The Farrier family – Lynda, her son James and daughters Sarah and Julie. Lynda and James took over the family business when Lynda’s husband Derek Farrier died in 2013, after serving for more than 50 years in the funeral company started by his parents. The Farrier family values are embedded in the business today and are almost tangible when you walk into the Dover premises, a former chemist shop directly opposite the house in London Road where the business began back in 1948.
As the youngest child of Derek who was ‘a stalwart in the profession’, James has the tricky task of maintaining the traditional values that have made the business so well established in Dover, while at the same time adapting to the changing needs and demands of their clients.
James had no interest in the family business when he was growing up until he went with his father to collect someone who had died on Christmas Day. He was just 14 at the time.
Personable and friendly, James has had a steep learning curve since Derek died – his father was quite old school and didn’t share much about how the business was run, nor did he use computers!
The focus for James in the last three years has been to get the business on a solid footing ready to go forward, whilst Lynda, Sarah and Julie have maintained the all important personal contact with every family that comes to them. Each funeral is arranged and conducted by a Farrier family member, and out of office hours one of the Farriers will answer any calls.
Lynda has a unique gift in giving clients the time and support needed and regularly spends a lot of her time talking with families about their loved one.
Sarah oversees the orders of service and the pre-paid funeral plans; which the company has won several awards for.
The Farrier family are assisted by ten members of staff including James’ wife, Sharn and Sarah’s husband, Paul.
The Dover branch is in the original premises where Farrier’s began, and is about to undergo a complete refurbishment. James has great plans to make it more accessible and practical in the public areas, and to create two arranging rooms downstairs rather than the one they currently have. There will be new chapels of rest and Lynda’s office is getting a change of wallpaper, (although this is almost obscured by the whiteboards and arrangement forms suspended on the walls giving everyone sight of what is going on at a glance).
The building itself is huge; it goes back and back with a large open mortuary area with refrigeration for almost 30 people towards the rear. Upstairs there is a coffin display room, a staff room, a coffin store (with a purpose built lift) a room with shelves containing ashes that the company are storing (“I like them to be where people are and not shut away in a cupboard” says James “They’re still people to me and I think that it’s right they’re where other people are.”) There are also offices, a kitchen and a changing room.
Down in the yard the highly polished Jaguar Daimler hearse and one of the limousines are garaged, and a private ambulance and ‘hearsette’ are also parked. Staff going about their business come and go, all immaculately dressed and all equally polite to the stranger looking around their premises.
The Folkestone branch has just had a refurbishment and is quite different from Dover – airy and bright with sumptuous furnishings and a fresh modern décor. Behind the public area there is a large open space under a high roof – a purpose built cold room has been built here with plenty of space for keeping the Folkestone folk who are awaiting their funerals in their hometown rather than their being kept in Dover.
Julie oversees the running of the Folkestone office and is assisted by Debbie, who’s been with the company for eight years and can’t imagine working anywhere else. She joined W. J. Farrier after her father died – “The worst thing I’ve ever experienced. I started wondering what had happened to him when he wasn’t in the chapel of rest, where was he? So I got in touch with Lynda and asked if I could come and see her and talk about it. And she was just lovely, and showed me where Dad had been. That meant such a lot to me.”
Debbie’s a natural. When she saw a dead person for the first time before she was offered the job her reaction was “Oh, bless his heart!” She’s just the sort of person you would want looking after your mum or dad. You’d know they were in good hands.
Good, solid, traditional values of treating every client as if they were a family member are at the heart of this business. There is a real pride in the Farrier history and the traditions handed down through three generations, and a hugely loyal staff who all understand what is important. If it’s a traditional funeral you want then Farriers is the company for you. If you prefer a less formal approach then just tell them, they’re happy to adapt and can offer you any alternative vehicle or style of funeral available. Every single funeral receives the same attention, whatever your budget. “Everyone is equal, no matter what their background or circumstances”.
Uniquely, this company doesn’t ask for any payment at all in advance, they send out the full invoice a week after the funeral, judging that this approach works better for families than requiring a deposit up front. “We put the families first and sort the money afterwards,” says James.
It seems to work for most.
Really close attention to detail and genuine warmth from the people working here combine to give a feeling of great confidence that you are in extremely good hands. Farrier’s is part of the fabric of the town and their way of doing things seems to work very well indeed. Traditional and formal but gradually changing and modernising, this business is adapting to changing needs while retaining everything that has worked so well for them and the families they’ve looked after in the past.
Everyone we met was genuinely warm and lovely – real, down to earth normal people who have a great pride in everything they do. Their prices are very reasonable, with their professional charge including everything involved other than a coffin (collection and care of the deceased, visiting the chapel of rest, providing a hearse or estate car, staffing etc.) so the costs are easy to understand. They don’t advertise their prices online deliberately, considering that ‘this goes against the ethics of the profession’, but will happily provide price information or an estimate if asked.
Lovely, lovely people, a professional service from a capable and experienced company – and very good value.
This is a funeral home that has gained a well-deserved reputation over the years for upholding the family values so dear to Walter (Jack) and Olive Farrier.
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