A new choice of funeral venue for bereaved of Plymouth

Charles 8 Comments

Devonport’s historic Guildhall is to be offered as a venue for funerals. 

Built in 1822, the Grade 1 listed building has, over the years, served as a town hall, magistrates court, library and even a mortuary. It is now a community hub which hosts exhibitions, community group activities, events, weddings and conferences. 

The initiative has been driven by celebrant Wendy Coulton supported by  David Parslow of Walter C Parson funeral directors. Wendy has for some time been a doughty campaigner for venues that are more funeral-friendly than a crematorium — see here

Wendy says: 

“For a city population the size of Plymouth, the bereaved are poorly served at the moment in terms of providing choice of venue for non-religious funerals. The majority are held at the local crematorium and on a lesser scale in the non-denominational chapel at Ford Park cemetery and occasionally at Plymouth Albion rugby ground.

“I approached Devonport Guildhall about hosting funerals because the building is special. The Main Hall is beautiful and welcoming but it is also versatile in the way the room can be used for funerals attended by 50 to 200 mourners. Traditional chapel settings have regimented pew seating and fixed lecterns. At Devonport Guildhall we can use the space and arrange the seating and layout as the bereaved wish. It will enable Plymouth families to pay their respects and give thanks for the life of the person who has died in their own way and in their own time.

“Devonport Guildhall should be commended for recognising that this is a wonderful way to serve the community and I hope other appropriate venues in Plymouth will be more open-minded about hosting funerals, wake receptions and memorial events. If the person who has died had a particular affection or connection with a place it may be more comforting for the bereaved to hold the funeral there when the time comes.

We are very grateful to David Parslow of Walter C Parson funeral directors for supporting this initiative from the outset and providing valuable practical guidance to ensure the building is fit for this purpose. In time it would be fantastic if city funeral directors could offer their clients a range of venue options for non-religious funerals.”

Devonport Guildhall’s Commercial Manager Claire Burgess says: “The beauty of the Main Hall is that it is a light, airy and versatile space so that we can create a personalised setting for any occasion or event.

When visitors walk into the Main Hall they comment on how beautiful and impressive it is, but also how intimate and friendly it feels. We want to provide a venue which meets the needs of all generations in the city from naming ceremonies and weddings to funerals and memorial events.

“We understand that more people in Plymouth are choosing a non-religious funeral and throughout its history Devonport Guildhall has adapted in the way it serves the community.”

Here at the GFG we think this is terrific. Go Wendy! 


  1. Charles

    After Charles’ Oscar Wilde quote on a post a few days ago, I think it’s a shame that this post has attracted no comments yet.

    This is no mean feat Wendy, and I am sure you will be successful in your quest to better the funeral experiences for the people of Plymouth. But also a big well done to the funeral directors who have supported you. There are very many out there who would quash an idea like this – far too much work involved there!

    It may take a while for the message to get out there, but it will happen. Take it from someone who introduced alternative-venue funerals 3 years ago in our local area to much scepticism, and now has the privilege of carrying out around about 35% of the funerals we conduct, away from crematoria.

    1. Charles

      Hi Andrew we met when I came along with Anne Barber during my residential training course and I really rate your approach so thank you for your words of encouragement. Two venues have declined to host funerals but Devonport Guildhall instantly said why not? It is a bit daunting embarking on new ventures of this kind but everyone involved has been committed to making it work for the bereaved. As you say time will be needed to raise awareness about this option. I am hosting a reception this afternoon for local funeral directors to showcase what they an offer their clients. Best wishes Wendy

  2. Charles

    Hooray! Well done Wendy. Plymouth is sorely lacking in decent venues to host funerals in. It is so important to get a funeral out of the social ghetto and back into the heart of our day to day communities. We look forward to using it.

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