Memorandum by Professor Douglas J Davies
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 Walespreceding 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.