What’s in a name?

In the past, funeral businesses were family-owned operations that would serve whole communities and in some small towns, this set-up still exists. However, larger chains have been gradually buying-out family businesses often, when senior members of the family retire.

These large funeral chains tend to keep in place, the name of the family that originally ran the funeral home.
Every branch of ‘Dignity’, a British funeral corporation, is run under a family name and 30% of Co-operative funeral homes – notably the largest funeral corporation in the UK, trade under a family’s name.

When these businesses buy ‘independent’ funeral homes, they purchase the use of the family name and consequently, their reputation and ‘good will’.
‘Many customers visit funeral homes with family names in the belief they are supporting a local, independent, business or because they would rather place their trust in a family-owned organisation rather than a large conglomerate’ – reports the The Guardian newspaper.

A recent article in The Guardian touched upon the subject of larger companies masquerading as ‘independent funeral directors’ within local communities. The Guardian also wrote about the large companies that buy-out the independent funeral homes but continue to operate under their name; the local community is usually, totally unaware of these facts and thinking they are still independently owned, use their services in the belief that they are supporting, local businesses.

Is it fair then, that a large company can purchase a local independent company and with that purchase, receive all the hard work and reputation built by the original predecessor?

True, independent, family funeral directors.

Fact: in the past five years, Exeter has seen a rise in funeral director services within the city and surrounding areas.
Focusing on independent family funeral directors, M. Sillifant & Son were established in 1906. Following on from Bernard Sillifant, Martin and Marc, the 3rd and 4th generations of the family, continue to serve their local community.

Although no longer owned by its original family, Le Roy Funeral Service was established in 1950 by Mr Stanley Le Roy Priaulx. Martin Wreford was appointed manager in 1968 and subsequently purchased the business in 1974 and located to their current premises in Alphington, Exeter in 1986 before expanding to Crediton in 2000 and occupying a third premises operating from Topsham Road in 2013.

In October 2011, the independent family business of Shoobridge Funeral Services, who are and have been based, primarily in Honition, East Devon since 1993 and more recently, added Exmouth & District Funeral Services, Exeter Road, Exmouth – expanded into Exeter’s Pinhoe and Whipton area at Pinhoe Road, (Polsloe Bridge), Exeter, bringing in excess of 60 years’ combined expertise and experience blended with the highest qualifications and training available within the funeral profession.

With the number of funeral premises doubling within such a short space of time, three more were still yet to open.

Shortly after the arrival of Shoobridge Funeral Services in Exeter, Tiverton based independent family funeral directors established in 1933, Walter H. Squries & Son also arrived on Pinhoe Road, Exeter and in 2016 they also opened another premises n Exwick, Exeter.

ISCA funeral services opened their first premises in Exeter on Oakhampton Street before recently relocating to Fore Street.

In 2015, the total number of funeral directors operating in Exeter rose to nine and the total number of funeral homes, to eleven. Then, the Plymouth based Walter C. Parson Group, opened the tenth funeral home premises on Topsham Road.
Walter C. Parsons was established in 1842 and has more than doubled in size from four offices to ten, in Plymouth, Plympton, Crownhill, Ivybridge and Exeter with ‘outposts’ now in Tavistock, Torpoint (Pidgen & Son), Saltash (Pengelly Funeral Services), Newton Abbot, and Torquay, (Hugh, Mills & Gaye)

Non-independent family funeral directors.

Established in 1860 and formerly known as W. Mitchell & Son, the company was purchased by ‘Dignity’ (UK funeral corporation), who still claim that, “They are proud to have served many generations of the same families for more than 150 years!”, which ‘comes across’ as somewhat, misleading as ‘Dignity’ itself was created in 1994 through the merger of the Plantsbrook Group and the Great Southern Group, both of which companies had been acquired by Service Corporation International Inc. (an American company and factually, the largest funeral company in the world), earlier that year. At present, Dignity (UK) own over 500 branches across the UK and conduct over 7,5000 funerals a year.
Regarding the funeral profession, the most recent ‘take-over’ in Exeter concerned Exeter and District Funeral Services located on Topsham Road, Exeter. Its original founder, David Albury, had many years of dedicated service and experience in the profession and as such, has ‘looked after’ many families throughout Devon. The funeral director company was purchased/acquired by: Funeral Partners, Funeral Partners Limited who were founded in 2007 by Phillip Greenfield who himself was formerly, a founding shareholder in the Fairways Partnership some years earlier. Funeral Partners now hold in their hands the ‘glory’ and reputation that was built up by its predecessor David and can easily be mistaken for an original local, independent funeral director.
The Co-operative Group (CWS Ltd.), also have facilities based in Exeter in the St. Thomas area. With over 675 branches across the UK, ‘Co-operative Funeral Care’ conduct around 90,000 funerals a year nationally making them the largest funeral company in the UK.

Why choose an independent?

By choosing to use the services of an independent funeral director, you are enlisting the help of a trusted professional. Many independent undertakers firms are extremely well known and have been run by families who have served their communities for generations and as such, they are not distracted or bound by corporate rules ‘handed down’ from head office and shareholders but can be flexible and responsive to individual needs providing a highly personal and compassionate service.

“When you require the services of a funeral director, you should turn to the people who know your needs best – independent funeral directors.”


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