Crematorium closed for months after fire

Firefighters at the scene of the blaze at Cowpen Crematorium in Blyth. Picture by John Tuttiett
Firefighters at the scene of the blaze at Cowpen Crematorium in Blyth. Picture by John Tuttiett
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Fire has put Northumberland’s only crematorium out of use for months, while dozens of services have had to be re-arranged.

The blaze broke out at Cowpen Crematorium in Blyth in the early hours of Thursday, March 12. Four fire crews were called at 5am to put out the blaze, but it has caused significant damage.

The families have all been very understanding. It is not something you have any control over, but it is a problem they could do without on top of everything else.

Chris Curry, Manager Jacob Conroy and Son funeral directors

The historic chapels are unaffected, but there has been damage to electrics, steel work and the roof, as well as to the cremation equipment and the building that houses it.

The cause of the fire is not yet known and investigations are continuing.

Northumberland County Council, which runs the facility, has warned that it is likely to be closed for several months.

And 78 cremation services that were already booked have had to be re-arranged.

Morpeth funeral director Chris Curry, who manages Jacob Conroy and Son, has had to rearrange four cremations.

He said: “As soon as we heard about the fire we contacted families and explained the situation to them. Once we realised it was going to be a major problem we got on with re-arranging things.

“The families have all been very understanding. It is not something you have any control over, but it is a problem they could do without on top of everything else.

“We did manage to get everything rearranged, but some cremations have had to be put back a little later, which is an even longer delay for families. Because of the ongoing refurbishment of Blyth Crematorium families already had quite a wait. Obviously, this has made the problem worse.

“The other crematoriums have all been busier because of the work at Blyth, but fortunately Tynemouth has just re-opened after refurbishment and the West Road crematorium in Newcastle has put on extra times to try to help.”

He added: “We have had no indication of how long the crematorium will be closed for. All that we have heard, we have heard through the media. We haven’t had any official notification from the council.”

The council has said it is still assessing the damage to the crematorium and is working through an action plan to ensure its re-opening as quickly as possible.

A spokesman said: “We will issue details of our recovery plan and time-frame once we have a clear understanding of the full extent of the damage.

“The council is not paying out compensation claims, but as a goodwill gesture, and in recognition of the distress and inconvenience caused by the fire, we have offered financial support of £672 to the bereaved families who had services booked at the crematorium and who as a result of the fire have had to make alternative arrangements at short notice.”

The figure is the equivalent of a cremation fee at Blyth and affected families have been contacted directly.

Council Policy Board Member Ian Swithenbank said: “This is a vital service for our community and I’d like to give my assurance that we will be making it our number one priority to get this facility up and running again as quickly as possible.”

Council Leader Grant Davey added: “We are working with neighbouring local authorities to increase the number of services they are able to undertake to reduce the distress to affected families. I’d like to personally thank them for all their tremendous help and support.”