Part of the Rowland Brothers Group, A & J Morriss is an independent, family run business with all the attributes that brings. Funerals are supported by the Rowland Brothers fleet and staff, and back office administrative support frees the Morriss staff members to devote themselves to the families they serve.
There are two branches of A & J Morriss, looked after by Anji Reeves, the funeral director and area manager. Anji holds both the Diploma in Funeral Arranging and in Funeral Directing, and she conducts the funerals for both branches, and is based in the Addiscombe office, where she is assisted by funeral arrangers Sue Palmer and Judi Gentry. The Beddington branch is run by Brian Freeman.
The Addiscombe branch is located in Lower Addiscombe Road, and has an attractive cream exterior with large windows and glass doors. The modern reception area leads in to a comfortable arranging room with a large dining table and chairs where funeral arrangements are discussed. Further back there is a small office where the staff have their computers and phones, and a small kitchen area is tucked away to the left. Anji keeps various herbal teas and decaffeinated coffee for clients here, and if you are spending time in the chapel of rest visiting a relative there will be an endless supply if you want it.
The chapels of rest are towards the rear of the building where you will have privacy, away from the bustle of the main road.
The Beddington branch is on The Broadway, and is looked after by Brian who has been with the company for almost 30 years. Formerly in the print industry, Brian is a veteran who served in Egypt, and he has now settled in to looking after a branch after years conducting funerals for local families. Clearly popular in the area, Brian has frequent visitors calling in during the day for a chat. He has his office behind the reception area in this small branch, and there is a compact chapel of rest at the rear of the premises.
Independently owned and run, Rowland Brothers has five branches operating under the family name, with another four locations that they have purchased retaining their original owners’ names. The company was established in 1873, and seven generations of the Rowland family have been involved since then, with the current ‘Big Boss’, Tony Rowland now in his late seventies but still very much hands on and involved with the running of the business. (Tony was responsible for founding Rowland Brothers International and the funeral plan provider Golden Leaves, and is well known locally for his work with charities and other organisations).
Tony’s son, Steve Rowland, is managing director of the business and now leads the development of the whole Rowland Brothers group and he is one of the best kind of bosses. Despite his busy diary, he spent the day driving us around to visit all of their branches, and the genuine affection with which he was greeted by all of his staff was very revealing. Born and bred in the area, Steve is very much a man of the people, with an easy manner belying a keen eye for quality and a strong sense of responsibility and duty. Steve trusts his staff to do their job properly, and he doesn’t micro-manage, he lets them get on with things. Full training is provided when a new staff member joins the team to ensure that the new person has a full understanding of the Rowland Brothers way of working, with a buddy system in place. Many of the staff have been with the company for years, and have gained vast experience in all types of funerals, so there is always someone who will be able to help with a more complicated funeral arrangement if needed. Support is provided for those who want to gain qualifications, and there’s a HR lady who looks after the wellbeing of everyone in the various companies (Rowland Brothers have many different services, from repatriation, funeral plans, exhumation services, monumental masonry, legal services and their recently formed charity, the Rowland Brothers Foundation. Steve is at the head of all of these companies, overseeing all crucial operations and decisions.)
‘We listen to our clients and provide the services they require, we always have and always will’ – the words of Steve Rowland, whose leadership is continuing the proud family heritage that has served tens of thousands of families in the area for over 140 years.
The Rowland family involvement in their business cannot be over emphasised – possibly uniquely, there are four generations of the family still very much involved. As well as Steve, his nephew Ben now works in the business as the family funeral director out looking after families as their funerals are carried out, while his father Tony still continues to play a vital role despite reaching his late seventies. Most extraordinarily, Muriel Rowland, Steve’s grandmother, spends three days a week at Whitehorse Road at the grand age of 99. ‘When the VAT man comes, we put her in with him,’ says Steve, “you can hear her saying ‘I’ve been working in this business since before VAT was invented young man’ and you know he’s losing the will to live!”
A deep sense of responsibility and service runs through the parent company, and Rowland Brothers has rightly acquired an enviable reputation for excellence in the traditions of quality funeral directing, funeral services and reliability.
Every person we met impressed us with their pleasant manner and clear abilities in their roles, and it is evident that this is not only a superb company to choose to act as your undertaker, it is also a first-class employer that supports and empowers its staff.
There is an ongoing investment programme ensuring that the branches are up to date and modern, and there is also investment in their people, both practically and literally.
Rowland Brothers is also one of only a few funeral businesses that are signatories to the Armed Forces Covenant. Members of the Rowland family as well as a number of their staff have served in the Armed Forces and the company is immensely proud to be able to honour veterans. Rowland Brothers specialise in military funerals, and have a dedicated staff member who co-ordinates these.
The ongoing support of bereaved people from the community is another immensely important thing to the company, and Rowland Brothers have two fully trained bereavement counsellors offering bereavement aftercare to anyone who needs it, whether the funeral was carried out by the company or not. This support can be either one to one or in group sessions, is completely free of charge, and is provided through the Rowland Brothers Foundation, the charity recently set up for this purpose.
As well as everything outlined above, Rowland Brothers offers a comprehensive array of other services, including end of life planning, funeral plans, free wills and other legal services, memorial construction, installation and maintenance programmes, the repatriation and exhumations services and cryogenic suspension.
They are specialists in bespoke funerals for different cultures and religions and while generally traditional in their approach and attire, are more than willing to adapt this at clients’ requests. For military funerals, staff wear their medals and regiment colours, for children’s funerals staff have been known to wear superhero outfits (at parents’ request).
Now that A & J Morriss is part of the Rowland Brothers Group it enjoys the same, well deserved superb reputation. It has the gravitas of a long-established business that knows exactly how to serve families in the best way, but the forward-looking flexibility of a small family run undertaking.
We particularly appreciated the down to earth, likeable Steve Rowland taking a day out of an unbelievably busy diary to drive us round all his branches and meet his staff – the easy friendship he has with each of them shows exactly why this company is so successful. It is exceptionally well run, with lovely premises, lovely people and a large support staff dealing with the back-office work that ensures everything goes smoothly for every family they care for.
A & J Morriss is an example of the best kind of funeral directors, and gives excellent value for money. You won’t find a better undertaker in this part of the world.
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.