Portchester Crematorium in Fareham, Portsmouth, has celebrated its 60th anniversary, commemorating its role as being the final resting place for thousands of residents from Fareham, Portsmouth, Havant and Gosport for the last six decades.
Situated on the lower slopes of Portsdown Hill, between Fareham and Portsmouth, the crematorium opened in 1958 and has now laid more than 130,000 people to rest – making it one of the 10 busiest crematoriums in the country.
Run by a joint committee of councillors representing Portsmouth, Fareham, Havant and Gosport, the crematorium has had just three registrars since it opened: James Clark, Ted Appleton and Chris Johns. For three years the trio even worked together at varying stages of their careers.
Current manager and registrar, James Clark, started work at the crematorium at the age of 18 and has been there for the last 35 years. He said: “The crematorium is such an important place for everyone in the area as most people have visited it at some stage of their lives. It has changed massively over the last 60 years – both building-wise with changes to the chapels, cloisters, waiting rooms and behind the scenes there have been huge changes with equipment to make operations more environmentally sensitive.”
Now in its 60th year, the crematorium’s North Chapel is set to be refurbished – a job which will take up to six weeks to complete.
Clark added: “The North Chapel just needs upgrading so we’re going to close it for refurbishment. It’s important to keep the buildings up to date.”
The crematorium is renowned for its ten acres of award-winning gardens where visitors can sit and reflect whilst taking in stunning views over Portsmouth Harbour and the Solent. The gardens regularly feature in the Fareham in Bloom and the south and south east Britain in Bloom awards where they have won gold awards. The site has a dedicated team to look after the 300 different types of plants, flowers, roses, shrubs and trees.
When the crematorium opened, the decision was taken not to allow plaques or ornaments in the gardens so the emphasis was put on its natural surroundings. It is open to the public every day until dusk.
Chairman of the joint committee, Cllr Simon Martin, said: “Portchester Crematorium is such an important place within our community and has been for more than 60 years now. It’s where people say goodbye to their loved ones and a place they can go back to and take time to reflect and remember them. The crematorium has such an important place at the heart of the community and we will ensure it continues to hold that place for many more years to come.”