A £2.6million crematorium and chapel will open in Northumberland in October


Northumberland is set for a new crematorium next month, possibly cutting travel time for mourners in rural areas in the north of the county.

At present the county’s only crematorium is on Cowpen Road in Blyth, but that is all set to change in October with the new purpose-built chapel and crematorium a mile south of Felton in Bockenfield, just next door from the A1 between Morpeth to Alnwick. The £2.6million project is on the grounds of Northumberland Woodland Burials, which opened in 2002.

Its owners say they are responding to a “huge demand” for the purpose-built facility in the county, which will also become Northumberland’s only private crematorium. More than 70% of deceased people opted for cremation in the county in 2019, and this figure has increased in subsequent years.

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Founded in 2002 by Steve Clarehugh, Northumberland Woodland Burials was taken over by his son and daughter-in-law Scott and Laura when he died in 2015. Since the couple took over, several people have approached them with ashes of other crematoria, causing the couple to realize there was a “hole” in the market.

Five of the site’s 38 acres are currently set aside for burials, although there are no headstones at the site, with coffins instead marked with a plaque or a living memorial, such as a tree. The construction of the crematorium and the 80-space chapel and the 40-space car park still leaves room for reflection on the site.

Northumberland Woodland Burials has five acres of its site dedicated to burials

Laura, a former program manager at Newcastle College, said the crematorium took four years to build and looked forward to its official opening by the Duchess of Northumberland next month. She said: “We’re hoping to offer something for everyone because we have a lot of couples where one person wants to be buried and the other cremated, and there aren’t a lot of sites where both family members may be buried in the same place.

According to Laura, there is a great diversity in clientele, and woodland burials are particularly popular with those who do not want to be interred in a cemetery. She continued: “We get a lot of mavericks who want a 100 biker funeral procession, or an open coffin, or a painted coffin, but we have reverends and vicars who are also religious – we keep it as open as we can.”

Northumberland Woodland Burials is already recognized as a ‘Parish Asset’ in Northumberland County Council’s Neighborhood Plan. Many bring children or walk their dogs here and have met Scott and Laura, who live there.

Laura continued: “Over the weekend we get a huge amount of visitors who bring their dogs and children here and what we have realized is that this is not just a site for those who are gone is a site for those left behind. This is where we realized the potential of all the areas that we can develop to make it almost a community facility, a place that people can use for the process that they cross if they’ve lost or if someone’s missing.”

Graves in the woods of Northumberland
Northumberland Woodland Burials is recognized by Northumberland County Council as an asset to the parish

Services at the new facility will be limited to five services a day, to ensure mourners do not feel part of a “conveyor belt”. But the new chapel will not only make it easier for the couple to rest for the couple.

Laura added: “Having a site office and toilets is going to make a huge difference to the business because the minute there are no facilities on our site. When the weather is good it’s amazing but when it rains in Northumberland it can be gloomy.

“Just having a bit of comfort to be able to sit down with a client, invite someone to a comfortable place and give them a cup of tea is a huge plus. It’s a hard conversation to have if someone ‘one chooses a plot or pre-purchases, you don’t want it to be rushed.”

Laura also hopes that the reduction in travel time for people in rural Northumberland will make a difficult day a little less difficult. She added: “When I think of my elderly parents, if they live in Rothbury or Wooler and want their loved one cremated, the fact that they might have to sit in a car or a hearse and traveling all the way across the border to Scotland or south for an hour to the nearest crematorium makes the day more difficult.”

Northumberland Woodland Burials will be officially opened by the Duchess of Northumberland on October 21, followed by two open days – one on October 22 for bereavement professionals and those working in the bereavement sector, and another on Sunday October 23 for members of the general public. The two open days will take place between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.

For more information on Northumberland Woodland Burials visit their website.

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