Thank you cards from Gordon Barber customers

Journey’s end

It’s interesting to see how society changes and evolves through the generations. The funeral sector is seen by many to be unchanging and traditional but that is not always so, we have moved with the times, however, sometimes we also go backwards to serve our clients needs.


There’s been a significant change in the way funerals are conducted. Its only 50 years since the deceased would almost always lay to rest in the front ‘parlour’ up to the day of the funeral, which is now quite rare.


In Victorian times coffins were transported on horse-drawn carts and carriages dependent on the wealth and standing of the deceased. This was a significant improvement on the handcarts used in the 16th century.


In the 20th century purpose-made hearses and limousines became the norm. The old traditions began to change and horse-drawn hearses went out of fashion in favour of the much desired motor vehicles. Carriage masters, who would have provided carriages, purchased motor vehicles and hired them out to the very small ‘undertakers’ serving relatively small areas.



It’s interesting to see how society changes and evolves through the generations. The funeral sector is seen by many to be unchanging and traditional but that is not always so, we have moved with the times, however, sometimes we also go backwards to serve our clients needs.


There’s been a significant change in the way funerals are conducted. Its only 50 years since the deceased would almost always lay to rest in the front ‘parlour’ up to the day of the funeral, which is now quite rare.


In Victorian times coffins were transported on horse-drawn carts and carriages dependent on the wealth and standing of the deceased. This was a significant improvement on the handcarts used in the 16th century.


In the 20th century purpose-made hearses and limousines became the norm. The old traditions began to change and horse-drawn hearses went out of fashion in favour of the much desired motor vehicles. Carriage masters, who would have provided carriages, purchased motor vehicles and hired them out to the very small ‘undertakers’ serving relatively small areas.


Transport changed society and the funeral industry, moving deceased people over greater areas became easier and quicker. Local churchyards filled up so larger municipal cemeteries and crematoria were developed and funeral transport became even more important. Most funeral directors then acquired their own fleet and carriage masters became much rarer.


Foreign travel grew dramatically and inevitably the number of people dying abroad increased. Most of those wanted to be repatriated to their home country to lay to rest. Airlines introduced greater regulations to protect their staff and equipment.


Modern hearses and limousines can cost the funeral director £50,000 to £75,000, each a huge investment. Hearses have rise and fall decks, glass roofs, flower rails and carry a myriad of specialist equipment to ensure all goes to plan. Limousines usually seat six passengers; families will order cars to seat the immediate, the extended family or just those with specific needs. Other family may use their own cars.


Hearses have been substituted with vehicles associated with the deceased, flat bed trucks, fire engines, taxis, even the families own domestic estate car. Motorbike and sidecars are now very popular, often followed by a cortege of motorcycle mourners.


But then of course as the wheels go round so do traditions, a horse-drawn hearse on our streets is not such a rarity today.


The hearses have been recovered and restored, specialist carriage masters have set up, and carriage drivers have been recruited from Hungary and other European countries.