Freeman Brothers Funeral Directors was established in Horsham, West Sussex in 1855. Currently owned and operated by the fifth generation of the Freeman family to run the business, the company now also has offices in Billingshurst, Crawley and Hurstpierpoint. At the core of the organisation’s ethos is a commitment to the communities the team continues to serve. It’s now a year since the company’s fourth branch, in Hurstpierpoint, opened. Here, Funeral Arranger and Community Co-Ordinator Chrissie Wilkie reflects on the year which has passed, and details how the company will be celebrating the latest milestone.
Anniversaries should be celebrated and Freeman Brothers’ newest branch in Hurstpierpoint is proud to be celebrating its first anniversary on 27th February.
We wanted to commemorate the occasion by doing something a little bit different, but totally synonymous with how we as a Funeral Director works; and that is by giving back to the local community.
We have been incredibly fortunate to have been welcomed into the village of Hurst and there is no better way to say ‘thank you’, than by sharing it with some rather special people and other local good causes.
Anniversaries and cake go hand in hand and we couldn’t think of anything more befitting than sharing our cake with the people with dementia, carers and volunteers at Know Dementia’s Memory Moments Café in Hurstpierpoint on Thursday 5th March.
‘Paper’ usually marks a first anniversary and we have been busy reaching out to local organisations and charities to provide them with an assortment of arts and crafts supplies that will help various ages, from young to old, come together.
When the beautifully restored building that sits on the corner of Hurst High Street and South Avenue was unveiled to the public in February 2019, the general consensus was met with praise and good will from the locals. There were a few who were yet to be convinced that Hurst needed yet another Funeral Directors and I think were secretly hoping for a coffee shop.
So what exactly sets us apart from other Funeral Directors? Aside from having local, knowledgeable and caring staff overseeing the day-to-day running of the branch; Freeman Brothers is renowned for employing a first class workforce in all of their branches; Billingshurst, Crawley and their Head Office in Horsham – it’s quite simple; Freeman Brothers is one of few independently owned and family-run funeral directors to remain in the hands of the family which established the company.
This alone is a momentous achievement, but it also means that we have the advantage of doing things a little differently compared to other funeral directors that are part of a national chain. Our vision places us at the heart of the community, and whilst the core business is arranging and conducting funerals for local families, the company’s embedded values means that we are also here to provide continuous support to the people of Hurst throughout the year.
It’s a rather traditional approach, one that I wish more companies would adopt, that firmly believes that to make a real difference you have to become part of the village and be willing to put back what society has deemed worthy of giving you in the first place.
Since our branch opened almost a year ago, we have worked hard to build local links with an array of different organisations which, without a helping hand, may struggle for resources or recognition.
This has seen us get involved with many village charity events, including being involved in Hurst Open Gardens, with donations going to St Peter and St James Hospice; and the Hurst Super Sunday where – thanks to the generosity of many – we were able to donate to Know Dementia. We also opened our doors during the Hurst Christmas fair, which raised much -needed funds for Kangaroos, a small charity helping children and young adults with disabilities.
Throughout the year we have also welcomed the opportunity to host our own events; ‘Big Deal, Small Talk’ took place during Dying Matters Awareness Week, and focused on opening up discussion on bereavement. I found this particularly challenging, as whilst it is completely natural for Russell and I to talk freely about death, how were we going to broach this topic with the general public and generate interest in what is still a very taboo subject? Despite my concerns, the event turned out to be an extremely beneficial and rewarding day, which brought local businesses and people together.
Our final event of the year, was probably one of our biggest and symbolic of them all, our inaugural Remembrance Service. Bringing families who we have helped throughout the year, join together with others from the local community, to remember those who are no longer with us. Being able to hold a Ceremony of Remembrance played a significant part and gave all those that attended, the opportunity to reflect and share.
All the events were incredibly successful, but in the interest of striving for better, we are never complacent and we will continue to enhance each event every year, keeping them relevant and fresh.
Involvement within the community is not the only attribute to Freeman Brothers, we are leading the way to challenge people’s misconception of what a Funeral Directors should look and feel like. Whilst we appreciate that entering the door of a Funeral Directors might not be on everyone’s to-do list, when you do, you will be amazed. The feeling of calm and tranquility you will be met with, at a time when it matters most, will only serve to reinforce the importance placed on each and every customer.
Our branch has been carefully designed to take care of every eventuality, from providing you with the utmost privacy when you need to speak with us about arranging a funeral, to accommodating and caring for your loved one at our premises until the time of the funeral. A place where innovation and tradition meet, our branch is like to no other.
There’s a real understanding that focusing on establishing genuine relationships, builds trust. When the time comes and you need our assistance, we will be there beside you to help every step of the way. Investing in building stronger connections within the community and making sure that every eventuality has already been thought of, is an assurance from us to you that we are here for the long journey ahead.
For now we are happy to be celebrating our first year and we are already making plans to help make 2020 one to remember. A key date already in the diary is our ‘Big Deal, Small Talk’ event which will take place at our branch in Hurstpierpoint on Thursday 14th May from 2pm-5pm. We are really excited to be partnering with a local company, Twisted Gin, who will be coming along to help with organising a gin tasting session.
As you’ll now know, we enjoy getting involved in a variety of activities! We’re always looking for new opportunities too, so even if what you’re looking for hasn’t been mentioned, please let us know what your ideas are. If you are an individual or a charity that needs a helping hand, please contact us, or come and visit our lovely branch in Hurstpierpoint, we are happy to help.