British governments have sanctioned around 60 natural cremations in Britain since the Cremation Act 1902 was passed – and yet the Ministry of Justice still objected to Baba Ghai’s campaign, arguing those very same laws actually prohibit funeral pyres.


First official British open air cremation, of Lady Honoretta Pratt in Hanover Square, West London.

Romantic poet P B Shelley’s pyre is lit on the Bay of Spezia. attended by Lord Byron and famously depicted by Louis Fournier.

William Price is acquitted for the open air cremation of his son.

1914-1915 – Patcham, near the Brighton Downs.

In recognition of the military service given by Indian and Gurkha soldiers during World War One, the Home Office arranged funeral pyre cremations for 53 Hindu and Sikh British Army soldiers who died at hospital in Brighton & Hove.

Crematoria were available at that time but the Home Office respected the religious and cultural preference for funeral pyres and The Times produced a lengthy account of one cremation (16th October 1915). In 1921 the Prince of Wales unveiled a commemorative monument on the site, now known as the Chattri Memorial.

Since 1946 the Patcham British Legion organised an annual wreath pilgrimage to the Chattri Memorial, handing over responsibility for the ceremony to local community leaders in recent years. The Chattri bears the following inscription:

“To the memory of, all the Indian soldiers who gave their lives in service during the Great War – This monument erected on the site where the Hindus and Sikhs who died in hospital at Brighton passed through the fire is in grateful admiration and brotherly affection dedicate.” –

St Johns Cemetery, Woking


Government sanctions mountainous foot and mouth cattle pyres throughout the country.


David Wrigglesworth is aquirted of cremating his mother in a residential garden.


Rajpal Mehat



The site was used on several occasions by members of the Nepalese Embassy, the first time in order to cremate Princess Shumshere Jung, wife of General Bahadur Shumshere Jung Bahadur Rana. Contemporary newspapers reported an ‘unusual’ but ‘respectful’ ceremony performed without objections from the local residents.

De-classified National Archive files detail how the Home Office and Nepalese Embassy worked together to ensure the cremations strictly complied with Hindu religious beliefs but did not offend public decency. Home Office records confirm there was, “no objection in principle,” to a permanent designated site.


The body of Rajpal Mehat, a 31-year-old Indian illegal immigrant found drowned in a London canal, was burnt on a wooden pyre by Baba Ghai at a secret location in rural Northumberland. Northumbria Police consented to the pyre in advance but later passed a file to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), which ruled that it would not be in the public interest to prosecute.

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