Unknown in this country until the late 19th century, cremation is now the choice of over 70 per cent of the population. It was promoted after the Second World War as an efficient means of disposing of the dead, and was seen as a necessary step to reduce the overcrowding in cemeteries.
Today there is increasing concern that cremation is not the most environmentally sensitive means of disposal - carbon dioxide is produced during the procedure and pollutants are released into the atmosphere. For many, the natural decomposition of burial seems a preferable option, but there are issues relating to the comparative costs and availability of burial.
For town-dwellers, who live within easy reach of municipal crematoria, cremations are a more straightforward - and considerably cheaper - option. Access to grave space is scarce, and the costs of grave-digging alone can be between £600 and £800.
Most crematoria in the United Kingdom are run by the local authorities. There are usually chapels within their grounds, and short services (religious or secular) are normally conducted before the actual cremation.
Some people may prefer to have a formal church service (or Catholic mass) before the actual cremation. The coffin and mourners are then transported from the church to crematorium for a short service of committal.
You will need to decide how to dispose of the ashes that result from cremation. If advised by the family, the crematorium will scatter the ashes in a garden of remembrance - a memorial rosebush (or a suitable alternative) can be planted with a simple plaque.
Alternatively, they are placed in a vessel of the family's choice and given to them after the service. Frequently the deceased has stipulated in their will how they would like their ashes to be disposed; they may either be housed in a churchyard, or set in the wall of a mausoleum. Alternatively, they may be scattered - often in a place that is closely linked in the mourners' memory with the deceased.