No Corps of any Person or Persons shall be buried in any Shirt, Shift; Sheet or Shroud, or any thing whatsoever made or mingled with Flax, Hemp, Silk, Hair, Gold or Silver, or in any Stuff or Thing, other than what is made of Sheeps Wool only.
Thus spoke the Burial in Woollen Act of 1667, a protectionist measure “intended for the lessening the Importation of Linen from beyond the Seas, and the Encouragement of the Woollen and Paper Manufactures of this Kingdom.”
And it brings me to my second nomination for Best in Show at the National Funeral Exhibition. Like all the best developments in funerals it is a triumphant reinvention of the past. Step forward, Hainsworth’s woollen coffin.
I love it. Tactile. Snug. Eye-friendly.The blanket stitch is an inspired touch. For me, it was the sensation of the show.
When funeral directors eye up a new coffin they ask Does it leak? Does it creak? Does it sag? They’re a baleful lot, hard to please. They’ll ask the same questions of this coffin and add an extra one: Will it mark? Answer: not if you’re careful.
Most of our eco-coffins travel here from the other side of the world. And, for all that their carbon footprint is actually tiny (Ecoffins calculate that shipping theirs from China costs but 4.63 car miles per coffin), it is good to have something indigenous and local.
These coffins are made from the wool of Dorset Horn sheep. They are biodegradable, organic and 100% natural. They are made in Leeds, a city built on wool, in one of the last woollen mills in the country.
There’s an undeniable romance about that.