GRIEVING families have continued to be able to say goodbye to loved ones during the coronavirus crisis, thanks to the combined efforts of the bereavement team at Craven District Council, funeral directors and the internet.

While many other crematoria around the country have closed their doors to families, the team at Skipton Crematorium has been determined to allow close family members to attend funeral services throughout the lockdown.

Waltonwrays Cemetery, which incorporates the crematorium, has also remained open for families to pay their respects.

Clair Cooper, bereavement services manager at Craven District Council, said virtually all families were understanding of the need to comply with Government coronavirus guidelines.

“We wanted to keep the doors open and allow people to attend funerals for as long as we possibly could, and have done so with the cooperation of the funeral directors. We keep to five members of the immediate family, keeping to government guidelines, and made it more manageable,” she said.

“Virtually every family has been understanding, and have understood that we can only have a limited number of people. We have also been webcasting services so wider family members and friends have been able to view the service from a distance.”

Ms Cooper said the team wants to make sure funerals are not delayed, so as not to add to the distress of families.

“The funeral directors have been working tirelessly to ensure that the families have the dignified send-off they deserve. We’re very grateful for their help and assistance.”

Skipton Crematorium serves families from Lancashire and West Yorkshire as well as Craven. More funeral services have been held each day during the crisis, with a full disinfection of the entire chapel in between each service.

“We have been very busy and it has been a stressful time,” said Ms Cooper. “Bereavement services tend to be forgotten when people think of key workers.

“We have been observing social distancing within the office but that means, because we have such a small office, we can’t have all staff in at the same time. Somebody has to be out of the office at all times, which means we’ve been working with reduced staff at one of the busiest times, with new legislation to deal with. “

She added: “Staff have been very flexible. Being in this job, we’ve always known something like this was a possibility, and we have been all hands on deck, doing whatever it takes.”

The webcasting service, provided by Obitus, has become increasingly popular during the crisis. “The company has been fantastic. They’re used to maybe one person from Australia tuning in and suddenly they have hundreds. They’ve done an amazing job.”

The difficult decision was taken to close the Book of Remembrance Chapel in Waltonwrays Cemetery, for safety reasons. However, the Book of Remembrance can be viewed online at

“We have made sure that the cemetery stayed open, so people can still come in and pay their respects,” said Ms Cooper.“That has caused a few problems with lots of people wanting to come and walk their dogs and exercise but we wanted to keep it open.”

The gradual easing of lockdown restrictions has caused issues for the bereavement service, which is seeing more people turning up for funerals.

She said: “We are now getting more people standing outside the chapel, which is still not permitted. We would like to remind people not to do this. It does cause problems for us because they might be going into the waiting room, and using the facilities. It also does not follow the correct guidelines due to the amount of people we are seeing in the cemetery, and not all are social distancing. We are still keeping services restricted to five people, but we will obviously be reviewing this from June onwards as things move on.”

She added: “The only service we haven’t been able to provide is the interment or scattering of ashes. We aim to start contacting people in June to see if they would like to come and lay their loved ones to rest.

“We will also be offering memorial services for people to remember their loved ones, later in the year.”

Craven District Council’s Bereavement Services can be contacted on 01756 796118 or by emailing

For more information and advice on Craven District Council services during the pandemic, go to