Let’s hear it for the good guys

Charles 9 Comments

“Nice guys”, they say, “don’t win ball games.” Well, maybe they don’t – but they certainly make nice coffins. Here’re two of them.

First, come with me to Scotland to the tiny fishing village of Johnshaven (above) and meet Robert Lawrence and his wife, Charlotte. In his workshop Robert, artist and lover of wood, makes the Honest Coffin. It’s a plain, pine box. It’s made from Scottish larch. No chemicals, no polish, no stain. No screws, either: Robert uses oak dowels. And it’s strong – strong as can be. Robert describes the making process as creative, not production line.

What got him into coffins? He went to some funerals, didn’t much like what he saw and decided to do better. We rather think he has.

Robert sells only through the trade except to families acting as their own funeral director, to whom he will sell direct.

Come with me now to Woodbridge in Suffolk and meet Martin Wenyon, another lovely person. He’s a naval architect who’s had an eventful life which, recently, entailed looking after forests and castles in Bohemia. He makes his coffins from imported timber, but he’s soon switching over to native timber. They’re almost, possibly just not quite, as eco-friendly as Honest Coffins. Martin’s are painted, and lend themselves to decoration, which is why he is currently forming partnerships with artists and marketing a range of Coffins by Artists.

Martin sells his coffins direct to the public. £485 +  free delivery within 100 miles of Woodbridge. 


  1. Charles

    Lovely boxes, both. And heart-warming accounts of the nice blokes making them.

    Current crem practice being what it is, I see why the box thing endures. But for burial, and perhaps especially for women (this is a non-rational, personal perspective), I feel a box to be excessive. Something softer and less of a waste-to-bury seems preferable to me.

    1. Charles

      Thank you Kathryn,
      Sorry for the delay replying, I’m just begining to understand how blogs work. Yes I see what you say, Honest Coffins are very rigid, my wife Charlotte says a coffin that is ‘softer’ with curved edges would appeal to people. I am working on a design to do just that. A feminine coffin is what Charlotte has suggested and think that is what you have in mind too, being something of a neanderthal myself, I was a bit slow off the mark with this one.

  2. Charles

    Beautiful, but sadly, as far as I can see, both missing useable handles. This small but crucial detail can mean the difference between family members of all ages and both sexes carrying the coffin, or the default retired badly suited strangers. Rope handles Robert?

  3. Charles

    Oh yes they do Rupert,

    My coffins come with rope handles. 6, 18mm sisal rope handles to be precise. The photograph does not show these which is a stupid oversight. When the next coffin is finished (shortly) I’ll send you another photograph.


  4. Charles

    Both good to see. Is there a market for hired coffins for cremations? A body could be taken out of a top quality coffin after its use during the ceremony, and then be incinerated in a shroud, allowing the coffin to be recycled again and again.

    1. Charles

      Interesting Richard.
      I took a day or two to think about this one. I suppose we think nothing of hiring a hearse or a limo. Why not a coffin? I guess, it depends whether a coffin is a vessel for the funeral service (or gathering or party) or a safe & tidy environment that provides a degree of separation under ground or in the cremator.
      I make all kinds of wooden sculptural embellishment (optional) for my coffins from religious to flamboyant which could form a hire fleet. In conclusion then – it is possible.


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