A SOUTHAMPTON funeral director has launched an appeal to reunite more than 400 sets of cremated ashes with their families.

B. Matthews Funeral directors have 405 sets of unclaimed ashes, with some of them dating back as far as 1975.

The move comes after the company, which has been conducting funerals in Southampton for more than 50 years, carried out an audit in their three branches in Woolston, Park Gate and Shirley.

They have already tried to track down some of the families, but some wanted them company to hold on to the ashes while others came in to collect them.

Now they are launching a public appealing to find the next of kin for the ashes.

Funeral director at B. Matthews, Victoria Nethercott said: “After a funeral, the ashes are kept at one of our branches until family members are ready to collect them.

“However, we understand that there are many reasons why families may choose to leave the ashes in our care.

“For some, collecting them is too painful, in some cases it can be down to a breakdown in family communications on who will collect the remains, while others simply need more time to decide what to do with them.”

The National Association of Funeral Directors has specific guidelines in place for unclaimed ashes, and recommends its members store them for a minimum of five years.

B. Matthews are keen to stress that the appeal isn’t related to recently bereaved families, or those who have asked them to keep the ashes on their behalf.

But it is about ashes that have been left unclaimed for a considerable amount of time.

Ms Nethercott, added that they have not made the final decision on what to do with ashes that remain in their care.

Those who believe that the unclaimed ashes of a relative may be currently held by B. Matthews should call 02380 447 965 to speak to a member of the team, visit one of the funeral directors’ branches in Woolston, Shirley or Park Gate or check online.