Wessex Vale Crematorium – On Hedge End’s Doorstep Six Months On
By Caroline_W | Tuesday, June 29, 2010, 19:02
As it’s now six months since Wessex Vale Crematorium opened on Hedge End’s doorstep in Bubb Lane I thought I’d pay a visit and see it for myself.
Wessex Vale Crematorium
Wessex Vale Manager Lisa Johnson
Wessex Vale formal gardens
I’ve been to crematorium funerals but never really paid much attention to my surroundings. I’d assumed that one crematorium is very much the same as another and that families merely select the most convenient geographically.
But now having visited Wessex Vale I realise that neither of these assumptions is correct.
A crematorium is as individual as a church and like any organisation only as good as the staff who run it.
Wessex Vale promotes its environmental and green credentials, but also prides itself on its setting, location and the service provided, and is justified in feeling proud.
Manager Lisa Johnson explains, “People choose a crematorium for its location – for how near it is to the home of the person whose funeral it is and for its proximity to family and friends – but they also have an expectation of the service they want and of the scenery at the site.”
At Wessex Vale the grounds are still in the process of being landscaped but already provide a green and visually tranquil background, blending in amongst the surrounding fields. It says much that the local residents remained unaware for a number of weeks that the crematorium had opened last December, 2009.
The atmosphere of serenity carries on into the chapel which with its wall of windows is light, bright, spacious and airy, and looks out on to a garden with a water fountain feature.
The chapel is multi-faith. On my visit a cross was displayed as the first funeral that morning was to be a Church of England service, but Lisa explained that the cross is easily removed and can be replaced with a symbol for another faith or the space left blank.
The chapel can seat up to 96, although they have had 250 plus in the congregation.
Lisa had six funerals scheduled for that day, four Church of England services, one non-religious and one Hindu.
The music chosen for a funeral can be one of the most important decisions a family has to make. Lisa: “People choose pieces often because they want to say something. Music is very evocative and can be very personal. We can usually accommodate everything that’s asked for. I’ve never yet had a request that couldn’t be met.”
Vera Lynn’s We’ll Meet Again, Bette Midler’s Wind Beneath My Wings and Time To Say Goodbye sung by Sarah Brightman and Andrea Bocelli are particular favourites and families can bring in their own musicians and singers. Last week a harpist played, and bagpipes are a frequent request.
In the formal gardens there are facilities for ashes to be buried or scattered, and Lisa showed me something I’d never seen before – family gardens that are rather like traditional family burial plots.
And in view of the recent comment made on Hedgeendpeple, I did ask Lisa about emissions. She assured me that at Wessex Vales they’re completely odourless and invisible. A report is made six monthly to the Environmental Health Officer, with the department immediately notified of any unusual readings.
At Wessex Vale there is a staff of three, plus three residential organists who work on a rota.
Organist Alan Jenkins, commented, “Here at Wessex Vale the chapel is far more light and airy and the whole atmosphere much more relaxed than at many other crematoria. Here it really can be a place to celebrate someone’s life if that’s what the family want.”
Of her job as manager Lisa said, “Part of my duty is to meet families, to show them round, to take time out to explain what we offer and how everything works. This is especially important as we’re a new site.”
Before the day of my visit to Wessex Vale I hadn’t really known what to expect, but for de-bunking many of the myths that surround the funeral business it was certainly an eye-opener.
Everybody I spoke to was courteous, helpful and friendly, and I can think of few people more personable, approachable and considerate as the manager, Lisa Johnson.
The last words go to Lisa: “I love my job. It is an immensely rewarding role. It’s a privilege to help people through what is a very difficult period. Not many people have the opportunity to be able to help people at such an emotional time.”