Frequently Asked Questions about Wicker Coffins for Cremation, Natural Burial & Traditional Funerals
Here are our answers to some of the questions that we come across about willow coffins, funerals, natural burials and what happens to a coffin at a cremation. We hope you find this page informative and useful in answering some of your questions about natural burial and funeral planning.
Click the question below to be taken directly to our answer:
What is a natural burial?
A natural burial differs from the traditional funeral in a cemetery or churchyard, by the use of natural materials and guidelines. Essentially natural burial sites will only accept bodies that have not been embalmed and they must be buried in biodegradable coffins.
These natural burial sites are cemeteries where graves are not marked by gravestones, having instead memorial planting of trees or flowers. Some sites may have buildings in which to hold a ceremony and entertain afterward.
Most celebrants or ministers are happy to cover a ceremony in these buildings. The range of burial sites on offer is fairly broad, some with conventional lawn style cemeteries, with trees instead of gravestones, others on agricultural sites, where the land continues to be farmed. The best resource for locating your nearest natural burial site is via our links page.
How much is a wicker coffin?
Wicker coffin prices vary hugely depending on the type of coffin you wish to purchase, where it is made and who you choose to buy it from. Bargain price wicker coffins can be found on the internet for rock bottom price tags, these are usually from the Far East and often of questionable quality. Buying an English handmade coffin is a great marker of quality, as our standards here in the UK and particularly at Sussex Willow Coffins remain high. Through suppliers that vet quality carefully, in comparison coffins can start at around £300 for a cardboard coffin, whereas bespoke hardwood coffins can cost in excess of £2000.
We do not publish our prices online, as we do not wish to be compared to cheap imported coffins, such a comparison does not appreciate the quality and time that goes into making a Sussex Willow Coffin. All our customers are treated as individuals, with their own set of needs and preferences, we are happy to discuss what best suits you, including the pricing. If you require a price for one of our coffins please contact us.
Can you be cremated in a wicker coffin?
Yes, willow coffins can be cremated or buried. Willow wood itself provides a high temperature and rapid burn during the cremation process, it has a large surface area due to its construction using small willow withies. Wicker coffins are ideal for cremation, Willow is a reputable wood often used for kindling and is the principle type of wood in the production of fine charcoal, for the pyrotechnics industry. Willow is a fast growing sustainable wood resource which makes it particularly applicable for the short lifespan of a cremated coffin.
Do coffins get re-used?
No. In crematoriums the coffin itself is a vital part of the cremation process, the coffin is charged (placed into the cremator) from a metal table either automatically or manually, the coffin is required to carry the body into the cremator. The idea that coffins are re-used by crematorium staff or funeral directors is entirely a myth.
Can you be cremated without a coffin?
You are not legally required to use a coffin or casket to house a body. The law simply stipulates ‘It is an offence to expose a dead body near a public highway as this would outrage public decency’. Thus the body should be covered in public, how it is done is the choice of whoever is responsible for disposing of it. For the purposes of cremation, it is possible yet uncommon, to have the body contained in a shroud then use a “charging board” to place the body on.
What is the history of wicker willow coffins?
Wicker Willow coffins are no new idea, although wicker caskets in some form were likely used in ancient times we can certainly trace them back to the late 19th century where they were employed as a solution to the overcrowding in London’s cemeteries. Advocated by the Duke of Sutherland and produced in 1875 by the necropolis company was the “Earth to Earth” willow coffin which it was suggested should have ferns moss and herbs placed inside the coffin and be buried slightly higher in the ground to encourage decomposition.
Can I buy a child or infant coffin?
Yes, we can make coffins to any required size. We have made numerous “infant cocoons” and child caskets out of green or buff willow. Time and care is taken to discuss your requirements.
Do wicker willow coffins creak?
All wicker coffins will make some noise when used due to the woven construction of the design, however the amount it creaks does vary hugely depending on the tightness of the weave and the material used. Very often the cheaper imported willow coffins are of looser construction and will creak more than an English willow coffin which are generally tighter woven. Sussex Willow Coffins are made using lots of natural willow which still has the bark on, this reduces the amount of creaking considerably due to the waxy nature of the bark.
Our “Green Willow Coffin” makes very little noise whilst being carried.
Can you make extra large coffins?
Yes, we can make coffins to any size you require and to hold as much weight as is required. We have techniques for increasing the load a coffin can take and accommodating broader shoulder widths and increased depths. We will however need a slightly longer lead in time as these will be made to order rather than kept in stock. Make contact here to discuss your requirements.
Do I have to buy a coffin from the funeral director?
There is no obligation to buy a coffin from a funeral director. It is good to let them know at an early stage that you will be arranging your own coffin. Once your coffin is ordered, we can arrange delivery to your funeral director or an alternative address of your choice.
Is a nameplate required for a coffin?
If the coffin is going to be cremated then it is required to have a nameplate, most cemeteries will ask for one too. A nameplate needs to state the full legal name of the deceased. Often the age, birth and death dates are included. You can include anything else you wish as long as the above information is clearly stated. We offer a natural handmade wooden nameplate at a small additional cost made from Sussex ash timber.
Do wicker coffins come with a liner?
All our coffins have a double liner fitted. This is made up of a standard biodegradable plastic under layer with calico cotton outer layer hand sewn onto the coffin for a soft comfortable finish. We are happy to make coffins with or without a liner if required.
What can you put in a coffin for cremation?
In most cases you are allowed to add things inside the coffin or even attach things to the outside of the coffin prior to cremation.
Examples of items that can usually be placed in or on the coffin:
- Flower or other plant material
- Items of clothing or accessories made from natural fibres
- Jewellery, precious or non-precious stones
- Personal mementos
Undesirable item that may not be recommended or permitted would be:
- Anything highly flammable or explosive
- Items that give off undesirable gases or fumes when cremated
- Sealed glass/metal containers which can burst
- Medical apparatus i.e. pacemakers, glasses