Matt Southgate and Liam Roberts. Business partners, hugely experienced funeral directors and thoroughly nice people, Matt and Liam have pooled all the knowledge they both acquired over decades learning their trade, and the result is the high quality Southgate & Roberts premises in central Ipswich.
A former master baker and pastry chef, born and raised in London, Liam came into funerals in 1985 and immediately knew that he had found his vocation in life. He was trained by the best; he worked for a highly renowned London funeral business, which, at that time, held the Royal Appointment. Impeccable attention to detail was the standard for every client, not just the royal family, and Liam absorbed this as he learned every aspect of how to be a funeral director, working from the bottom up.
Over the years, Liam rose to become an operations manager for the UK’s largest service provider, he worked for the Home Office on many disasters assisting with the recovery of the victims and became a consultant and funeral industry expert, but when Matt Southgate made contact with him a few years ago with the plan to open a new business in Ipswich, Liam found he was unable to resist the idea.
Matt had started working in the funeral profession twenty years ago, and, like Liam, worked his way up learning every aspect of the business. He too was trained by a highly respected, family owned company, and the two men instinctively recognised that they shared the same values. Matt had always wanted to run his own funeral directors, as he knew he could offer so much more than was possible in a large concern, and in Liam he found a business partner who was equally passionate about service to families.
The pair found the ideal premises in St. Matthew’s Street in September 2014; a funeral director’s business had been there for years, so the basics were in place, but the property had been neglected and was ready for a makeover. Five months later, and after huge investment of time, effort and money, Southgate and Roberts opened to the public in February 2015.
Easy to find, on a main route in Ipswich, on the outside of the building is proudly proclaimed ‘Funeral Suite and Advice Centre’ – a perfect description of what Matt and Liam offer. The large windows mean that passers by can glance in and see a space that is warm and welcoming, completely unlike the old-fashioned funeral parlours still found in many towns.
Inside, the immediate feeling is of entering a quality hotel reception. Comfortable leather chairs and a low coffee table await any visitors, and many former clients pop in to have a chat and a coffee as they pass. (The coffee is exceptionally good here, by the way.)
An attractive oak clad curved wall displaying the signature S&R faces you as you enter, behind which is a comfortable room with sofas, where funeral arrangements can be made in privacy. Liam usually works at a desk in the corner of this room, while Matt has desk space in the reception area, but they swap over depending on who is looking after each family – whichever of the pair you first speak to will see the whole arrangement through to its conclusion, so you will have the complete and undivided attention of one of the owners throughout your experience with them.
To the right of the dividing corridor is the funeral suite, a large room that is fully functional for funeral ceremonies (but which can also be used for training purposes or meetings). With seating for sixty people, there is a purpose built oak clad catafalque, with electric curtains as seen at any crematorium, adjustable lighting, a complete sound and vision desk and a large TV monitor. Services can be recorded or relayed live over the Internet if required, and the suite can be used for a service at any time on any day.
Floor length beautiful contemporary curtains can be drawn across to divide the funeral suite into two, creating an intimate and warm space for families to come and spend time with the person who has died. The coffin rests on the catafalque and armchairs are brought in, along with refreshments if needed, and families are welcome to spend as much time as they want here.
Opposite is the preparation area, impeccably kept and fully equipped with everything needed to care for the people in Matt and Liam’s care; the experience and attention to detail both have brought to this business is evident here. Every person brought into their care is fully showered and has their hair washed and styled as they would normally wear it (a recent photograph is always requested to use for reference). Quality fridges offer space for larger people, every person has a pillow, and a flower is always placed with them. And people are referred to as Mr. or Mrs, never by their surname alone. They are cared for as if their family is standing beside Liam and Matt all of the time.
Preparation of the people in their care is of paramount importance to both Liam and Matt, and they treat each person with reverence and respect. Matt is particularly skilled in restoring appearance with make up, and, alongside Julie Smith, the award winning embalmer employed by Southgate & Roberts, he works to ensure that everybody looked after by the company looks peaceful and completely recognisable for their families.
Exceptional quality of service at very good value. The years of experience that both Liam and Matt have brought to their business have been distilled into creating the ideal funeral director service. Everything has been thought of, down to the smallest detail, and their personal attentive approach enables clients to take creative control of their funerals with the complete support of a highly professional team. They are absolute in their conviction that they provide the very best service possible in car, professionalism and value for money.
Caring and understanding what matters to each person is part of the essence of this business. Matt and Liam are passionate about helping you get what you want and need from a funeral, and will ensure that the experience you have is the best it can possibly be. They both love the freedom they have to be completely responsive to each family’s requirements, and are wholly dedicated to doing their absolute utmost to serve the people who choose them to care for a loved one.
The little touches. For every funeral there is something special and personal that reflects the person who has died. On the day we visited, a funeral was taking place for a lady who loved yellow roses, they had been part of her wedding bouquet, and she was known for her love of them. Her coffin was decorated with a beautiful display of yellow roses created by Sheila Nunn, the Southgate & Roberts florist, and all the bearers were wearing a yellow rose as a buttonhole, although Matt returned without his – he had given his one to a young family member who had admired it. Additional thoughtful touches enhance each family’s experience.
We were also impressed by the level of dedication of both Liam and Matt, the personal connection they have with each family and the determination to keep getting better at what they do. Along with offering the funeral suite to local charities to use, a sign language class is held there each Monday evening, and both owners and their trainee, Alan, attend each week and are learning to sign. This has already enabled them to communicate with deaf people at funerals and in daily life, something that has provoked very emotional reactions when deaf people have realised they can make themselves understood. As an added bonus, the ability to sign has provided Liam, Matt and Alan with a discrete way of communicating with each other at funerals.
Another example of the innovation and creativity that is part of this business is the recent commissioning of unique bird tables and benches, created by a local charity from recycled plastic bags with the appearance of wood in various hues. These are designed to store ashes, an inspired idea which provides families with a low cost and completely portable place to keep the ashes of someone who has been cremated.
We particularly liked the idea of sending each person who contacts them about arranging a funeral an advisory note immediately, by e-mail and followed up with a hard copy, outlining the things that you will need to think about before meeting them. This helps the subsequent meeting to be a conversation rather than a question and answer session, and provides clients with a fully detailed outline of the subjects that will be discussed to create the funeral the way that they want.
Liam and Matt are exceptional funeral directors and Southgate and Roberts is an exceptional business. Down to earth, personable, capable and caring, Matt and Liam will stand alongside you and support you every step of the way.
Their combined 50 years of personal experience, their attention to detail and their thorough, thoughtful approach ensures that the service you will receive will be second to none. They see themselves as event planners, not just typical funeral directors, but they bring with them all the quality of years learning how to do funerals perfectly.
Their standards are among the highest we have seen, and it would be hard to find a nicer pair of people to help you and your family to achieve the funeral that you want.
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.
Tuesday 18th April 2017 at 5:26 pm
My dad was very unexpectedly taken from us and I genuinely think had it not been for the care of Matt and the team at Southgate and Roberts the whole thing would have been to much to handle. The funeral was beautiful and I felt he was safe and looked after when he was in their care even the little things like spraying him with his favourite aftershave before we visited him doesn’t take a lot to do but I will always remember so I thank you all as does my family and I’m sure my dad Justin would thank you all too x
Friday 10th March 2017 at 1:08 pm
Excellent service , they did everything they could to help make sure the day went well , very caring people. Would highly recommend Thanks Matthew and Liam and Thank you to Bridget the celebrant, everyone remarked on the lovely service .
Friday 10th March 2017 at 1:11 pm
Thank you so much for your kind words. It was so lovely to see so many come and pay their respects to your dad, a truly well liked and respected man.
Tuesday 3rd January 2017 at 2:55 pm
Dear Matt & Liam
Thank you for your care.
You helped to make a very difficult time tolerable, your support and attention to detail was terrific. I could not have chose anyone better to look after Dad, or to support me & my family. You had listened to all our ramblings and family memories to create a very accurate picture of a very much loved man Ted, Grandpa, our Dad. You made us cry, you made us smile with your poignant observations, fitting in our heartfelt words around your own and speaking to him throughout your eulogy.
Thank you seems so inadequate at times to really express how you feel but I’m afraid I have no substitute so ….. THANK YOU it will have to be but (there’s always a but) it also comes with huge appreciation of your friendship and support.
We appreciate all the help and care you gave us and what a great job you do for others, Thank you Matt & Liam you are very special people.
With Love and appreciation
Karen & her family
Saturday 10th December 2016 at 10:36 pm
Congratulations guys! Having spoken at length with you about what you do, it is so evident that you operate with utmost compassion and with a true sense of what is fair and right for the families you work with. Really well deserved.
Tuesday 3rd January 2017 at 3:37 pm
Just to say thank you for your kind words and comments. Getting to know you and work with a very talented lady has been a real pleasure. Looking forward to seeing more of your beautiful photos in the future.
Matt & Liam.
Tuesday 29th November 2016 at 11:13 pm
I would like to say on behalf of myself and my family, what a wonderful professional service you did for the passing of our late Son / Brother.
From the moment we contacted you , you were very professional with a personal touch just what my family needed at this distressing time.
The respect you showed us was truely amazing for our late Son / Brother.
These Guys are truely amazing , we shared seriousness combined with laughter and that made arranging the funeral so much easier.
I cannot recommend Southgate and Roberts highly enough to organise anyone’s Funeral arrangements.
Many Thanks for all you did
Tuesday 3rd January 2017 at 3:32 pm
Thank you Rodney for your kind words and lovely orchid which so many have commented on in our reception area.
Looking after you, the family and your dear brother was an absolute pleasure, always positive and greeting us with a smile. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to be entrusted with Danny’s funeral arrangements and wish you happiness and success for the future on your wedding day. And remember the coffee pot is always on.
Matt & Liam.
Tuesday 29th November 2016 at 8:08 pm
We would like to express our gratitude to Liam and Matt in helping us to put together a funeral service for mum that was exactly what we wanted.
They enabled us to include every aspect of the individualised approach we wished for and were conscientious to a fault in ensuring that every detail, however small, was as required. Any problems we encountered were fixed without fuss or further recourse to ourselves.
Your team were all great, respectful but always there with a smile and an understanding, and the all important eye contact that is so often not present on these occasions.
It felt as if we had the autonomy to do exactly what we wanted to do, and you were there in the background, helping and guiding where needed to ensure that it all came together on the day. We felt that you were quick to understand our preferred approach, getting a feel for how we wanted to express our memories of mum and ensured that the proceedings followed a simple progression from start to finish.
We could not have wished for mum to have been in safer hands, nor for her to be better represented on the day. Thank you for everything, but mostly for understanding that under these circumstances, the detail becomes all important, and for taking such trouble to ensure that our wishes were respected.
Thursday 1st December 2016 at 2:30 pm
Dear Emma, Piers and Hermione,
Thank you so much for your very kind words of appreciation, which I will be more than pleased to pass on to the rest of our team. Talking of teams, that`s exactly the reason things went so well. Because the most important team members involved with preparing the arrangements for your dear mum`s funeral, were you and your family.
Indeed, you are the really important element that shapes everything and we are simply the facilitators of your ideas and plans.
It really was a privilege and a pleasure to work with you in this way, as it was abundantly clear throughout how much sincere and deep rooted love you emanate as a family. So I am both pleased and relieved that we could do our little bit in helping you demonstrate that in your own personal way.
Best wishes and warm regards
Liam & Matt
Sunday 13th November 2016 at 1:24 pm
From start to finish we would like to thank Matt and Liam for their care and respect.Nothing was too much trouble and they went out of their way to comply with our wishes.
Thank you for making this sad time as trouble free as possible.
The family of the late Gary Wilden
Friday 25th November 2016 at 8:37 am
We`re very pleased to learn that the obvious love that you and your family had for your dear dad was reflected in the manner in which the funeral was carried out. Thank you for your kind comments, which we will gladly pass on to the rest of our team.
Liam & Matt
Wednesday 2nd November 2016 at 8:51 pm
Please can I take this opportunity to thank you and all involved with the funeral service for my father. The service you offer is exemplary and I cannot thank you enough for the support you offered me at such a difficult time. Everything about the service was exceptional and I have received a phenomenal amount of feed back and gratitude from our family and friends.
Wednesday 2nd November 2016 at 11:16 pm
Many thanks for your kind words of appreciation Kate. Such expressions of gratitude serve as the key motivation for us doing our very best for future bereaved families. I very much hope the worst of days are now over with for you and your family.
Friday 21st October 2016 at 5:34 pm
We are so grateful to Liam and the team for the sensitivity, professionalism and support shown to us whilst making the arrangements for our mothers funeral. Such a distressing time was made bearable due to their care and consideration. Having recounted a silly story regards an almond cake recipe that our mother used to bake, Liam very kindly presented our family with a beautifully presented almond cake that he had baked himself. We were so incredibly touched by the fact that he had remembered our silly story and taken it upon himself to honour her memory in such a touching way. Thank you Liam, for all that you have done for our family.
Wednesday 2nd November 2016 at 11:11 pm
Thank you so much for your kind words. Your personal tribute to your dear mum on the day was an example to us all in capturing get the very essence of a loved one in a relatively short window of time. In all.my years I have never heard such life and character summary that left you feeling you really knew someone who you had never known in real life. All of which epitomises the depth of love you have for your mum and all that she gave you.
Sunday 18th September 2016 at 10:25 pm
When my husband passed away last year it was the worst feeling you can imagine, I had lost the single most precious person in the world and I didn’t know how I would cope. The moment I walked into Southgate and Roberts I was made to feel at ease. Matt listened to what I wanted, he is so easy to talk to, I felt he engaged not only with me and my family but also with my late husband. They treated him with such care and dignity, nothing was too much trouble. The personal little finishing touches somehow made the final farewell feel very special. Matt and Liam really compliment each other and make a great team. I can not praise them highly enough.
A few months ago I attended a open event and Southgate and Roberts and I was privileged to have a look around, I had the opportunity to see how and where they care for the loved ones entrusted to them, I was able to ask about anything, I found this to be of great comfort to me. Thank you
Monday 19th September 2016 at 3:39 pm
As a result of the trust you placed in us at such a sad and difficult time, not only were we able to help you arrange such an emotionally important event, we have enjoyed the added bonus of gaining a much cherished friend amongst the local community. So a big thank you for your kind words and for the delicious cheese scones and cake that you shared with us on the anniversary of your dear husband`s death.
Matt & Liam
Sunday 18th September 2016 at 5:42 pm
I can’t begin to tell you how grateful my family and i are to Matt and team for looking after everything when mum passed away. Matt is the most caring person and nothing was to much trouble. We felt we had nothing to worry about just to cope with going through grief was enough , but we knew everything was taken care of and we didn’t have to worry. I would recommend them to anyone one there professionalism and attention to every detail so very caring in everything.
Thank you so much.
Monday 19th September 2016 at 3:26 pm
Thank you so much for your lovely kind words. It truly was an absolute privilege to help you and your family achieve the funeral that best expressed the enormous love that you all clearly shared for your dear mum.
Matt & Liam
Wednesday 14th September 2016 at 1:07 pm
I had the pleasure of meeting both Matt and Liam by chance. I work within the care industry, which sparked conversation. I was lucky enough to be invited to visit with them, to understand more of the work they do.
I was able to be shown around their beautiful premises, and listened to the passion they have for the industry. It was immediately obvious that their role of care provider to all they meet is extremely important to them. I have been given a greater understanding of the work they do and also so much genuine admiration, I may have possibly missed a vocation?. Matt and Liam plan to provide seminars to those within the care industry to inform them of the industry and break down the misconceptions. I can not wait to be apart of this, especially run by two such ambassadors of dignity, respect and care. Thank you again Liam and Matt for allowing me to visit you.
Friday 16th September 2016 at 2:22 pm
Thank you for such kind words which are much appreciated, especially from someone who is extremely passionate about providing excellence in care within that most noble of professions, nursing. We will be very privileged to assist you in any way we can, to continue the very high standards of nursing care training that you have personally established as standard practice within your team.
Liam & Matt
Tuesday 13th September 2016 at 11:30 am
When my Father passed away suddenly I had no idea what to do. I’d never organised a funeral before. It was all so overwhelming, but when my mother and I went to see Matt I felt like the weight was lifted from my shoulders. He took time to listen to us and talk through all the options. He guided us through the whole process and made what was the most difficult time of our lives so much easier to bear. No matter what the problem they was always a solution.
I would 100% recommend Southgate and Roberts for their professional and personal service, attention to detail and after care.
Tuesday 13th September 2016 at 12:07 pm
Thank you so much for those kind words and for the trust you placed in our services. The love that you and your dear mum clearly had for your father shone through in all the discussions we had, with your input on the arrangements playing a vital part in ensuring all went well.
Matt & Liam