Edward Towner, Dip FD. Fifth generation. The business was started by his great-great grandfather in 1875. Masses of heritage here, but absolutely none of the nothing-to-learn attitude which besets many such family affairs. Those vocational impulses Edward experienced when he was a teenager all guided him away from the family business: “I used to swear this would be the last job I would ever do.” The necessity to earn a living drew him back, a decision he has never regretted for a millisecond. “It’s a real privilege to help bereaved people. We can make a difference.” He also pays tribute to his colleagues. “This is a rewarding and happy place to work. I said this would be the last job I’d ever do. More than 40 years later, I’m sure it will be.”
Away from work Edward enjoys time with his family and walking the dog. He’s a rugby aficionado (Harlequins, in case you wondered). He loves playing classical guitar and sailing but not, as he says, “at the same time.”
Alongside Edward there is a great team of people, every one of them personable, friendly and kind. We met all of the funeral directors and liked them all, all the receptionists are equally nice and the welcome you receive in each branch is warm and reassuring. From the minute you step over the threshold of each of the branches you know you will be in good hands.
Towner’s have their own memorial masons, and we went to visit their workshop, as families are welcome to do. It is a wonderful place, managed by Roger Wilcock who works there with his daughters Hebe and Alice, alongside Duncan, Piers and Gary. The skill and artistry of this team is responsible for some of the best memorials we have seen, and their passion for their work is both impressive and admirable. They have their own brochure to help guide clients in their decisions about the choice of stone and the style and type of inscription, and examples can be seen in the workshop. The quiet chipping of chisels as letters are painstakingly carved is mesmerising, a sound echoing from a past that is now almost forgotten. We strongly recommend you go and see for yourself if you are planning to organise a memorial.
Everything from immaculately traditional to as you like it. If you want something highly informal and colourful, “I would be happy to raid my extensive wardrobe of ghastly Hawaiian shirts!” One memorable funeral involved bearers dressing as the cast from the Rocky Horror Show, complete with ripped fishnet tights – requested by the family and probably never forgotten by the guests attending!
Their hearses and limousines are Mercedes. “We are not fixated on our vehicles like some funeral directors. Ours are smart and clean. If hybrid hearses were available we would buy them.” Both Edward and company director Colin Miller drive a Prius. They will, of course, use any sort of vehicle you specify.
Being the only family owned funeral business in the locality is something that marks Edward and his team apart from other undertakers. There is no pressure selling here, no targets to meet nor shareholders to satisfy. “You can see people visibly relax when they realise we’re not going to sell them anything they don’t want.”
There’s a strong commitment here to approachability and transparency. Some funeral directors can be forbidding. Not here. At the three Towner’s funeral homes, the environment is friendly and reassuringly normal. There are no drapes or artificial flowers. Edward has a particular dislike for artificial flowers, and won’t have any on his premises. Instead his neighbour, Geoff who runs a florist business provides fresh flowers for both St. Leonards & Bexhill, and a local Battle florist provides them for the branch there.
The offices are light and bright, with lovely oak decor and doors. The meeting rooms where funeral arrangements are made are smart and businesslike but not intimidating at all, and the computers on the desk are used by the funeral directors to check Google street view when working out with you the best way to get to and from your house, they’re not there for inputting information while you’re talking about funeral arrangements.
Behind the scenes everything is just as you’d expect from a business like this – orderly, organised and impressive. People who have died are taken to the local branch where they will stay until the funeral – Edward feels strongly that this is the way things should be done.
Towner’s people are normal people, just like you and I. “We don’t stalk about dressed in black like a bunch of crows – we wear normal business suits, and only black for the funeral itself.” Pricing here is transparent. You check prices, item by item, on their excellent website. They’ve had their prices online since they first had a website, and can’t understand why other funeral directors don’t do the same. And they’re happy to provide any individual part of their service if that’s what you want. No packages here. Only buy what you want. See the full team on the website.
“Our philosophy is to treat each funeral as the only funeral we are ever going to do.” That’s some commitment. They say something else very interesting about themselves, too: “We are very keen to provide a family with the funeral they need, not the one that’s easiest for us to provide.” We wish we heard that more often! The result is, in the words of a local funeral celebrant, that “there is a really special feel to Towner’s. You’ve got to go there to experience it. It’s a wonderful place.”
Price list here. Your call will be answered at St Leonards by Receptionists Gill Little or Caroline Smith or Office Manager, Robert Duncan; at Battle by Jane Walker; and at Bexhill by Penny Kirkham. That’s if one of the funeral directors doesn’t get to the phone first. Outside of office hours you will speak to either Office Manager Robert Duncan, one of the Directors of the company, Edward Towner or Colin Miller, or one of the funeral directors: Duncan, Ewan, Stephen, Nick or Anita. Whichever funeral director you first meet will be there for you throughout. Direct cremation from £784 exclusive of third-party costs. Details here. Yes to a home visit. Yes to you coming in and laying out and dressing the person who has died. Yes to same-sex person to lay out and dress the person who has died. Not pro-embalming unless there is a very good reason for it. Will gladly work with those who wish to care for their dead at home. Experienced in working with families from all ethnic and religious groups. Excellent secular celebrants on their books and, rare for a funeral director, will always liaise with the celebrant after you have met “just to make sure we all know what’s happening.” Full marks for this.
Proud of its history, with much to be proud about, Towner’s is also forward looking and open to new ideas. You find here a rare combination of real care and high intelligence. As good as an independent family funeral director can be, so, one of the very best. Very, very nice people. A great team. The last family-owned funeral directors in your area.
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.
Wednesday 14th September 2016 at 12:24 pm
My family and I would just like to thank everyone concerned regarding my mothers Cremation on the 07/09/16. I was especially impressed with the compassion of staff and professionalism conducted throughout the process. (Nothing was to much trouble). Robert put my family at ease and calmly explained the services they provided. The cremation was fitting for my mother and the staff at the funeral directors were wonderful. top class…You should be very proud of what you do.
I would thoroughly recommend the services of Arthur C Towner Ltd to everyone.
Friday 13th May 2016 at 9:29 am
I would like to thank Ewan and the team at Towner’s in Bexhill for making my father’s funeral so easy to arrange. The funeral was in Thanet which is at least 2 hours drive but this was not a problem. Everything ran very smoothly and the celebrant we chose was amazing. This is not something you really want to do and could have been really stressful, but Ewan was brilliant at putting us at ease.
Towner’s have been our families choice of funeral director for many years and they have consistently provided an excellent service.
Monday 15th February 2016 at 6:22 pm
I would like to say from first contact by phone to the actual cremation everything that Nick Willis and his colleagues did has been fantastic – apart from the price – which was incredibly reasonable!
I rang 3 or 4 undertakers and you were the only one who published prices on their website which automatically made me feel more secure. You were also the most attentive, sensitive and competitive which made my decision very easy!
You listened carefully to our needs and recommended Louse as the celebrant which could not have gone better. All my family were thrilled with what was a rather joyful service and the whole day went without a hitch and NO criticism which, in my family, is something of a miracle! This was, in no small way, down to the excellence of service provided by Nick and his colleagues at Towners.
All in all you did a great job and I would have absolutely no problem in recommending you to anyone.
Wednesday 2nd December 2015 at 11:58 pm
Just like to say a massive thank you to Arthur C Towners, in particular the Bexhill branch and Ewan, for conducting such a brilliantly respectful and sincere service for my Cousin.She was 89 and my two brothers and I were her only living relatives. My wife and four neighbours were the only other attendees at the funeral, but Ewan paid the same attention as if there was a large number of mourners. Furthermore we live over 2hours drive away and Ewan took care of everything for us. Thank you again.
Tuesday 17th November 2015 at 5:56 pm
Wanted to say a great big thankyou for looking after us for my mothers funeral and then my fathers you all done an excellent job everything was A1 what a lovely run business brilliant from start to finish wyndham family.
Monday 16th November 2015 at 2:49 pm
I would like to thank Arthur C Towner Ltd for their arrangements of my wifes funeral in September. Nothing was too much trouble. I felt listened to and respected, safe in the knowledge that they were treating my wife with the dignity that she deserved. They made several recommendations, such as a local flower shop and memorial services-both of which provided a great service.
I would recommend Towner’s……..
Wednesday 24th June 2015 at 10:15 am
Would like to say a big thank you for the way you conducted my husbands
funeral in February fred arnold to your credit a great service
thank you again mrs barbara arnold
Friday 23rd May 2014 at 10:56 pm
I would just like to say a big thank you to Towner’s and their team for helping me arrange my brother’s funeral. We were looked after by Stephen Groves and he was not only very professional but also extremely helpful at to us at this difficult time and we would have no hesitation in recommending you to anyone.
Monday 14th October 2013 at 4:02 pm
I am writing to express our gratitude to you for the amazing job you have done in taking care of everything from the minute we met. Your professionalism is truly second to none.
We come into contact with professional people and businesses on a daily basis and I can honestly say that you are one of the most exceptional professionals I have ever come across, as is your company Towner’s. You made us all feel that we were completely in safe hands at such a vulnerable time, as you were always understanding, informative, helpful, honest, fair, efficient, reliable, confident and in control where necessary, but above all you are an absolute gentleman.
We would like you to thank everyone at Towner’s for their input, as every person we came into contact with, were exceptional at there job and a credit to the company, which is something you see less and less of these days. You were all outstanding and we appreciate all your hard work, it means a lot to us.
From Stuart, Liza, Alex, and Joshua we just wanted to say a massive thank you!
Saturday 10th November 2012 at 4:59 pm
My wife died recenlty and I chose Arthur Towners as it was a local funeral directors and not a multi-national organisation.
Both Ian Fishwick and his secretary where efficient, kind, and able to bring a lightness in what was a very sad occasion to me as well as my two sons.
I had chosen to give permission for my wife’s brain to be used for research and they both went to great lengths to make me feel it was worthwhile doing something which might help others with the same disease. When I went into the Funeral Parlour on the following day Penny stopped me and quietly said, “Your wife is safely back in our care and was treated with great respect while at Eastbourne Hospital.”
I went back later to see my wife in the chapel of rest and that occasion too was dealt with by kindness and my son and I were left in peace to just sit with her for as long as we wished.
The kind, unhurried and quiet way that the actual funeral was carried out made me feel that I was amongst caring friends throughout it all.
I would like to thank them for all they did and would recommend their services to anyone.
Wednesday 7th November 2012 at 9:59 pm
As a fellow professional, I came to visit a friend who had died in Battle one Saturday morning, we visited the wrong funeral directors. I thought we had blown our chances of seeing him when they were closed but they opened esspecially for us in the afternoon. They did not know I was in the funeral industry. I just wanted to say as a ‘mystery shopper’ that they were excellent and nothing was too much trouble. Keep up the great work
Thursday 21st June 2012 at 10:31 am
On behalf of the family, I would like to thank Edward and his wonderful team at Towners for their service following the death of my husband, Tony. We have really appreciated the personal touch, flexibility and professionalism. Nothing seemed too much trouble and I feel quite confident that we could not have improved upon any of the arrangements made for Tony or for us.
Thursday 5th January 2012 at 6:04 pm
Colin – Thank you so much for all your very kind attention in helping me arrange my mother’s funeral. Your calmness and support made a very sad time easier for me to deal with. From the day I stepped through your door and spoke to Mr Welsh, I just knew I had made the correct decision in entrusting Towners with my mother’s funeral. I believe you and your colleagues gave me far more than a service; it was your warmth and professionalism that eased my sense of panic. Everyone’s sympathetic understanding and respect ensured that I felt able to trust you with my mother. At moments of great sadness, everyone needs a friend to guide them through the emotional maze and I really felt that you and your colleagues were offering a friendship rather than a service. Nothing seemed too much trouble and the attention to detail was so professional. I was not, for one second, made to feel that any of my requests were impossible to meet and you succeeded in ensuring everything was as perfect as it could have been.
Finally, I cannot think of a better way of thanking you than to tell you that I will be fully recommending your Company to anyone who requires a thoroughly professional service.
Friday 16th December 2011 at 11:32 am
We were fortunate that Towner’s recently handled the arrangements for my mother’s funeral. The funeral was carried out in a most professional and dignified way. Edward Towner’s friendliness, empathy, kindness, experience and attention to detail were very much appreciated by all the family and he and his team certainly made things much easier for us all at such a difficult time. Thank you
Friday 11th November 2011 at 10:51 am
Edward – I don’t think we could have asked for a more professional, flexible and forward looking firm to handle our Mum’s funeral. There was no cobbling together a CD or tape, no rushing around trying to find someone to design and then print a service sheet – you have all the most up-to-date equipment which made everything very easy – which at such a time is all that one could ask. Thank you for both your kindness and efficiency.
Monday 11th April 2011 at 4:16 pm
On behalf of my mother and myself I wish to express my thanks and appreciation for your company’s handling of my father’s Kenneth’s recent funeral.
Having never organised one before, from the moment I entered your website I felt I was entering a very professional organisation. The website was able to answer all my initial questions with ease. The moment we stepped into your office in St. Leonards we felt very well looked after. Throughout the whole sad process we were treated with utmost care, respect and professionalism. Thank you.
Friday 27th August 2010 at 8:00 pm
ewan and co made my family at total ease with my dads preparations for his funeral.
Thankyou so much for a smooth, worry free day …. my dad would of been so proud
Sunday 1st August 2010 at 8:42 pm
I have been working for Towners for 4 years now and they are by far and away the best colleagues I could’ve hoped to work alongside when I embarked in this line of work. Working for any other firm in my opinion would be a step backwards.
Wednesday 21st July 2010 at 12:33 pm
I have worked with Towners on a profesional level and have experianced their wonderful service personally when we lost my sister.
I cannot reccomend them more highly. Thank you for all your care and attention it ment alot to all of us.
Tuesday 20th July 2010 at 12:15 pm
i worked for AC Towners about three years ago and then moved to East Anglia. They really are the best in the area and a real team to work with.
Tuesday 29th June 2010 at 10:36 am
I also have the pleasure of working with Towners.
Good folks to work with; their clients feel really cared for and you know that if something is requested, it will be done.
Well done on the recommendation, chaps.
Monday 21st June 2010 at 8:56 am
Well I do work for A.C.Towner and I have done for the last 23 Years, and what a joy it is. Wonderful peolple all of them.
Saturday 19th June 2010 at 8:33 am
Wow I want to work with these people!!!
They sound everything I aspire to be when I pass my DipFd in March 2011
Forward thinking and being open to new ideas
truly in my opinion is the way of the future.