Freeman Brothers Funeral Directors was first established in Horsham, West Sussex in 1855. The company now has a further three offices across the county – in Billingshurst, Crawley and Hurstpierpoint – and maintains a commitment to supporting local community activities. As part of this scheme, the team is preparing to honour those who wish to remember the tough times faced and challenges overcome during the coronavirus pandemic. Community Co-Ordinator, Becky, explains more…
It’s been a while since we offered an update on our COVID-19 memorials so I thought it was time to let you in on what’s been happening. We’ve been busy over the summer, preparing in a variety of ways to ensure that the stones can be unveiled on the second anniversary of the UK’s first lockdown, in March 2022.
Our first task was to make a trip to the local quarry. We had decided early in the development process that we would like to use Horsham stone for the main part of the memorials, to make it clear that these sites were truly local. We had an approximate shape in mind, with our preference being for semi-triangular stones which stand upright, but also look distinct from a headstone.
With the stones chosen, purchased and stored safely at our workshop, the full design process could begin. Each memorial will be inlaid with a slate tablet – Horsham stone is quite soft, and is also a very pale colour, so it’s not suitable for a design to be cut into it and also be long-lasting – which will contain the design we have chosen.
As a team, we discussed a few options, most of which were inspirational quotes. However, we ultimately chose a more unique design, which I’ll leave you to discover at the official unveiling! We’re really pleased with what’s been chosen, and I will reveal that it also involves a daffodil image.
Daffodils have been a symbol of the memories of the initial lockdown, partly as it began towards the end of daffodil season, and also because the National Day of Reflection was set up by Marie Curie, whose logo is a daffodil. We wanted to plant daffodils at the memorial site, but they obviously won’t bloom year-round (unfortunately!) so we wanted to evoke the spirit of them via the stone, for the benefit of those visiting when the flowers aren’t out.
With the stone designs approved – with thanks to Hurst Parish Council for reviewing the selection for their site! – the tablets are now in the workshop being cut, I’m really looking forward to seeing how they turn out. However, there’s still work to be done…
I’m not a gardener myself, but fortunately I’m a researcher, and I learned early on that daffodils need to be planted in September or October in order to bloom in Spring. I wanted my colleagues to have the opportunity to be involved, and Chrissie and Russell in Hurstpierpoint quickly volunteered to assist with the plot there.
We had the matter of the fact that the stones aren’t yet ready to consider, but that they will take up a specific space, so the assistance of Richard, our Memorial Mason, was sought, in order to ensure that the plot would be suitable when it comes time to fix the stones. Tools, daffodil bulbs, and expertise acquired, planting took place in Hurstpierpoint and Horsham last week.
In Hurstpierpoint, the space our memorial will occupy is in the same area of the village as the war memorial, next to the church. Given that it’s on a crossroads, it’s surprisingly peaceful once you are on what is known as the village green. There are some large trees planted as part of the green, which does offer some screening against the traffic noise as well, but when we visited earlier in the year, we found it a pleasant space. As the war memorial has existed for so long already, we also hope that people will be accustomed to using the space for quiet contemplation, and therefore the addition of the COVID memorial seemed right.
The other plot we have planted this month is at Hills Cemetery in Horsham. Freeman Brothers operates the Chapel at Hills Cemetery, and it has been extensively renovated since we took this over in 2020. With a new media system and having been fully-redecorated, the Chapel now offers a wider range of options for those wishing to use it for a service. It therefore made sense that our Horsham COVID memorial occupy a space nearby, and when we were offered a plot adjoining the Chapel, we knew that this would be a good fit.
The cemetery team kindly conducted early preparations for us, by tidying up the existing beds and grass, enabling us to choose where to ultimately position the stone. From there, we chose the location of the flowerbed, and planted some daffodil bulbs in the hope that they will flower for the first time in March 2022.
Many people are surprised to find Hills Cemetery a peaceful and welcoming place. It doesn’t tend to receive a high volume of visitors, so it is an ideal spot for contemplation, away from the bustling town centre and with parking available. We hope that those visiting to tend a grave or cremation plot will choose to pause at our memorial too, and reflect upon the period of change we have all seen.
Without revealing too much, we anticipate that the design of the tablets will encourage discussion. We appreciate that coronavirus has impacted our entire population somehow – whether you have been bereaved of a person or a variety of experiences, the difference is stark. It is something which the younger generations have found particularly tough. Adults have struggled to explain this situation which is new even to them to their children, and very young children either can’t perceive the reason behind adults suddenly covering their faces and encouraging them not to touch things, or were so young at the outset that they know no differently.
All of these things were uppermost in our minds when we created the design – it will serve as a reminder of what we have lived through, and an opportunity to share memories of how things have changed and how we have all coped, as well as those we are grateful to know or have known.
Whilst the letter cutters are hard at work completing our designs and the bulbs are in the ground growing strong roots, the team at the office will set to their next task – organising an unveiling event. We are hoping that the situation will allow us to put together a short service of dedication, and will invite as many people are as safely able to attend.
Stay tuned to our blog and social media feeds as we’ll be continuing to share the journey as it progresses!