Exhumation is the removal of human remains (including any cremated remains) from their place of interment. It is only allowed in exceptional cases. 

Reason for exhumation

Exhumations occur for a number of reasons including:

  • the movement from the original grave to a subsequently acquired family plot
  • repatriation overseas to be buried along with other family
  • coroner's order for further forensic examination

Legal documentation and permissions

There are generally two types of licences required for an exhumation. You may need to apply for one or both licences. 

A home office licence

If the exhumation is on unconsecrated ground and the subsequent reburial is in unconsecrated ground then only a Home Office Licence is needed.

You can apply to exhume human remains via Gov.UK

A bishops faculty

Most burial grounds/cemeteries are segregated between Consecrated and Unconsecrated areas.

Enquiries should be made in each individual case to the relevant Diocese. You can find contact details on The Church of England website.

Our role in an exhumation

An environmental health officer must be present at the exhumation of a body to ensure that respect for the deceased person is maintained and that public health is protected. 

Page last reviewed: 08 January 2024