should not be ignored it is that of "green funerals", the provision for ecologically friendly burial. It would not surprise me if a shift away from cremation were to occur amongst some. There is some indication that, perhaps, younger generations may not be so inclined to cremation in the future. This goes hand in hand with the growing emphasis on person-focused personalised funerals, involving a decrease of church involvement and an emergence life-style funeral culture grounded in a kind of consumerist choice.

  6.  It is also important to be aware that many local authorities may be more traditional than forward looking when it comes to matters of death. My guess is that some local councillors are far less open to change than the people who would use the facilities for which they are responsible in local government.

December 2000

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