Poppy Mardall and her colleagues Isabel, Kate, Rosanna and Philippa. Poppy, a fine-arts graduate, started the company after leaving her previous role as deputy director at Sotheby’s to work out how to do something with her life that was ‘meaningful and frontline’. Personal experience had led her to do some research into the funeral industry, and although never planning to be an undertaker, she was shocked to find how rigid and stereotypical the business was. She had been drawn to the subject of death and dying because it seemed to be an unfashionable subject, and this made her feel it truly needed work. Given some wise advice from the Natural Death Centre that ‘families don’t need lots of ‘middle-men’, they just need someone who can help them with practical things’, Poppy set about becoming just that.
She had never seen a dead body before deciding to enter the funeral world, but after researching the training options available and being disappointed by what she found, Poppy decided to try and gain experience by spending time with undertakers. She visited funeral directors and asked to spend time in their businesses, then spent months mostly in mortuaries and behind the scenes before launching Poppy’s Funerals in 2012.
From the beginning, the company was different – Poppy has clear ideas about what is important and her mission is to empower and support people to have the funeral that is right for them She believes passionately in helping people to take creative control of their funerals, with the support and encouragement from Poppy’s Funerals’ staff if needed. Poppy is very hands on, but also strongly supportive of her growing team and keen that they feel empowered to run funerals themselves. “They are all legends, fabulous, kind, genuine people who are quite capable of helping families with their funerals. I step in when I’m needed, but I’ve had to move my office out of the main office to stop myself getting involved in everything.” With a one year old daughter and a determination to keep a good work life balance, Poppy spends time away from work with her husband and family and friends, and loves live music, travel, and swimming in the sea.
The business operates from the most beautiful premises, a lovely light Victorian building in the grounds of Lambeth Cemetery. Formerly the cemetery office, Poppy’s Funerals now has the use of the entire building, with three airy reception rooms downstairs used for family meetings, and the offices located upstairs. A few steps away is one of the original chapels which now houses Poppy’s bespoke mortuary – unlike any other we have visited – and a small family room where families can spend time with the person who died. Everywhere in both buildings there is the same feeling of light and air; the meeting rooms are comfortable and stylishly furnished, uncluttered by any brochures or funeral-related displays, with the trademark poppies branding in vinyl on the glass of the windows ensuring privacy from passing eyes. The mortuary space is high ceilinged, with sunlight streaming in through the arched windows. The new hardwood flooring complements the light wooden paneling on the walls left over from the days that this building was used for funeral ceremonies – there is no plastic flooring here. Large fridges in one corner face coffins on neat racking, and there is a spacious washing area where families are welcome to come and help wash and dress their relative ready for their funeral.
Since the early days, when the office was in Poppy’s bedroom and she rented facilities firstly from other funeral directors and then from a public mortuary and hired equipment as she needed, the ethos of the company has been the same. Kind, genuinely warm people helping bereaved families have a better experience of funerals by supporting them with whatever they want or need at the time. Poppy herself completely embodies the values of her company, and she has drawn some of the nicest people to work with her.
Isabel Potter was on her way to work one day when she read an article about the then fledgling company and immediately felt a strong urge to hand in her notice and go and work with Poppy doing funerals differently. She lasted a few weeks before meeting Poppy and starting work with her, doing whatever was needed, and is now one of the two senior managers in the small team of six. Isabel is passionately devoted to her work, and her enthusiasm for it is as strong as Poppy’s. “She’s so infectious,” Isabel said, “Poppy is so determined to change the world of funerals for the better and you just can’t help being inspired by her.”
Kate Brewer, the other senior manager, is an artist who was working as a florist when a friend told her about Poppy’s Funerals. She has now been with the company for two years, and loves every day and every aspect of her work. We asked her if she found her job fulfilling? “More than I could ever have dreamt,” she replied, becoming quite emotional as she spoke. “I can’t imagine ever doing anything else.” Both Isabel and Kate look after funerals as well as working closely on projects with Poppy to develop the business.
Philippa joined the company a year ago. Her role is Office Co-ordinator, and as well as being the main answerer of the phone, she deals mainly with the logistics, ordering coffins, booking crematoria, cemeteries and churches and liaising with coroners, vicars and mortuaries. Like all the Poppy’s team, she is hands on with funerals whenever needed, and when we visited she and her colleague Rosanna had just completed a Simple Cremation at Lambeth Crematorium just across the way. It is a perfect arrangement, as the coffin is simply taken from the mortuary in the old chapel through the grounds of the cemetery to the crematorium early in the morning – simple, straightforward and cost effective.
Rosanna is the newest of the five women in the team – like all the staff at Poppy’s, she came into the job from outside the funeral business so had no preconceptions of how a funeral ‘should’ be carried out. Rosanna’s main role is running funerals, something she completely loves. The sixth member of the team is Frazer, the only man currently full time. This isn’t a deliberate thing; it just happens that the best people for the job have so far been mostly female. Other freelance staff, both men and women, come and help as and when they are required.
All five of the women at Poppy’s take turns looking after the phones after hours, and once a family makes contact with the company, they will deal with the same member of staff throughout, from the family meeting to the day of the funeral and beyond.
If you want a traditional style black funeral with a hearse and limousines then Poppy’s can do that. Or if you want a simpler version with either the silver Ford Galaxy or the ‘Poppymobile’ (a decorated Mercedes Vito with a lovely hand made wooden deck) then that’s what you get. Or any variation in between. They will do whatever it is that you want. Their standard attire is either a smart green fleece with black trousers and shoes or black suits, though they will wear anything that a family wants them to. They’re very keen to encourage family involvement too – family members of any age, from 8 to 80, are welcome to carry the coffin if they want to and are encouraged to do so. Poppy’s also offer an stripped down ‘A to B’ service, transport only for families in Greater London wanting to organise a funeral without a funeral director but who need a little help with getting the body ‘from a to b’ on the day.
Everyone at Poppy’s has the same passion for down to earth, personal, professional service for the families that choose them. Everyone utterly believes in giving families whatever they want or need from a funeral, and they pride themselves on giving honest, straightforward advice – as much or as little as is needed. Overridingly, Poppy and all her team believe in caring for the dead people in their charge with gentle, careful hands and looking after them as if their families were standing beside them. Each dead person is called by name, there is no ‘deceased’ at Poppy’s, nor is there any embalming. Simple, natural and caring, completely professional yet totally human, the Poppy’s team brings a refreshing new approach to funerals that attracts admiration and respect from all they encounter.
Pretty much everything. The best way to see this is to look at their excellent website. If you like it, then Poppy’s Funerals is probably just right for you. If your reaction is different, then you’ll probably be better looking for another type of funeral director. Everyone at Poppy’s is very conscious that their way of approaching funerals is not for everyone, and would be completely unfazed if a family decided not to use their service after meeting them. They positively encourage clients to be sure they are comfortable with the way they work, nothing worries them more than a family not being completely happy with the funeral arrangements. They are fiercely proud of what they do and conscious of how incredibly important it is to get everything right, every time. They would much rather you went somewhere else than stayed with them and weren’t happy.
Poppy is very keen to spread the word about doing funerals differently, and takes education very seriously, providing myth busting / behind the scene talks for local healthcare professionals or anyone else who is interested. The company also runs a very successful rolling five-day internship programme for people who are keen to come and spend time behind the scenes. They are always on the lookout for great people to join their team and fall in love with the work just as they have all done.
This is a business with a huge heart. Not only do they give their clients unstinting support and encouragement, they truly believe that a meaningful, authentic, personal funeral has the power to change lives for the better, and they consider it their duty to try and achieve this for everyone that comes to them. Poppy Mardall has created a wonderful, ground-breaking new type of funeral directing in London, and her team of equally lovely people are passionately involved and completely devoted to what they are doing. Their aim is to change the world they operate in for the better, one funeral at a time. From what we saw, they are doing this every day. London is lucky to have them.
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.
Already aware that Poppy’s enabled and indeed encouraged individuality and family involvement in funerals, Kate and Philippa provided exactly that with efficiency, kindness, empathy and compassion. Thank you for caring so much.
Tuesday 28th September 2017 at 16.27pm
I cannot recommend Poppy’s Funerals highly enough; from our very first conversation, then throughout the planning and procedures, I was struck not only by the guidance that was offered but, equally important, the kind and gentle manner in which they stewarded the arrangements. There was no ‘formula’ to be adhered to and they were immensely supportive and accommodating in allowing us to create our own service in a style that was true to, and reflective of, us. Their support was fully professional yet never officious; assured but not pressured; warmly personal (and personable) whilst always respectful; relaxed and accommodating yet diligent and completely dependable. The occasion was stage-managed by Rosanna on the day quite faultlessly and un-intrusively. Nothing was too much trouble, even some months after the funeral when I had a query that Rosanna swiftly and considerately offered to handle on my behalf.
I met several members of the team, all of whom showed the same approachable style and gentle humanity; just really good people, immensely natural, efficient and responsive, who made a difficult time so much easier to cope with.
Everybody should know that it is possible to arrange a funeral ‘your own way’; Poppy’s Funerals are fabulous guardians and practitioners of that refreshing philosophy. My sincerest and appreciative thanks to you all.
Monday 18th September 2017 at 15.44pm
No-one wants to organise a funeral. Even though by the time my mother died at 86 it was the right time for her to go, and she died peacefully, organising the funeral was something I dreaded.
There’s the finality about it. There’s having to think about practical details, and make serious decisions, when in reality you’re in no fit state to do either. Most of the time you just want the whole thing to be over with, so that you can just get on with figuring out how to move on with your life, when a person you loved is no longer going to be a part of that life.
But the funeral has to be arranged. And for my mother’s funeral I’m so glad that I
found Poppy’s Funerals to help arrange things. They handled the whole affair with grace and dignity, but with friendliness too. Maybe ‘friendliness’ is the wrong word – maybe ‘empathy’ is a better word. And they had none of the tradition-encrusted formality that I dreaded I would have to wade through. My mother wasn’t the kind of person who lived a life of formality, so why should the celebration that marked the end of that life be any different?
Having said that, all the things that needed to be done, were done. And everything was explained in a way that made it easy to understand and easy to accept. Because there is legal stuff that needs to be sorted. And it was. With a minimum of fuss.
Our funeral director came over less as a stuffy ‘funeral director’ more as a
sympathetic person who would help us arrange what we wanted, and make sure
everything went as smoothly as possible. And when we weren’t sure about anything, they answered any questions simply and clearly.
I must also admit that having first come across Poppy’s Funerals via their website one of the things that drew me to them was the fact that they put prices online for all to see. To me that said something about transparency, and being straightforward. Talking about the cost of a funeral is always going to feel slightly awkward. So if someone is being upfront about it, so I don’t have to ask, or wait to be told, that felt reassuring.
The day itself was handled really well. Everything went smoothly. But it was always going to be a difficult day to get through. I guess there’s no way round that. And, in all honesty, I guess it should be a difficult day to get through.
But having the good people at Poppy’s arrange things, made everything a little bit easier for us. And I will always be grateful to them for that.
After the funeral many of our family and friends came up to me and said that the
funeral felt right for my mum. And speaking on behalf of myself and my brother, I
have to say it felt right for us too.
That’s probably as good as it gets for a funeral.
Saturday 9th September 2017 at 13.09pm
Hi. I loved reading about your attitude to assisting the funeral process. Although I am not planning on departing for a while:) but you never know! I live in Wiltshire. Could you help. Or do you know any other businesses with similar/same ethics. Many thanks. Lesley
Tuesday 12th September 2017 at 09.48am
Thank you so much for your comments. We cover anywhere within the M25 included in the prices on our website, but regularly travel further afield if it makes sense for a family. We charge additionally for each trip according to the mileage. I’d be really happy to quote for you if that’s helpful, do contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 020 3589 4726 if you’d like to talk through the options.
All my very best wishes,
Tuesday 29th August 2017 at 16.18pm
My mothers instructions were that upon her death were : “pop me in a cardboard box and bury me in the woods” so we did with the help of Poppys funeral she was laid to rest at Edenbridge natural burial ground .
What was so extraordinary was how gentle Poppys made the whole process .
Edenbridge is a quiet rural location , all the graves are hand dug and the coffin is transported to the gravesite on a wooden treassle ..
We placed a bouquet of flowers from Mums garden along with a large glass of her favourite scotch and after Poppys team placed in the grave we were left with all the time we wanted to say goodbye .
We chose to have a picnic , drink champagne and tell stories.
What was so unique and special about the day was the beauty and tranquility of the location & proceedings that made process feel natural . Along ability to say goodbye in our own way and in our own time brought a huge sense of peace .
Thank you Poppys for making a day we were dreading into a beautiful and natural experience . I will forever appreciate it .
Saturday 12th August 2017 at 19.29pm
Poppy’s friendly team really put us at ease. Their premises at Lambeth are airy and light which really helped make us feel comforted and at home. We wanted a personal send-off for my husband without all the stuffy formalities – something more modern which reflected who he was as an individual. Poppy’s openly shared their expertise to help craft a cremation service suitable for a king. They didn’t even bat an eyelid when we enquired about taking my husband for one last hurrah in a speed boat down the Thames! They simply said, let us help you with that and delivered. We couldn’t ask for more. Thank you for making something really hard, that little bit easier.
Monday 26th June 2017 at 11.21am
What an amazing team! Poppy’s funerals offered us the greatest comfort during tragic circumstances. Kate is the most caring and helpful person and dealt with all the arrangements in a most kind, gentle and professional way. All our wishes were met without an if or a but, even the outfits for the pallbearers who looked great! It was a beautiful occasion which is how it was meant to be – a celebration of life. Thank you so much Kate, especially for your hugs when I came on my own to see Penelope in your calming Chapel of Res
Sunday 21st May 2017 at 20.25pm
Thank you to Philippa at Poppy’s. Organising a funeral is never easy, but the support I received from Philippa throughout, made a difficult, emotional time a lot easier than it would otherwise have been.
All the practical matters were dealt with in an understanding, compassionate way.
She was accommodating when it transpired that I only had 2 working days to organise everything, because I had to go abroad to see a sick relative.
A huge THANK YOU.
Monday 15th May 2017 at 13.38pm
Poppy’s funerals were absolutely brilliant. At a very difficult time, they made everything so easy for us. My husband was treated with such care and respect as we were as a family. The atmosphere at the offices was calm and very friendly and the staff were always happy to help in any way possible. My husband had a very different funeral, colourful and more of a celebration of his life, which is what he had requested. The whole thing was just perfect in every way and we would like to say a huge thank you to Philippa at do everyone at Poppy’s.
Wednesday 10th May 2017 at 19.52pm
It’s always heart breaking to hear the news of losing a loved one. We literally had no idea where to start. At the end of our road is a funeral directors, we went in a day later and I was struck by how somber and unwelcoming the lady was. We knew their services wasn’t right for us and actually left more upset by thinking these people were going to be responsible for the handling of our beloved father in law and his final send off. I didn’t want it. Poppy’s was suggested to us by a family member who had used them two years previous. Although not local this was to become our best decision. For every step of the way you were dealt with in a compassionate and gentle manor. Phillipa was our contact and from the very first call I felt we had found not just the company but the person we wanted to help us through this difficult time. There isn’t a single thing you can’t ask, and re-ask because sometimes it all gets a bit overwhelming, and at every stage I literally felt I was having my hand held and supported through each of the steps. Everything felt very personable and we really feel Poppy’s helped us during this very sad time to understand all the options and to personalise our wishes for the day. The flowers chosen and made up by their florist were simply gorgeous. I really cannot recommend Poppy’s services more highly. Thank you again Poppy’s and Phillipa for being simply brilliant. You stand out from the crowd with what you do and it really does make all the difference. All the best Sophia & Graham Banks
Wednesday 19th April 2017 at 3:59 pm
I’m so thankful to have found Poppy’s, their way of dealing with this extremely painful and emotional time was incredibly natural and compassionate. They helped us create a very simple but beautiful and personal occasion. It was just what my mum would have wanted.
Friday 17th March 2017 at 1:20 pm
We chose to use Poppy’s Funerals as they seemed to be more human and certainly more modern. We were delighted with the way the whole day was managed. Couldn’t really find any fault and would be delighted to recommend them to anyone.
Wednesday 15th March 2017 at 8:34 pm
I have read and totally agree with everything that has already been said about Poppy’s Funerals . They are compassionate, professional , caring. Without Philippa l would not have been able to say good bye to my Mum in such a way that reflected her life and personality. The whole process was intimate and sensitive and l feel gave me and everyone who came on the day a sense of joy for the women, Rose, that we loved. They can be no higer recommendation . Thank you all at Poppy’s.
Wednesday 8th March 2017 at 4:04 pm
Kate was terrific, kind, sensitive and very helpful in arranging exactly the small intimate family service we wanted. We were able to arrange for a beautiful bespoke design on our cardboard coffin and when my
Mum saw the flower spray she thought they looked fantastic. We felt cared for and special from the moment the telephone was answered and we could not have asked for more.
Sunday 29th January 2017 at 1:45 pm
I was so glad I turned to Poppy’s Funerals when my mother died. Right from the very first interaction the staff could not have been more gentle and caring, and managed that very difficult act of allowing me both to choose what I wanted and guided me where I needed assistance. Philippa and her colleagues managed to combine unobtrusive assistance and genuine support. My mother’s funeral service requirements were not straightforward, but they catered for every aspect with great efficiency and grace. The closing chapter of my mother’s life was dealt with dignity and humanity. I cannot recommend them highly enough.
Wednesday 30th November 2016 at 8:27 pm
I wasn’t absolutely sure what I wanted for my aunt’s funeral, but I knew what I didn’t want. I knew the music I wanted to play, I knew who I wanted to speak during the ceremony, I knew what I wanted to say.
I had looked at several funeral firm’s websites but none of them grabbed me. I was given a recommendation to check out Poppy’s. I phoned. That was it. One call, one conversation. Job done.
From beginning to end the team were totally supportive. I phoned and asked this. I phoned an hour later and asked that. No problem, just happy voices on the end of the phone, happy to talk, happy to help. Kate, who fielded my first call to Poppy’s, thank you so much. Philippa, who picked up all the odds and ends phone calls, thank you too.
Then I went to the office to sort out the details and I met Isabel. She was wonderful. My previous experience of funeral people has been dark, sombre. I told the girls at Poppy’s that I had expected a dull November evening, but what I actually got was a bright spring morning. Not in any disrespectful way, just… right!
Through the build-up I had support over the music, the choice of celebrant, the how/what/when, everything seamless and perfect. On the day, Isabel was there, my superstar. Doing what needed to be done, saying what needed to be said. Seamless and perfect. After the service everyone remarked on what a nice service, what a nice goodbye it was.
If you have read through to this point and you’re still not quite sure about Poppy’s may I suggest that you switch off your head and follow your heart. A goodbye should be personal and meaningful and memorable. Poppy’s will help you make it all of that, and more.
I was very lucky in making Poppy’s my first call. Everything was perfect. I interacted with some wonderful people from the Poppy’s team. To all you, thank you, thank you so much.
Thursday 24th November 2016 at 8:34 pm
I am so grateful to the pragmatically compassionate women at Poppy’s. They made the process so smoothe and very humane.
Sunday 20th November 2016 at 9:39 am
A huge THANK YOU to all the team at Poppy’s for making the whole process of arranging a funeral so straightforward and compassionate.
Wednesday 7th September 2016 at 2:02 pm
Poppy’s Funerals helped to make my beloved father’s funeral very special and meaningful for our family and friends. We received so many lovely compliments on the day – and ever since. Isabel and the team helped to make the painful process of saying goodbye to Dad/Grandad as positive as possible.
Tuesday 24th May 2016 at 1:44 pm
Every word of this is true. I’ve been there to see the premises on a visit from America. I am on the board of the National Home Funeral Alliance, an organization that promotes natural, hands on, in-home care after death. And Poppy’s will help with that option. The staff, the grounds, and Poppy herself are just as written.