A look inside the Columbarium

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March 27, 2023

What is a Columbarium?

A Columbarium is a structure designed to hold cremation urns. The term derives from the Latin word for dove (columba) and refers to the similarity to the housing for doves in a dove-cote.
The Fairmile Columbarium lies inside the Council’s Grade II Listed non-conformist Chapel, one of a pair of listed victorian chapels at the Fairmile Cemetery and comprises hand-crafted hardwood cabinets holding glass-fronted cabinets (niches). Each niche has its own soft interior lighting and there is seating in the Chapel for quiet contemplation. The creation of the Columbarium marked a new chapter of the Chapel's history. The interior of the chapel has been sensitively restored. It is a restful and contemplative place.
A Columbarium is a structure designed to hold cremation urns.  The term derives from the Latin word for dove (columba). The interment of ashes in columbaria is popular in Europe and is becoming more popular in the UK as a cost-effective and environmentally-friendly alternative to a traditional burial.
Henley Town Council’s Columbarium meets the needs of families who would prefer to have the ashes of their loved ones rest in avisible and sheltered niche rather than in the main cemetery or elsewhere.  Niches are of varying sizes and can accommodate up to 4 urns.They can be leased for a 20-year period.  This lease can be renewed at the end of its term.

The niches

Other Frequently Asked Questions

Is the Columbarium for any religious denomination?

Ashes from those of any faith or no faith can be placed here.  Henley Town Council’s Columbarium meets the needs of families who would prefer to have the ashes of their loved one rest in a visible and sheltered niche rather than in the main cemetery or elsewhere.

What is included?

You can purchase a licence for a niche for a period of 20 years. If you chose, you can also purchase a wooden plaque and inscribed brass plate to sit inside the niche.

Can I purchase a niche in advance?

Yes.  If you are buying your niche in advance, complete Parts A and C of the Fairmile Columbarium application form, which can be downloaded from our website.  If you are arranging to place an urn in the Columbarium now, you need to complete Parts A, B and C of the form.  Please email us if you have any queries regarding your application.

What happens when the licence expires?

You will be notified in writing at your last known address shortly before the licence expires and given the opportunity to renew it for a further period.  If no response is received within six months of the notice, the cremated remains will be reverently scattered within the cemetery and the plaque removed and retained for six months.

Can the licence be held jointly?

Yes.  This means that the ashes of licence holders can be placed in the niche in any order, without the need to transfer to another licence holder.

Can I choose the niche?

Yes, niches are of varying sizes to accommodate a number of urns: Size A Small (one urn), Size B Medium (one urn), Size C Double (two urns) and Size D Family (four urns).  A plan of the cabinets and niche numbers can be found on our website.  Select a numbered niche from the plan, add the niche number to your application form and we will advise if available.  We will always try to accommodate your request where possible.
A plan of the Columbarium Niches

Who will place the cremation urn in the niche?

A member of council staff or officiating minister can place the urn in the niche on the family’s behalf or the family may decide to do it themselves if they wish to.  We will try to accommodate your wishes where possible.
A plan of the Columbarium cabinets

When I have purchased a niche, do I need to make an appointment to visit the Columbarium?

No, there is no need to make an appointment. The Columbarium is open daily from 9am to 4pm.  When you purchase a licence for a niche, you will be issued with the door entry code which will allow you entry to the Columbarium during these hours.  Please note however that the council reserves the right to close the Columbarium temporarily or restrict entry to allow ceremonies to take place. You should also contact the council prior to your visit if wheelchair access is required.
View from the Columbarium entrance

Can I remove a cremation urn from the niche if I choose to?

Yes.  Because the cremated remains have not been interred, they may be removed should you wish to do so.  A partial refund may be available on the purchase price should you wish to terminate the licence and you should contact us to make the necessary arrangements.

What does it cost?

Prices vary depending on the size of the niche.  The Columbarium is maintained by Henley Town Council and fees for non-Henley residents are higher than for Henley residents (who contribute to the Council through their Council tax payments). These arrangements are in line with our policy for all burials at the Fairmile Cemetery.

How do I apply?

If you would like to apply for a niche, please complete the Fairmile Columbarium application form which can be found here.  Send or email your application together with your payment to: Henley-on-Thames Town Council, Town Hall, Market Place, Henley-on-Thames RG9 2AQ or to cemetery@henleytowncouncil.gov.uk.  Please call 01491 576982 if you would like to be sent a paper copy.
If you would like to visit the Columbarium prior to purchasing a niche, please email  cemetery@henleytowncouncil.gov.uk to arrange an appointment.

Close up shot of Columbarium niches
The entrance to the Columbarium