Freeman Brothers Funeral Directors celebrates six months in Hurstpierpoint. Funeral Arranger Chrissie gives an insight to what’s been happening since February.
Freeman Brothers has been carrying out funerals in Sussex and Surrey since 1855. The company opened its fourth branch – joining the existing offices in Billingshurst, Crawley and Horsham – in Hurstpierpoint in 2019. The Hurstpierpoint branch’s first six months have been a busy mixture of arranging funerals and settling in to community life. Funeral Arranger Chrissie talks us through everything that’s been happening in the company’s newest home…
When I think back to six months ago when Russell Martin and I were tasked with opening up a brand new branch in Hurstpierpoint, I’m surprised, and quietly proud at how calm we were.
Ready to take it all in our stride and put our experience, good teaching and work ethic to the test. Little did we know, that we would have to not only draw on all of the above, but to learn new skills and work far more smartly than ever before?
In this day and age, it’s not enough to simply renovate a dilapidated building and turn it into something quite extraordinary, nor to have the luxury of an amazing reputation. To really make it in a village, you have to willingly put your heart and soul into the community and become part of village life, to the point where they couldn’t imagine a time when Freeman Brothers wasn’t around.
This takes time and patience, but it’s definitely worth it. We’ve had the chance to get to know and help lots of different organisations and individuals. I know we’re fortunate to be able to get involved and make a difference, largely thanks to working for a family run company, who genuinely understand the importance of giving back and working together.
Our community work has seen us supporting some amazing charities such as Know Dementia, who have recently opened their Memory Moments café in the area. Our raffle of a chauffeur driven limousine and tea for four at Ockenden Manor brought the house down, not quite what was intended, but delighted to think that we were able to make people smile and laugh!
The amazing thing is, that once word gets out that you are an open-minded company, ready to roll up your sleeves and get involved, people start to take notice, the shyness disappears and they start to engage with you. Working with Hurst Open Gardens was an incredible opportunity, not only were we able to help raise much needed funds for St Peter and St James Hospice by offering our services, but we were actively able to participate in an historical, community event.
Our efforts in continuously building local links has seen us support The Weald Tennis Club’s Ladies Open Doubles Tournament, provide sponsorship for the Hurstpierpoint Bowls Club, and even take advantage of the bowls membership. We are now committed to playing in the Pro-Am Tournament in August, which is very trusting of the club and hope that I don’t make a complete fool of myself! There really is no hiding in this job, you have to put yourself out there and let people see the real you.
Not content with sitting still, we agreed to throw ourselves into our first branch event, Big Deal, Small Talk during Dying Matters Awareness Week in May. This gave us the chance to openly discuss bereavement and show that talking about this subject can not only be therapeutic, but can be spoken about positively. Having organised the food and drink, ordered the helium balloons and sent the invites out, we opened our doors, and waited with baited breath. It wasn’t long before our reception area was full, the wine flowed and the conversations got louder and louder to the point where we eventually overflowed onto the High Street. All in all, an extremely beneficial and rewarding day, which brought local businesses and people together.
We have lots more events planned for the rest of the year, some big, some small, but each occasion will have our unique style and be given the full attention that it deserves. Who would have thought that you can go from handing out ice-cream at the Hurst Arts Festival to serving mulled wine to Christmas shoppers!
Our last event before the year draws to a close, and what a year it’s been, is probably the biggest, most symbolic of them all – our Remembrance Service. This will see families who we have helped throughout the year, come together with others from the local community, to remember those who are no longer with us. A time to join together and reflect.
Thinking back on our whirlwind six months, it’s astonishing to think back to the many funerals that Russell and I have been fortunate to be part of. The families that we have helped, have all been very different, but have all needed guidance, understanding and patience. Put quite simply, this is why we do what we do, it starts and ends with each family.
I’m beginning to understand that success isn’t measured by how many people attend an event, nor is it about how many new contacts you’ve made – it’s about putting 100% effort in and working at your best, if that benefits just one person, then it’s worth it.
We are happy to go the extra mile for each family, to ensure that the occasion reflects the person and is uniquely special. We’ve organised a bespoke service with a vintage bike cortege following the hearse, a remarkable sight to see and even managed to capture this in a video montage for the family. We add the smallest of details to each funeral, which can make a huge difference; from arranging baskets filled with single stem roses for the family to place on the coffin before they leave; to large memory boards, which can sit prominently in a chapel setting, a contemporary mix between a photograph and a canvas board.
Having visited the National Funeral Exhibition in Warwickshire recently, we took the opportunity to seek out new, innovative ideas that we could introduce into the Hurstpierpoint branch. This is when we came across the Memory Board, but not only were we able to offer this service within our own branch, we were able to extend it to the other three branches in Billingshurst, Crawley and our Head Office in Horsham.
Being responsible for a branch is a big undertaking and seems to involve a never-ending cycle of paperwork. Setting out policies and procedures and undergoing inspection visits from SAIF (The National Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors), and NAFD (National Association of Funeral Directors) is all par for the course. The Hurstpierpoint branch is more than just an extension of Freeman Brothers, it’s a part of us and we are extremely protective and proud of what we have achieved.
We are also beginning to work closely with other branches, where I am sure we will learn a lot more and will face new challenges. As one of four branches throughout Sussex, it’s important to keep in mind that it’s all about teamwork. From the bearers, conductors, funeral arrangers, receptionists, administrators and community co-ordinators, who all work hard to make each funeral look ‘easy’, trust me it’s not – it can be stressful, heart-breaking and thought provoking, but it brings its rewards when the pieces fit together like a jigsaw puzzle and you know you wouldn’t change a thing.
It’s been good to stop and take the time to reflect over the activities that has made the last six months fly by, and we can’t wait to see what the next six months brings.
Tel: 01403 254590
If you have an urgent query, please call 01403 254590. This number is answered by one our staff 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This is the quickest way to reach us.
Tel: 01403 785133
25 & 27 Brighton Road
Tel: 01293 540000
126 High Street
Tel: 01273 831497