Recommended Funeral Directors
Arthur C Towner Ltd
Address: 2 - 4 Norman Road, St. Leonard's-on-Sea TN37 6BH, Audley House, 1, Albert Road, Bexhill-on-Sea TN40 1DG & 43, High Street, Battle TN33 0EE
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.