Neville’s may have been serving the people of Luton and Bedfordshire for nearly 140 years, but they are not standing still or taking anything for granted.
Still family run, Neville Trust, led by the fifth generation, has overall control of the both the funeral business and their construction company. They see themselves as a fundamental part of their community and, although they are a well run business, everything they do is informed by a sense of responsibility too. Serving people as well as they can is what matters most.
We met the current managing director, Michael Liddle. He began work in the funeral industry aged sixteen helping to make coffins. We were left feeling that nothing can shake this man. He knows how to do every aspect of funeral work and still enjoys going out with funerals from time to time to keep his hand in. Above all, he manages quietly and astutely, bringing on and encouraging young staff, quietly handling problems as they arise – day and night – to ensure that a problem doesn’t turn into a crisis. Neville’s believe that good staff are their best asset and the staff we met were happy to discuss the approachability of their management and the support they get from them.
You will feel the benefit of their long experience
Michael’s long service isn’t an exception – we met staff who had been with Neville’s for 22 and 32 years. Neville’s truly looks after their employees, offering opportunities to develop and support its staff – and this shows in the quality of the service they offer. The people we talked to were confident, happy and very proud of what they do and who they work for. It was also very clear that they felt they could ask questions and make suggestions to management knowing that they would be listened to.
The Neville family and its team of management care for their staff, with lots of personal touches at special times , effecting change by consultation rather than instruction. For example, when the Neville livery was changed, everyone from the cleaners to the directors were involved in the decision-making process.
A sharp eye for current and future trends
Likewise, there is no doubt in our minds that whatever request a client may place at Neville’s, there is nothing that could faze them, nor any circumstance which could not be dealt with, calmly, smoothly and without fuss. There was no scenario that we could come up with which would even raise an eyebrow. That gives enormous confidence to a client.
We came away certain that clients will feel the benefit of Neville’s long experience, in the warmth and friendliness you will meet; in the confidence you can place in their advice and the support you will receive. There is plenty of heart in this company.
There are no huge displays of coffins, urns or memorial stones at Neville’s. All public rooms are bright and clutter-free with no oppressive sales or funereal products to distract – or dismay – you. You get the sense that it is about you and what you need rather than what they can sell you. There are no sales targets for staff at Neville’s and there is no automatic policy to demand up-front payments, although of course, anyone with high-end or unusual requests will be asked to contribute in advance. It seems that Neville’s have retained all the best elements of the traditional undertakers, whilst keeping a sharp eye on the current and future trends. And it strikes us, they will take it all in their stride without even blinking. This shows a strong leadership and a strong sense of purpose and direction. Neville’s have, it seems, no intention of resting on their laurels.
There are advantages to having a construction company in the family. Although Neville’s have eight branches, both modern and older buildings, they are all beautifully maintained and presented, offering the same high standard of facilities.
There is a shared philosophy too. In every branch you will meet a warm and friendly member of staff and a welcome that makes you feel warm and safe… that you are in good hands.
You will find all the buildings generally light and airy and, when you sit down to talk it will be in a pleasant room, with a cuppa, around a table together.
Luton, the largest branch, has a room with easy chairs and a settee, for those who need time to sit and talk and just come to terms with what is happening, but in every branch you will be encouraged to take the time you need.
Each branch has at least one chapel of rest where you can sit and be with your loved one. Visiting is by appointment, but the chapels are open for long hours including the weekend at no extra charge.
Although people who have died are cared for and prepared at the main branches of Luton and Bedford, every branch has a chapel of rest so that visits prior to the funeral can be made locally.
Luton is large, modern and is easy to find. It has many rooms for differing purposes, including a lovely ceremony room which can hold 50+ people, for those who prefer a more friendly and personal place to hold the funeral ceremony. There is also a training and function room which can be used for the get-together after the ceremony. It is also used for staff training, and local charities to meet and support the bereaved.
Ampthill is based in a converted church. The front of the branch is pleasant and modern, but the features of the old church have been retained in the chapel of rest – creating a quiet lovely space.
Bedford is like the Tardis – it goes back and back from the old semi detached house that faces the road. There is a small courtyard with a pond and, as well as the chapels of rest, a small space for ceremonies too.
Hemel Hempstead is a large, converted semi-detached property in a prominent position, with ample parking at the rear. There are plans afoot to make this branch larger, but currently it is served with arrangement rooms and a pleasant chapel of rest where you can spend time with your loved one. A warm welcome greets you as you enter the light and airy premises, and the same air of confidence pervades. You sense that you will be dealt with properly.
Shefford branch has the same warm welcome from staff, who are interested in their work and also has the same high quality interior as all the other branches, with a chapel of rest. Outside, things couldn’t be more different. At the rear, there is the company’s stone mason facility. There, with their traditional and ancient skills, craftsmen are employed to carve beautiful memorials and headstones to order. They operate an apprenticeship scheme to secure the future of this fast-disappearing skill.
Hitchin branch is a coach house style. Again, the interior is warm, light and airy as is the welcome. And all in keeping with the Neville’s brand. This doesn’t happen by accident. It’s about good leadership, a clear direction and placing a high value on the staff.
Woburn Sands has the same light and airy, uncluttered feel as the other Neville branches. The high quality, modern surroundings and spacious premises are impeccably looked after by Jill and Claire who job share here. The staff clearly love their work and talk proudly about the support and camaraderie they feel as employees of a company which evidently invests in their staff as well as their properties. There is a large chapel of rest, an immaculate mortuary and plenty of space within the premises for this relatively new branch of the business to develop as they become established in the community. There is also plenty of space for parking, something clients very much appreciate.
Stopsley is a compact branch currently run by Emma. The staff are all local people who know the community well and are pleased that Stopsley families can now use Neville’s services without having to travel across town. The newest of the Neville branches, Stopsley has been refurbished in the company style with a fresh modern decor. It’s sparkling clean, tidy and very welcoming, with the warmth and friendliness of the staff immediately making you feel at ease and comfortable and confident that this is a good company to be trusting with a funeral.
Neville’s floristry company is based at the Luton branch. There is a fabulously simple, but ingenious system which operates at all branches regarding flowers. At each branch there is a shelving system (made by their own carpenters) which has an allocated space for each funeral being held that day. This makes for efficiency and, again, a lack of fuss. The flower situation at a busy undertaker’s can be tricky at best. Not so at Neville’s. The right flowers will be in place for the right funeral.
You can’t be around for over a hundred years without being good at traditional funerals. What has kept Neville’s so fresh and unstuffy though is their willingness to listen to what people are asking for and to try new things.
Open and unstuffy
They are always on the lookout for ideas – like the complimentary basket of cleaning materials they now give to everyone who purchases a headstone from them or the Cremated Remains Library at Luton, where ashes can be kept and visited. The headstone cleaning basket is a delight and was the suggestion of their long standing member of staff, Melanie Jeffs, who is now their Memorial Service Manager. Senior management approved it, Melanie put it together and this really useful and practical addition is now passed on to their clients as a matter of course.
This openness to the new and many changes in the funeral world means that Neville’s now serve and support all of the diverse communities in Luton and Bedford, responding willingly and capably to every requirement.
Care and respect for people who have died are at the heart of everything Neville’s do.
Everyone entrusted to them receives the same respect and care. Every coffin is lined and dressed properly whether the person who has died is going to be viewed or not. There is an employee at Luton whose sole job is to take care of and prepare coffins and he clearly loves, and is proud, of his work.
At the Bedford office I was told that every funeral is paged* out into the road whether anyone is there to see it or not. It’s the Neville way.
(* Paging is when the hearse, moving at processional pace, is preceded by the funeral director on foot and in full ceremonial attire.)
Although there is an outward appearance of slickness – even corporate – style to Neville’s, this is a company which is made up of really good people. They are great talent spotters, ensuring their staff are developed and encouraged to reach their full potential. There is a clear willingness to learn and consult, alongside their strong sense of tradition.
And there is plenty of heart in this company. Their worst fault – if it is a fault at all – is that they don’t shout their own praises from the rooftops. But, like all that they do, they go about their business quietly and in a dignified manner.
Home visits: Neville’s are happy to meet people wherever they are most comfortable – at a branch or in their homes.
Embalming: Neville’s value embalming. They believe that it gives great comfort to families to see their loved ones looking their best. Because they believe in it, they do it properly. All the embalmers are members of Neville’s own staff and the embalming facilities at Luton and Bedford are modern and maintained to the highest standards. Michael himself is a fellow of the British Institute of Embalmers. Every family arranging a funeral is offered the service – there is no extra charge – but you will not be pressed if its not something you wish.
Continuity of care: CRUSE for the bereaved, CHUMS, McMILLAN, the local hospice and the local hospital all use the training/function room at the Luton branch – free of charge. There, they can help the bereaved – including Neville’s own clients -come to terms with their loss.
Family participation: Yes. Families are encouraged to take part in any element of the process if they so wish.
Same sex person to wash and dress: Yes
Ethnic specialism: There is no specialism, but Neville’s are very experienced in serving all of Luton and Bedford’s diverse communities.
Local celebrants: Neville’s work with a wide range of celebrants – all of whom are vetted before they are engaged. They are discerning, realising that celebrants and any other officiants reflect their company.
Home arranged funerals: Neville’s will support you in arranging the funeral you want. If you’d like to care for someone at home or buy or make your own coffin they are happy to support you.
Website: The website is a good place to start to get to know Neville’s – it’s clear, informative and well presented.
Client support: In-house grief counselling led by Cruse.
Prices: There is an awareness that clients now shop around, based on prices. For this reason, Neville’s are undergoing changes to their website in order to make prices more clear and accessible, a move of which we highly approve.
Parking: There is dedicated parking at Luton, Ampthill, Hitchin, Hemel Hempstead, Woburn Sands, Stopsley and Shefford but we felt it was limited at Bedford.
A traditional funeral director justly proud of its heritage but living very much in the present. They’ll get everything exactly right for you and they’ll do it with great open-mindedness and kindness. Superb service values here are driven by big-hearted human values. If you think the website makes them look a bit staid, believe us, they’re absolutely lovely.
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.