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Council Leader tours crematorium

The Kent & Sussex Crematorium and Tunbridge Wells Cemetery have been visited twice in recent weeks by Council Leader Ben Chapelard as he gets to know the work of different departments.

His first visit was to meet some of the staff working for the contractor responsible for much of the Council’s grounds maintenance. As well as keeping the cemetery and crematorium grounds in good shape the contractor, Tivoli, looks after the Council’s open spaces, sports grounds and recreation areas. Ben spoke with some of the contractor’s staff, to get an understanding of their work and he joined them at the Victorian chapel in the cemetery to help as they planted four beds with spring bedding and tulip bulbs. The site covers 16 acres of garden, beautifully maintained with the invaluable assistance of volunteers and members of the Friends of Tunbridge Wells Cemetery group.

A tour of the crematorium with the management team was the focus for a follow up visit some days later.

Commenting on his visit Ben said: ‘I am full of admiration for all the staff who work at the cemetery and crematorium. In visiting behind the scenes I saw that whatever role they are in they carry out their work with sensitivity and respect for both the deceased and their bereaved families and friends.

Next year, 2023, will be the 150th anniversary of the cemetery, the crematorium was a much later addition which opened in 1958. The two cremators were updated in 2013 and work to ensure the gardens reflect people’s wish for suitable memorial opportunities is ongoing.

Crematorium chapel and cemetery chapel

The crematorium chapel can accommodate up to 90 people seated, with additional space for up to 30 people in the entrance hall. It is also possible for cremation services, as well as burial services, to be held in the more traditional setting of the cemetery chapel which can accommodate up to 55 people seated.

During 2021 more than 2,000 cremations took place at the site in Hawkenbury, Tunbridge Wells. The number of burials in the cemetery is far fewer, averaging 110 a year, reflecting people’s changing preferences.

There is of course no requirement for a service to be held in either chapel. Some people choose to hold a service entirely at the graveside, other alternatives include a direct cremation or burial which involves no formal funeral service on site.

The population over the age of 80 in the Tunbridge Wells area is forecast to increase by 20% in the next 20 years, making it important that the Council continues to provide a dignified and first-class bereavement service for its residents for the future.

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