The History of Funerals Directors

The History of Funerals Directors

A celebration of life, or funerals as they have been more widely known, are an important part of today’s modern British life. Just as they have been for many years.

Although we thankfully now live longer and fuller lives than our ancestors, the loss of a loved one is no less heart-breaking. How we mourn and grieve in the immediate aftermath of a death remains a central part of how we move on with our lives, from one generation to the next.

Over the last 500 years, funerals in Britain have witnessed great changes. From shrouded corpses not being allowed in churches to funeral celebrants being part of a modern farewell, the evolution of funeral customs in Britain shows how our society has changed.

Traditions from. The 1500s

In the early 1500s, during the reign of Henry VIII, funerals in Britain were known as corpse-watching and generally involved only close family members. This was done in commemoration of the deceased, however, the body or any parts of it were not allowed into the church – nor were any flowers, choirs or books. Hymns had to be sung outside.

During the 1800s, grief had become a socially accepted emotion which prompted larger funerals, such as those of the aristocracy, who would often lay out their dead for public viewings. Despite this, mourning in Britain was still mostly a private affair and funerals were generally simple.

Funerals in the Victorian era

During the Victorian era, there was an explosion of funeral fashion, with huge funerals, flower tributes, and various rituals being the order of the day. They often included the following traditions, some of which continue today:-

  • Obituary notice
  • Chapels of rest
  • Burials
  • Mementos
  • Black clothing
  • Funeral processions
  • Funeral flowers
  • Wakes

A celebration of life

It was customary to hold a celebratory feast in honour of the deceased person after their burial. This continued into the 1900s and only dipped in favour a little through the War periods.

The celebratory post-funeral gathering remains popular in the UK. Increasingly, among younger generations, there is a growing trend for “happy funerals” too.

Upbeat songs during services through to ashes being spread via fireworks are no longer unheard of.

New trends

In the past few decades, funeral customs in Britain have changed again. Today, modern funerals are more person-centred and less traditionally structured. Funeral celebrants have become an important part of the service, as they guide mourners through the events of the funeral, providing comfort, support, and, in many cases, a religious or spiritual outlook on death.

There are options to hold the service away from crematoriums and churches and use alternative venues. There are no restrictions on the type of coffin, transport, or service.

Green goodbyes

The growing concerns about the environment and global warming have led to modern legislation around how and where we bury or cremate bodies. But increasingly people are being more proactive on this, planning for their own “green” burials.

Disposable coffins have emerged, alongside the growth of woodland burials and memorial trees planted in place of traditional headstones. There are even virtual memorial gardens online displaying people’s life stories.

The future

Funerals are moving away from a focus on the processing of the body, with strict guidelines on behaviour, dress and ritual to a more informal style of gathering and grieving among surviving relatives and friends. Instead of focusing on the sadness of death, we see society move towards funerals that are a celebration of life.

The growing trend to blend traditional customs with new and celebratory elements is resulting in a more personalised goodbye that our loved ones who have left us, can be proud of.

Overall, the evolution of funerals in Britain over the last 500 years has enabled us to better deal with the grief and loss of a loved one. Funeral services are now tailor-made to meet the individual needs of each family and to provide comfort and a lasting tribute to the deceased.

More about Aurora

Aurora are independent funeral directors in Crowborough, East Sussex. Led by Dawn Bew, Aurora proudly provides affordable funeral services with a friendly and understanding approach.

With a range of funeral choices and beautiful, calming venue the team can arrange the perfect send off for your loved one.