Crematoria are facilities specifically designed and equipped for the cremation process. In the UK, there are approximately 301 crematoria, serving the growing demand for cremations. These facilities provide the necessary infrastructure and equipment to carry out cremations in a respectful and controlled manner.
Crematoria vary in size and capacity, with some larger facilities capable of accommodating multiple cremations simultaneously. They typically include dedicated areas for funeral services, viewing rooms, and spaces for family and friends to gather.
Many crematoria also offer gardens of remembrance where ashes can be scattered or interred, providing a peaceful and contemplative environment for memorialization.
The location and availability of crematoria can significantly impact funeral directors' operations and the choices available to bereaved families. Geographical constraints often limit funeral directors to a catchment area of approximately 50 miles, requiring them to work with local crematoria. This can lead to logistical challenges, increased transportation costs, and potential delays in funeral arrangements.
- England has 232 crematoria, UK has 303
- The busiest crematorium in 2021 was Andover with 9,632
- The most expensive crematorium in 2021 was Friockheim (£1,100)
- The cheapest crematorium in 2021 was Belfast (£392)
- The average crematorium fee in the UK is £836 (up 2.11% vs 2020)
- The Average cost of a basic cremation in the UK is £3,200
Ownership and main players
Of the 303 crematoria operating in the UK, 193 owned by local authorities (64%) and 110 owned by private operators (36%). Of these private operators, five are multi-site operators and 10 are single site operators.
They break down as follows:
- Dignity 46 Publicly traded on LSE under DTY Owns 826 funeral directors & 46 crematoria nationwide. Total yearly profit (30.06.20) from 46 crematoria was £23.7m or £527k per crematoria
- Westerleigh 34 Pension fund backed (Ontario’s Teachers) who invested £100mio in 2018 to develop 21 new sites across the UK. Performs 40,000 funerals per year.
- Memoria 11 Invested £40mio to develop 10 new sites. Share of direct cremation as of July 2019 10%
- LCC 6 6 Owned by Cremation Society of Great Britain, a charity
- Horizon 3 Established in 2016 by Stephen Byfield and Jeremy Hamilton. Backed by PE fund Maven Capital Partners (2017 investment) to develop 5 new sites
184 crematorium operators in the UK:
- Dignity, operates 46 crematoria
- Westerleigh operates 34 crematoria
- Memoria - 10 crematoria
- London Cremation Company 6 crematoria
- There are 22 crematoria operated by smaller private providers
- 160 local authorities operating 185 crematoria
Sites owned by local authorities
The median age of a local authority crematorium is ca. 60 years, with over 60% (194) of all crematoria opened more than 50 years ago. It is inevitable that many of these crematoria are not fit-for-purpose today.
Limitations of local authority crematoria:
- Not adequate to contemporary taste - filled with traditional religious iconography and ‘municipal’ feel
- Inadequate parking facilities
- No filter abattements for mercury emissions & NOx levels
- Time slots reduced from 60mins to 40mins to cope with increased demand
- Long delay for service especially in winter - common to wait up to four weeks for a committal date
Sites owned by private companies
There have been significant changes in standards and customer expectations, and as a result there is significant contrast between dated facilities and new, purpose-built, crematoria specifically as it relates to the relative experience they offer to the family of the deceased.
- Professional fees - £2,578, they’ve gone up 10.9% since 2021, and they now make up 28% of the total cost of dying.
- Send-off costs - at £2,669 (+7.4%). This is probably because organising a farewell in 2021 was more difficult – if not impossible. A send-off is the added optional extras that can make a funeral more personal to the deceased and their loved ones, like the catering, memorial, wake and flowers.
The analysis of rival funeral director branches within a 15-minute drive time reveals that areas with four or more rival branches are not considered to raise competition concerns. The majority of areas (93%) have four or more rival branches, while the remaining 7% are primarily located in rural areas with fewer funeral director branches due to lower demand. Areas with three or fewer rival branches are mainly rural, and funeral director branches in those areas are more spread out.
The number and proportions of funeral director branches with a specific number of rival fascia (including the focal branch) within a 15-minute drive time, as of August 2019. The table shows the following data:
- 65 focal branches have one rival fascia (1% of branches).
- 162 focal branches have two rival fascia (3% of branches).
- 221 focal branches have three rival fascia (4% of branches).
- 282 focal branches have four rival fascia (5% of branches).
- 822 focal branches have five to six rival fascia (13% of branches).
- 882 focal branches have seven to eight rival fascia (14% of branches).
- 828 focal branches have nine to ten rival fascia (13% of branches).
- 584 focal branches have eleven to twelve rival fascia (9% of branches).
- 2,313 focal branches have twelve or more rival fascia (38% of branches).
Put this into one graph/chart
The total number of branches in the dataset is 6,159. It's important to note that
- 9 funeral director branches had no competitors within a 30-minute drive time. The proportions may be affected by rounding.
- 93% of the areas have 4 or more rival fascia within a 15-minute drive time. This aligns with previous estimates of the number of funeral director branches in the UK.
- The remaining 448 areas (7%) with 3 or fewer rival fascia within a 15-minute drive time are primarily located in rural areas. In fact, 57% of these areas are classified as rural, compared to only 18% of all funeral directors in the dataset. This suggests that rural areas have fewer funeral director branches due to lower demand compared to urban areas.
Among the 221 areas with three rival fascia within a 15-minute drive time, 74% of focal funeral director branches have a nearest rival fascia within a 5-minute drive time, which increases to 86% within 10 minutes.