Mortonhall Crematorium launches pioneering virtual tour to 'de-mystify' cremation process

A new virtual tour will show visitors what to expect at the crematorium. Picture: Jon Savage
A new virtual tour will show visitors what to expect at the crematorium. Picture: Jon Savage
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Talking about cremation is a taboo subject for some, and many who find themselves having to visit a crematorium will not know what to expect.

Mortonhall Crematorium, run by Edinburgh city council, hopes to change this and ‘de-mystify the process’ by introducing a virtual tour of the building in a UK first.

The chapel of remembrance. Picture: Jon Savage.

The chapel of remembrance. Picture: Jon Savage.

Viewers can take a tour of the reception area and family waiting room, as well as the two chapels were services are held.

For those who would like to venture further, the tour also shows the area where cremations take place.

“There are quite a few misconceptions about funerals and cremations, and we want to de-mystify that,” said Robbie Beattie, Scientific Bereavement and Registration Services Senior Manager.

Users can access the tour from any device, though more features may be available on phone or tablet than desktop.

The smaller Pentland chapel. Picture: Jon Savage.

The smaller Pentland chapel. Picture: Jon Savage.

They can then click through various areas on the site, in a style similar to that of google maps streetview.

There are also information points where users can find out more about the room they are looking at.

The tour is available in virtual reality, if viewers have their own goggles at home.

It is part of a changing bereavement process, in which both service providers and members of the public are becoming ‘more digital’, said Mr Beattie.

The tour is also available using virtual reality goggles. Picture: Jon Savage.

The tour is also available using virtual reality goggles. Picture: Jon Savage.

The chapels at Mortonhall now include TV screens where mourners who wish to do so can show images or videos of the deceased’s life as part of the funeral service.

There is also a TV screen in the Family Room on site where those would like to can view the moment the coffin is delivered into the crematory.

This particular feature is not asked for by many, but can be a helpful part of the bereavement process, said Mr Beattie.

The tour begins in the arrival area, and users can then click through to the beautiful main chapel, bathed in light filtering down from coloured glass windows.

Robbie Beattie, Scientific Bereavement and Registration Services Senior Manager at Mortonhall. Picture: Jon Savage.

Robbie Beattie, Scientific Bereavement and Registration Services Senior Manager at Mortonhall. Picture: Jon Savage.

It also includes a ‘dolls house’ view, in which users can see a birds-eye plan of the room or building, including details like the concealed seat of the organ player which people would not see in real life.

Viewers can then visit the smaller Pentland chapel, which can seat 80 people to the main chapel’s 250-300.

They can continue to the central building, which contains the family room and cremation area.

It is especially hoped that the virtual reality feature will help introduce children to the concept of a crematorium.

“We would encourage children to be brought to the service, to help them better understand the bereavement,” Bereavement Services Operation Manager Ann Collings said.

Environment Convener Councillor Lesley Macinnes said: "I know from firsthand experience how daunting an experience it is for bereaved families making funeral arrangements. This pioneering new feature at Mortonhall Crematorium has been welcomed by city funeral directors as a way of 'demystifying' the process and I'm sure families will find it very helpful to take the virtual tour when they're planning their loved one's final send-off."

The crematorium, designed by famed architect Sir Basil Spence and opened in 1967, also attracts architecture students from around the world.

The only council-owned crematorium in the city, It can facilitate around 16-17 funeral services a day, and 2,500 a year.

Robert Swanson QPM, Scottish Government Inspector of Cremations, said the feature will be of 'particular benefit' to bereaved families who have never been to the Crematorium before.

"I welcome all such measures taken by Cremation Authorities which are designed to help reduce the level of stress and apprehension of the bereaved during their attendance at the Crematorium," he said.