Choosing a coffin for someone is probably not something you have ever given much thought to, if any. When it actually comes to it, it can feel surreal. It’s difficult. Take your time.
There’s a huge range of coffins out there. In Britain we have more choice than any other country on earth. And there’s an alternative to a coffin: a shroud.
No you don’t. Undertakers are beginning to realise that a great many people want to buy this last gift for someone who has died themselves, not through a third-party. If your undertaker refuses to accept a coffin bought by you, take your business elsewhere. Any problems, contact us.
You can spend as much as you like on a coffin, from 150 pounds to several thousand.
No one wants to feel like a skinflint and choose something disrespectfully cheap. But here’s a thing: there’s almost no difference in appearance between a bottom-of-the-range veneered MDF ‘oak’ coffin and a solid oak one at five times the price.
If you throw good money at a coffin it is highly unlikely that anyone will notice unless it is made from other materials – like bamboo or willow or cardboard.
1. What you can afford
2. Which material you think appropriate
3. What you like the look of
Roger Fowle, based in Cambridgeshire, makes willow coffins.
You can go along and work alongside him if you want.
Click on the topics below to enter the world of coffins with pictures and lots of weblinks:
The price you pay an undertaker for a coffin may be several times what the undertaker paid for it – a markup greater than you would expect of a retailer.
A fair and businesslike retail markup is twice the trade price and you shouldn’t quibble about that.
Until just a few years ago, undertakers ‘buried’ or disguised part of what they call their ‘professional fee’ in the cost of their coffins so, if you didn’t buy their coffin, they’d be badly out of pocket.
Some still do, but most realise it makes them look bad.
They now structure their fees so that, if you supply your own coffin, they won’t lose out.
British funerals are changing and becoming very creative, which explains why we enjoy a bigger choice of coffins than anywhere else in the world.
The classic, wooden, ‘toe-pincher’ coffin is still the most popular, but many people find the new-look generation of coffins made from all sorts of materials – including willow, sea grass, banana leaves, cardboard – much softer and friendlier in appearance.
They really do set the tone of the funeral.
The widest range of eco-coffins available on the market is sold by Ecoffins. They have 37 different types made from all sorts of materials, and it’s worth browsing their website to get some idea of the range there is out there.
No. Most of them only have a limited range.
Many will not tell you what else is available, either because they can’t get such a good margin on it or because they can’t be bothered.
If you see something here that you like the look of, buy it direct if you can.
If you can’t, instruct your undertaker to get it for you.
If, say, it’s a wicker coffin you want, make absolutely sure your undertaker gets it from the firm that sells the one you like.
There are lots of cheap versions out there with a flimsy, loose weave which offer your undertaker a bigger margin.
Wicker/willow coffin by Cath Pratley based in Dorset. You can go and help her make it if you want to.
If you want to make the coffin yourself, go ahead. You will, of course, need to be able to show that it is strong enough to do its job.
Your coffin will need to be lined with a waterproof lining which will not leak with unacceptable emissions.
The industry uses a product called Cremfilm. You can pay an undertaker to do this for you – or get them to sell you some Cremfilm.
Almost all commercially produced coffins have passable green credentials, even coffins made from MDF.
Perhaps the greenest coffins of all are those made from willow in the UK.
The material is indigenous and sustainable, the coffin miles minimal.
Yet a coffin shipped from China by Ecoffins uses, they claim, no more fuel than a car journey of 4.63 miles – it all depends how you calculate it.
Willow (wicker) coffins vary in quality. Those made in the UK are mostly good.
Those made in Eastern Europe or the Far East may not be.
Beware bargain prices from certain internet sellers! If they’re not approved by us, avoid.
Somerset Willowhave a good range of high quality coffins but will not sell to you direct.
Musgrove Willow,harvested and woven in the Somerset Levels. Will sell to you direct. Go along and help them make it. Price: from £500 including name plaque, lining and delivery.
Earth to Heaven.Imported. Good quality. Will sell to you direct.
Mawdeseley Willow,woven in Lancashire. Will sell to you direct. The Mawdeseley is harvested in Lancashire. They sell two coffins from willow harvested in Poland: the Elysium and the Oval. All good quality.
The shroud failed for many years to make a comeback, perhaps because people were put off by the way it leaves the outline of the body identifiable.
But a shroud is honest, and at around £150, it’s inexpensive and suitable for burial or cremation.
You can get one from Respect Everybody Shrouds (illustrated below) — call 01427 612992
An alternative to a shroud is a soft coffin. A soft coffin is something a bit like a shroud in principle, but something else altogether in practice.
Bellacouche handmake to order a beautiful felted Leafcocoon, pictured below, which greatly softens the outline of the body.
It is covered in a choice of leaf patterns. Nothing else is needed, i.e. no liner.
Absorbent materials (all recycled and natural of course) are hidden inside the felt-encased wooden base, and six strong handles take the weight.
There is a shroud inside, with an adjustable cocoon over this, and a detachable decorated cover which can be kept as a keepsake, or buried with the body.
Visit: www.bellacouche.com. Bellacouche also make a child cocoon.
Ring: Yuli Somme on 01647 432155.
Buy direct: £885. See another photo on our blog here. Winner of the Good Funeral Award 2013 for Best Coffin Supplier.
A plain pine coffin
The Honest Coffin is handmade from sustainable larch and oak. Very durable. No chemicals, no polish, no stain. No screws, either, only oak dowels.
The plain and simple coffin
The Feet First coffin is made from locally grown wood using mostly hand tools.
No chemicals, formaldehyde-free glue, no metal fasteners – even the beeswax is home-made.
The plain pine Feet First coffin
A cardboard coffin ought to be the cheapest you can get, you might think, but actually the manufacturing cost of cardboard makes the price pretty much what you would pay for a ‘veneered’ coffin made from MDF.
People who go for cardboard are really making a lifestyle – or deathstyle – statement.
It is the last word in simplicity. Some may reckon it an outrageous choice, either in a good or a bad way.
White or brown cardboard is good for decoration. You can paint it, draw on it, write messages on it.
You can get the children to decorate their Nan’s cardboard coffin – but beware: children like to use lots of red and this can give a misleading impression.
Most funeral directors now stock cardboard coffins but a great many, hating them, will cast doubt on their load-bearing capability and even their ability to withstand rain.
This is nonsense, so dig your heels in. Some undertakers are able, if you want, to put a cardboard coffin inside a re-usable coffin (called coffin cover) just for the funeral. An alternative is to drape the coffin with fabric of some sort – a pall. Beware cheap imports!
See what a cardboard coffin looks like at: Greenfield coffins.Up to 100% biodegradable cardboard made from 70 per cent post- consumer waste.
Any design of your choice. Will sell to you direct: range starts at £81. Can carry 23 stone.
Cardboard coffin from Greenfield
Cardboard or wood decorated with any scene or picture you like.
www.greenfieldcreations.co.uk. Will sell direct to the public.
www.colourfulcoffins.com.The same service as Greenfield. Will not sell direct.
Picture coffin from Greenfield Creations
A coffin you can lie in ‘in a peaceful, curled up, sleeping position’.
www.ecoffins.co.uk. Will sell to you direct.
Designed and imported by Somerset Willow.
Cocostick coffins are made from the stems of coconut leaves.
www.naturalwovencoffins.co.uk Will not sell direct.
Will sell to you direct. Good range of eco-coffins.
Made from recycled paper. Come in gorgeous colours
www.ecopod.co.uk.Will sell to you direct.
A solid wood coffin with an attractive curved profile that makes it quite different in looks to traditional box coffins.
Hand Made in Kent using only woods from managed sources and other natural materials, the Curve is “as friendly to the environment as we could possibly make it.”
The Curve is available in a number of artistic, hand painted designs or a natural wood finish which is suitable for home decoration. Buy direct here.
Finally, if you’d like to buy your own coffin now and enjoy it till you need it, have a look at William Warren’s bookcase coffin.
Yes, it’s a bookcase which can be reassembled as a coffin after you have read your last page.
Go to his website, type in your size and download instructions for making it.
The cost depends on the type of wood you use with pine being the least expensive.
William, a true altruists, charges nothing for the download.
Greenfield also make a bookcase coffin.
We only list suppliers with an unblemished record of customer service who supply well-made coffins which offer good value for money.
If you are wondering why a supplier you have seen on the internet is not listed here, it is either because we have rejected them or because we do not feel we can endorse them with confidence.
Be warned! If the coffin manufacturer you are considering were any good, they’d have asked to be listed here. Avoid.
Greenfield Creations Best known for their cardboard coffins, and possibly the first coffin maker to offer their product direct to the public. Also make excellent picture coffins. Friendly people, utterly reliable.
Abbey Coffins 100% reclaimed or up-cycled timber is used for these lovely bespoke hand crafted solid wood coffins. Made to order, the coffin will be delivered by the company themselves to ensure it arrives in perfect condition and in good time (allow 5 working days from order).
Bellacouche Handcrafted “soft-topped” coffins, the Leafcocoon for burial (pictured below). Made from sustainably sourced, local wood and wool. Bellacouche also make a range of wool felt shrouds and smaller cocoons.
Honest Coffins – John Connell will make you a good, stout, plain coffin from larch and oak using no nails, no screws, no metal. He also makes a simple, no-frills cremation coffin. Beautifully crafted and very distinctive.
Roger Fowle Roger is an accomplished and artistic weaver in willow. He will make you a wicker coffin exactly as you want it — and you can go and help make it with him, if you want. Based in Cambridgeshire. Ring him on 07875 768 843
At Cradle to Grave Cath Pratley, based in Dorset, makes beautiful willow coffins (around £500 plus courier) — and also yurts, which you can buy or rent.
Earth to Heaven offer a range of coffins and sell to the public as well as supplying funeral directors.
Feet First Coffins – Plain pine boxes made mostly with hand tools. No chemicals, formaldehyde-free glue, no metal fasteners – even the beeswax is home-made
The Curve Coffin – Uniquely shaped solid wood coffins, hand made and decorated in Kent
Caring Coffins Willow, bamboo, seagrass, water hyacinth etc. Good quality, environmentally friendly and Alex, who runs it, is one of the nice guys.
Personalised Coffins Coffins hand-painted and decorated to order. Very nice children’s coffins.
Ecoffins (Will sell direct if you are doing a DIY funeral or if your funeral director will not supply the Ecoffin you want.)
Borca – Beautiful wicker etc coffins sold by Ruth Phelps either through her website or from her market stall in Norwich.
Sussex Willow Coffins – Handmade basket caskets by Jake Whitcroft. No board, no glue, just woven willow grown locally. Will make you a bespoke coffin. Cost around £700. Based in the South Downs.
Every Body shroud – Made in bamboo and cotton & bamboo, supplied in 4 sizes from child-XXL and can be supplied with a laminated wood
English Willow Coffins – Made in the Somerset Levels by P. H. Coate & Son who have been weaving willow since 1819.
PLEASE NOTE: We are not in a commercial relationship with any of these suppliers, nor do we charge them any money to be listed here. They are handpicked by the GFG team. Do let us know what you think of them.
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