Local funeral director, Freeman Brothers, was first established in Horsham, West Sussex, in 1855. The company now has a further three offices – in Billingshurst, Crawley and Hurstpierpoint – and has built a strong reputation as an independent, family-run business which can be trusted to deliver a high-quality service. As part of the company’s commitment to broadening service provision, Becky is sharing an exciting announcement this week regarding a brand new product soon to be exclusively available via Freeman Brothers…
For many of us in the Western world, hearts and flowers are difficult to avoid during the first two weeks in February, whether you enter a shop which sells greetings cards and other relevant gifts, or venture near online gift shops. Valentine’s Day has become an ever-increasing marketing machine, with many options available.
Things have evolved slightly during the last few years – we’ve noticed some online retailers offering the opportunity to opt out of receiving Valentine’s communications (as they had been already for occasions such as Mother’s Day and Father’s Day) in recognition of the fact that some people find it a challenging time. If only the same were possible for brick and mortar locations! Visiting shops can feel overwhelming at this time, and is undoubtedly off-putting for many.
Whilst lots of people are probably aware of the fact that Saint Valentine’s Day is technically a Roman Catholic tradition, there was something of an evolution before it became the occasion we recognise today. Due to the ancient nature of traditions associated with Valentine’s Day, the origins are highly disputed: some believe that there is record within Chaucer’s work, though whilst this does seem to reference Valentine, the date was unlikely to have been in February. However, this is when the connection to love, rather than the martyrdom of Saints was first referenced. The fact that we give cards today can be linked to the exchanges of poetry, the earliest of which is thought to be one written by Charles, Duke of Orleans, whilst imprisoned in the Tower of London in 1415.
However, it would take several centuries of technological leaps before printed Valentine’s could be commercially available. ‘The Young Man’s Valentine Writer’ was printed by a British publisher in 1797, containing many suggested verses for those who lacked the imagination or skill to write their own. Shortly after this, popularity of cards increased to the extent that they began to be produced in factories and, following the reduction of postage costs in 1840, the boom truly took place, with handwritten and hand-delivered notes giving way to printed and posted cards.
These days, many people associate jewellery with Valentine’s gifts, and for us as funeral directors, personal possessions are often something that we help to take care of. When someone is brought into our care wearing or accompanied by jewellery, this is carefully logged, and we ask the person arranging their funeral what they would like to be done with the items. Often they would like to have the jewellery returned to them, in which case it is signed over. Sometimes, they prefer for it to remain with their loved one, particularly when a burial is taking place. Others like for the person who has died to remain wearing their jewellery whilst they are visited in the Chapel of Rest, but for it to be removed prior to the funeral itself.
Jewellery can also be part of the conversation when discussing what your plans are for any cremated remains. We’ve blogged on memorial jewellery previously, as this has been an emerging trend for several years now. There are a variety of options available in the UK, and we have been fortunate to even be able to work with some local suppliers in order to arrange for pieces to be made for our customers.
Last year, we were honoured to be approached by local Master Goldsmith, Richard Talman, who wanted to create a new collection, and partner exclusively with an independent funeral director. Following early discussions, it became clear that Richard’s company, RTFJ, was a good fit with Freeman Brothers, and we are delighted to be working with him on this new and exclusive launch.
This is a first for us at Freeman Brothers – never in our history have we previously partnered with another company in this way, and we are pleased to have found a craftsperson who takes enormous pride in their work. Richard’s CV is impressive: after leaving secondary school, he studied at the Sir John Cass Faculty of Arts in Whitechapel, completing a City and Guilds qualification in diamond mounting, before moving on to his apprenticeship with an experienced and respected goldsmith in Hatton Garden. Early success came in the form of prestigious international competition wins, completing his apprenticeship in June 2002 and then becoming a Freeman (not to be confused with our own family name!). He was made a Fellow of the Institute of Professional Goldsmiths in 2005.
Richard took on his own first apprentice, Hugo Johnson, in September 2013. Both Richard and Hugo have been involved in BBC TV shows since – you may recognise Richard as having participated as one of the expert craftspeople on the popular ‘Repair Shop’ (which also happens to be based locally in West Sussex), whilst Hugo was a contestant (we won’t spoil it if you haven’t seen the show!) on 2021’s ‘All That Glitters’.
Media career aside, Richard maintains a fantastic reputation within the jewellery and goldsmith industry – he assists the World Skills Organisation as an Alumni-Activist, and in 2014 won two UK Wedding Industry awards, thanks to his reputation for fine wedding and engagement pieces.
Having achieved so much within certain niches, Richard is ready for his next launch, and it’s here that the partnership with Freeman Brothers comes in. RTFJ’s ‘With Me’ collection of memorial jewellery has been designed in order to offer a selection of pieces, affording customers a variety of choice.
Each of our four branches will be displaying the collection when it launches at the end of March. Those considering a purchase will be able to view examples of the pieces at any of our offices, and orders will be placed directly with RTFJ. The team at Freeman Brothers will be able to help by handling the necessary portion of cremated remains, ensuring it is securely delivered to the RTFJ workshop in Haywards Heath. Customers will be invited to witness the handling of the cremated remains at the workshop should they wish, and we would always advise some additional remains being retained by the customer in case of any loss or damage occurring in future, enabling any pieces to be replaced.
With sensitivity of feelings in mind, our displays will be subtle and unobtrusive, as our existing displays of additional products are. Further information will also be available via our website, plus the RTFJ website.
The two brands will be partnering for a launch event at the end of March, hosted at our branch in Hurstpierpoint. Those attending will be able to view the collection, and discuss it with Richard in person. Colleagues from Freeman Brothers will be on hand to answer any queries you have regarding the initial handling of cremated remains.
We are looking forward to being able to share full details of the ‘With Me’ collection in due course, as we’re sure that public reception of the available pieces will be fantastic. We’ll be advertising details and sending invitations for the launch event in due course.