A. G. Down belongs to the family of Eric & Joyce Dunford and Julian & Karen Hussey, who own and between them are director in six funeral homes, four in East Devon and two in West Dorset. The business has grown from the original single branch at A. G. Down, built up by Eric, as retiring family funeral directors, recognising the qualities and values of the family, have asked them to carry on their work. All the funeral homes remain embedded in their communities, staffed by local people.
There are four directors of the business: Eric & Joyce Dunford, Joyce’s son, Julian and his wife, Karen. Eric and Joyce have now stepped back from the day-to-day running of the funeral homes, but they retain a strong interest. Eric is Bridport born and bred, as is Julian. Joyce was born in the Marshwood Vale. Karen and Julian met when they were students at England’s leading college for funeral directors.
We find them to be warm, utterly genuine people who want the best for their clients and bring out the best in their staff. Julian and Karen are very normal, natural people — and both have a good sense of humour. They have one sports-mad, school-age son, a daughter who is an apprentice hairdresser and a lovely chocolate labrador, Archie, who is often to be found at whichever branch they are working at.
Away from work, Julian is a longstanding member of Round Table. He is the chairman of the youth section of the rugby club where his son plays — and sometimes they let him drive the majorette van for the troupe his daughter is involved with. Karen’s ‘leisure’ activities are also family-centred. She is involved with the majorettes, is often to be seen making bacon sarnies for rugby players and enjoys taking part in local amateur shows.
Julian and Karen are committed to ethical conduct in the way they run their business. They will treat you fairly — they are passionate about straight dealing. Their pricing structure is transparent and is posted on their website. They will not sting you for hidden extras, they don’t take commission from their suppliers or any monies in advance. Many funeral directors will collect 10 per cent of the price of the flowers from their florist. As Karen says, “With us you get 10 per cent more flowers.” They have no objection to you buying your coffin on the internet (most funeral directors hate this) but, if you want to do that, be very careful who you buy from. See our Coffins page. Once you have agreed your arrangements you will be given a proper estimate (in writing) and you will at no time be pressured to spend more than you have budgeted for.
Julian and Karen are hands-on with the running of the business and arrange and conduct Funerals in all the towns where they have interests. They are firm believers in good training for their staff and quality service for families and staunch supporters of the NAFD, the National Association of Funeral Directors. Both Julian and Karen hold the NAFD Diploma in Funeral Directing.
The Funeral Director here in Bridport is Julian Hussey and the administrator is Catherine Chick. If you ring during the day, you will most likely speak to one of them — or possibly Julian or Karen. Both are exceptionally nice and good at what they do. Catherine puts family first. She also likes reading, socialising and travelling. She joined the company in 2012 and is the only full time administrator. Families who have dealt with the business for a long time still hold Eric in high esteem. If you wish Eric to be there on the day rather than the younger generation, just ask.
The premises in Bridport are large, bright and airy. You enter into the reception area where Catherine works, behind which is the arranging room. Further back is the tiny office where Julian and Karen have their desks, and the chapel of rest. A door at the back leads to the staircase to take you upstairs where there is a spacious ceremony room that you can use for your ceremony if you wish, with an adjacent dining room where Joyce will provide refreshments, or you can bring your own or hire a caterer. Pause on the way to admire the large collection of top hats, and the vintage mobile phones that Julian has acquired (the significance of the ancient mobile phone at the centre of the table is that this was what finally freed funeral directors from staying at home while on call).
Below the stairs is the old parish bier awaiting a bit of work before being used to raise money for charity. At the rear of the premises behind a locked door is the mortuary and workshop, (the domain of workshop manager Dave Paul) with coffin storage and garage space for the vehicles that cover the Dorset funerals (the Devon funerals have their own fleet).
At Bridport they also have their own Monumental Workshop, with their stonemason, David Hobbs, who has been with the company for over 20 years.
If it’s a traditional funeral you want, that’s what you’ll get. Your funeral director will dress extremely smartly for the occasion and lead the procession in the customary manner. The vehicles will be Jaguars, and very handsome they are, too. If, on the other hand, you’d like something different or more alternative or less formal, that’s no problem at all. They’ll be governed by your wishes and they’ll do as you ask — willingly.
The focus will always be on giving you what you want. You will be able to explore choices and consider all the options. You will be offered guidance, but your funeral director will not take over. You will be given informed advice about other service providers who are right for you, from celebrants to caterers to florists. You will always be treated with courtesy and respect, and you will be encouraged to take all the time you need.
Quite possibly the only funeral homes in Dorset and Devon that publish their prices openly on their website – and offer you a copy to take away with you. We especially like the way they put your wishes and interests first in everything. A business consultant would advise them to have just one mortuary for their four Devon funeral homes to enable them to maximise their profits, but they won’t do that because they don’t think you’d like it. Each funeral home is completely self-contained and people who have died rest in the town where they passed away, in the same premises where you make the arrangements.
You’ll find that your funeral director will be very happy to go the extra mile for you in all sorts of ways — at no extra charge. If, for example, you would like the funeral to be arranged and conducted by the funeral director at another branch — because, perhaps, he or she conducted a funeral for your family some time ago — that’s no problem, they will drive on over for you.
If you want to come and visit the person who has died in the evening, that’s no problem. Make an appointment and take all the time you like.
• Your first call will be answered, during the day, by either Catherine, Julian or Karen. At night, it will be answered by either Joyce, Eric, Julian or Karen at home. They will advise you what needs to happen next.
• Home Visits – Very happy to make arrangements with you either at the funeral home or at your own home.
• Embalming – Not as a matter of routine. Only when it is your wish and / or the Funeral Director feel it is necessary, in which case, they will talk it through with you.
• Continuity of Care – The person with whom you arrange the funeral will lead the cortege on the day except in exceptional circumstances. If it can’t be that person, then the funeral director who will be in charge on the day will introduce him/herself well in advance.
• Family Participation – If you want to carry the coffin, they’ll show you how. If you’d like to come in and wash and dress the person who has died, they’ll be there for you. If you’d just like to come in do their hair, that’s absolutely no problem. They believe in empowering you to do what you want and they help you in any way they can.
• Same sex person to wash and dress? – Yes, if you want. No problem. Just ask.
• Ethnic Specialism – Knowledgeable about the funeral customs of all faith groups, and every branch has the facilities for ritual cleansing, etc.
• Local Celebrants – Excellent local celebrants to choose from if you do not want a religious minister.
• Home arranged funerals – Will gladly work with you in any way you want if you who wish to care for the person who has died at home: see the Do It All Yourself section of the Good Funeral Guide website.
• Website – Lots of useful info well set out. All prices shown, a custom all-too-rare in the funerals business.
• Client Support – After the funeral, call in anytime for a cuppa – they’ll always be pleased to see you. If you need a bit of extra support, they’ll put you in touch with people who can help.
• Money matters – Not the cheapest, but then there’s nothing bargain-basement about the service you’ll get. By no means the most expensive, either. Shop around — you owe it to yourself to do that — and you’ll find them very competitively priced. Considering the value of the experience you will receive, we reckon them good value for money. If money is a problem they’ll do their very best to help you. The only way they can do that is if you are completely upfront about your situation, so don’t hold back. If you need to apply to the Social Fund for a Funeral Payment, they’ll guide you through the paperwork. If you’d like to pay for your funeral in advance, they sell Perfect Choice funeral plans, one of only two funeral plans we believe to be absolutely safe and reliable.
Parking – Offstreet parking available: drive under the archway just south of the shop and park down the side. You can sometimes park in South Street. There are public, pay-and-display car parks close by.
All the feel of a family funeral director and all the hallmarks of an extremely well-run business with a very big heart. A funeral home that’s in tune with its community, staffed by exceptionally kind and knowledgeable people you will feel comfortable with.
Any decisions you take on engaging the services of a funeral director should be based on your views and research. You should not rely solely upon the views and opinions offered by us.