Cremation Society of Great Britain Archive

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 33 CRE
  • Dates of Creation
      1822 onwards
  • Language of Material
      English ; French , German , Italian , Spanish , Czech , Danish , Dutch , Finnish , Hungarian , Icelandic , Norwegian , Rumanian , Russian , Serbo-Croat , Swedish
  • Physical Description
      50 metres (including 14 metres of papers)

Scope and Content

Materials deposited cover the breadth of the Cremation Society’s history and activities from its foundation up until 2014, though the strength of the collection is in its twentieth Century records. The collection includes the contents of theSociety’s Library holdings of books, journals, pamphlets and trade literature. The research interests of the Society are extensive and, as well as early propaganda material, it includes resources on developments in cremation practice, to bereavementand architecture. Parliamentary papers and official publications, including the developments in the statutory forms for cremation which the Society established, are filed separately.

Additional printed material in the collections is an extensive series of cuttings books which, begin prior to the foundation of the society and represent popular topics and issues around the topic of disposal of dead throughout its history. Thesecuttings also show the Society's copntinuing interest in the cremation movement overseas.

The archive covers the administration of the Society, its accounts and finances and constitution as well as the administration of the Cremation Friendly Assurance Society from its establishment, to member lists and changes in constitution.

Correspondence is extensive and includes general enquiries from the public and researchers, between Society members and the Society’s administrative correspondence. There is particular emphasis on the development and arrangement of CremationSociety Annual Conferences. The Society also keeps information and correspondence from similar authorities and related organisations involved in all aspects of cremation, internment and bereavement. Topical correspondence files contain the Society’sresearch, information and correspondence regarding a broad range of subjects, advisory boards and projects. For example the Society have been very active in the establishment and architecture of new crematoria; they have been pivotal in theacceptance of Cremation in a number of religions, most notably the Roman Catholic Church; the Society has also been active in consultations regarding environmental impact studies, particularly in the reduction of mercury from cremation emissions, sotopical files cover the extent of this research and engagement.

There is also an extensive collection of letters, promotional material and background information on cremation which has been created and collected by the Society. Information files are likely to have been created and retained for backgroundinformation for Pharos, of which many files include relevant clippings. Similarly, there is a sequence of survey results and questions sent to crematoriums in the UK and cremation authorities worldwide for statistics published inPharos.

The archive has a strong international character with a series of overseas correspondence which reflects that the society has had close contacts with cremationist bodies in other countries since its foundation. During the course of its history anumber of Cremation Society members have acted as representatives on the International Cremation Federation's council and the Society’s holdings of International Cremation Federation (ICF) paperwork is included. These include congress, executive andgeneral council meeting minutes and agendas, official correspondence and correspondence between members of the ICF council

Administrative / Biographical History

In 1968 the two hundredth British crematorium opened. By the society's centenary in 1974, its original campaigning objectives had been achieved, and cremation had won general public acceptance.

The Society's activities

Since its foundation the society has campaigned vigorously for the cremation movement on public platforms, in the press, through publications and conferences, and through involvement with other cremationist organisations throughout the world. TheSociety has also worked alongside government offices as advisors

In the thirties the society's activities also included the launch of a cremation assurance scheme, designed to make cremation affordable by the widest possible spectrum of society, by enabling people to pre-pay their cremation fee by regularinstalments without the need to become members of the society. The scheme continued in its original form until 1950, when a change in the society's constitution brought into being the Cremation Assurance Friendly Society, to which the assurance wastransferred.

Since its inception the society has also been very active as a publisher, producing both campaigning literature and periodicals and directories. Transactions of the Cremation Society appeared from 1880 until 1935, since when it has been succeeded by the society's journal Pharos. Its Directory ofCrematoria has been appearing (with some variation in the title) since 1970.

In 2008, the Society amended its Memorandum and Articles of Association to allow the promotion of other methods of disposal of the dead which may offer a viable adjuncts to cremation, particularly those which offer environmental advantages

Involvement with other cremationist bodies

In 1932 the society ceased to be a cremation authority itself, when it transferred ownership of its Woking crematorium to the London Crematorium Company, the body responsible for running the Golders Green Crematorium.

In 1922 the first conference of British cremation authorities was held under the society's auspices, and in 1923 the Federation of Cremation Authorities in Great Britain was founded, operating within the framework of the Cremation Society untilit became autonomous under the name Federation of British Cremation Authorities.

In 1933, in an attempt to bring together all the organisations concerned with the disposal of the human dead, the society was instrumental in bringing about the formation of the National Council for the Disposition of the Dead (from December 1935named the Council for the Disposition of the Dead). Until the council came to an end with the outbreak of World War II, it shared the society's premises. The society was also a participant in the foundation in 1937 of the International CremationFederation (see below), for which, alternating with cremation bodies in other countries, it at times provides the secretariat. In 1938 it instituted its series of annual conferences for both professional and non-professional cremationists, whichstill continues.

In 1946, when the headquarters of the Federation of British Cremation Authorities was transferred to London, the Cremation Council of Great Britain was created (a joint consultative committee on which the Federation and the Cremation Society hadequal representation), enabling a united approach to the lobbying of government departments on cremation issues. In 1962, by purchase of shares, the society reacquired control of the London Cremation Company, which had been taken over in 1958 by atrading company not previously associated with cremation, thereby arousing some (unfounded) fears of commercial speculation; the Woking and Golders Green crematoria thus returned to their original ownership.

Further information about the society, together with a short history and bibliography of cremation in Britain, is available on its website http://www.cremation.org.uk

International Cremation Federation

The International Cremation Federation was established in London in 1937 with the basic aim to promote good practice in Cremation. The annual Congresses are held in a host country which is decided at the previous Congress. Congress usuallycoincides biannually with a General Council meeting. The General Council is the main policy making body of the organisation and acts the forum where votes on the Federation’s policies are cast. The Executive Committee conducts business as decided inthe General Council. Members of the Executive Committee are elected every three years and consist of a President, General Secretary, Treasurer and Vice President. At the 2003 Congress in Barcelona a restructure of the ICF was proposed andsubsequently in 2005 the ICF formed three Regional Committees. The chairman of each Regional Committee is also a member of the Executive Committee. The Cremation Society are a member of the ICF and some Society members have acted as representativesin the ICF council.

Arrangement

The archive has been arranged into the following categories:

  • A. Periodicals. Includes the society's own serial publications, Report of the Council [with accounts], Transactionsof the Cremation Society, Report of Proceedings [of the] Cremation Conference, and Pharos.
  • B. Books and dissertations.
  • C. Pamphlets.
  • D. International Cremation Federation (ICF) publications, congress papers and some correspondence
  • E. Funeral orders of service.
  • F. Crematoria: Directories of crematoria, and brochures and short studies of many individual crematoria and cemeteries in countries throughout the world, including much statistical information.
  • G. Trade literature: A small selection, illustrating attitudes to death and remembrance.
  • H. Cuttings and scrapbooks: A substantial collection, arranged broadly chronologically, including manuscript correspondence, and much pictorial material.
  • J. Photographs and lantern slides.
  • P. Papers: The society's minute books, accounts ledgers, correspondence (including a substantial quantity with cremation societies in other countries), papers concerning the Council for the Disposition of the Dead, reports, surveys, texts oflectures, etc. Also includes a large series of topical files which cover related and subjects of interest. Categories are not watertight and overlap may occur for example, ICF periodicals in CRE/D may, in isolated cases appear in CRE/C. Likewise,pamphlets in CRE/C may duplicate or complement material in CRE/P/7. Where these overlaps may be substantial a note has been made at series level.

Conditions Governing Access

Open for consultation

Acquisition Information

Deposited by the Cremation Society of Great Britain, 1998, 2015.

Other Finding Aids

The papers are catalogued online online catalogue

Printed material can be found on the Library catalogue http://library.dur.ac.uk/search/c?SEARCH=CRE&SUBMIT=Search.

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to make any published use of material from the collection must be sought in advance from the society via the Sub-Librarian, Special Collections (e-mail PG.Library@durham.ac.uk), and, where appropriate, from other copyright owners. TheLibrary will assist where possible with identifying copyright owners, but responsibility for ensuring copyright clearance rests with the user of the material.

Appraisal Information

Duplicate material has been weeded and some larger series' of documents have been sampled.

Accruals

Further deposits of material which the society no longer requires for current administration are expected from time to time. New issues of Pharos are added as they appear.

Bibliography

Cremation Society of Great Britain, The history of modern cremation in Great Britain from 1874 (Maidstone, [1974]) Davies, Douglas J. & Mates, Lewis H. Encyclopedia of Cremation (London: Ashgate, 2005)

Further information about the Society, together with a short history and bibliography of cremation in Britain, is available on its web site http://www.cremation.org.uk