Funeral Directors

Funeral Directors 

Historically funerals could be split into two categories.  Parish funerals provided by the community for their own and heraldic funerals organised for the nobility by the College of Arms in the City of London.  The latter known as “heraldic funerals” (the preserve of the nobility) were grand affairs furnished with intricate palls and heraldic symbols.  Typically the Herald sent from the College of Arms to arrange the ceremony would instruct Drapers & Painter Stainers from those respected Livery Companies to assist them in producing such items to be used and displayed in the funeral procession. 


From the late 17th Century wealthy merchants (especially those based in London) would aspire to a heraldic funeral as a reflection of their status.  This is where we begin to see the genesis of what is now the funeral service profession.

There were funeral furnishers (those such as carpenters, furniture makers and so on) that would provide items for the funeral as well as funeral directors would organise the ceremony and associated items for the ceremony.







This practice grew and became more common place and saw a particular high point in popularity in Dickensian London with elaborate funerals with processions led by funeral mutes and others carrying ostrich plume umbrellas became the norm.  Funeral directing itself now an established profession where coffins and such other items were built by the undertaker or bought in from a funeral furnishings manufacturer.

Into the 20th century and even the 21st the role of the funeral director has not changed much.  It was in this period the connection between funeral service and the work of Upholders was made.  Liveryman Bill Fry’s Clarke & Strong being a great example of a firm that continues to make funeral furnishings including the upholstery (lining) for the inside of coffins.  There are still funeral directors that make their own coffins but most by them from specialist manufacturers but most line them once they receive them in a choice of fabric selected by the family they’re serving.  Making it very natural that the Worshipful Company of Upholders should be the livery company that covers the work of funeral directors and includes them in their livery.