East Durham College Resurrects Its Gravedigging Course

East Durham College, Houghall Campus has announced that it plans to resurrect its gravedigging course and took delivery of a free coffin from Co-Operative Funeralcare, Amble, Northumberland.

Trainees will be taught the specialist skills over four days, to meet demand from North-East local authorities.

Jane Pringle, Head of East Durham College’s Houghall Campus, said: “We used to run an NVQ in Grave Digging, about four years ago, but saw a drop in demand for the course so stopped offering it. However, we were recently contacted by Peterlee Town Council and asked if we could provide a course for a number of their grounds staff. So we have developed a course from a unit of the Local Environment Services course we run within our Horticulture Department.”

Brendan Arnell, Parks Supervisor at Peterlee Town Council, added: “We identify, that due to a number of staff retiring or moving on, that we had a training need to up skill our workforce in gravedigging.

“To get staff trained, they might have had to go as far as Glasgow. The council has a policy of using local labour and facilities where possible, so we approached the College. We need to ensure we promote good working practices by providing high quality training for our staff in this duty. It is a statutory law to bury the dead.”

David Miller, Grounds Manager at the College, who will help deliver the new course commented: “There is a lot more to grave digging that simply digging a hole. A good gravedigger is expected to know every inch of their cemetery, prepare up to a week in advance of a burial and will not finish the job until about six weeks afterwards once the back-filled soil has settled.

“It’s very demanding work, carried out in all weathers, but it can be very rewarding – especially when you know you have done your little bit to ensure a burial goes smoothly at what is a very upsetting time for the relatives.

He added: “It’s a grim job but somebody’s got to do it. I have the utmost admiration for these guys.”

Mr Doug Potts, Manager of the Co-operative Funeralcare Service, Amble, kindly agreed to donate a coffin to the College to use when delivering the training.  The donation is part of the Co-op’s Community Programme. The handover of the coffin was made by Mr Potts colleague Mr Andrew Armstrong, a Funeral Service Operative.

The first gravedigging course is planned for January, is open to all and will be repeated according to demand.

For more details please call 0191 375 4700.