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FEATURE

Unknown Undertaking:

The History of Dottridge Bros, wholesale suppliers to the funeral industry

by Brian Parsons

to the building trade, and he very soon displayed a marked ability in design and draughtsmanship. On obtaining his indentures he secured a responsible position at Herne Bay, in Kent. After three years he came to London and started a builder's and contractor's business at Hoxton in east London, but so pleasant were his recollections of Herne Bay that he returned there in later years to enjoy the fruits of his labours. Samuel's connection with the funeral trade commenced in response to requests to undertake funerals for acquaintances; the first funerals he conducted were walking funerals to Hoxton Church. On acquiring his own carriages and horses he moved to a large site in East Road known as Dorset Works, just north of the City near Old Street. The latter was an old posting yard with a balcony and living accommodation for the coachmen over the stables. It would become the main operational base for the firm until the 1980s. Around 1855 Samuel Dottridge was joined by his eldest son, also named Samuel (d 1892), and a little later by his other sons, Edwin (d 1919), William (d 1922) and Henry (d 1929). From about the 1880s the firm concentrated on wholesale manufacturing for the funeral trade, eventually withdrawing completely from retail funerals. On the retirement of the founder, the four sons became partners and the firm was called Dottridge Brothers. At that time Kelly's Post Office Directory for London listed around 400 undertakers operating in the postcode area. Many were sole traders and when entrusted with funeral arrangements they would construct or purchase a coffin and then hire in a horse drawn hearse and following carriages from a carriagemaster. Dottridge served many undertakers in north and east London. Until the 1940s the rail network was extensively used for transporting coffins and mourners, and in their capacity as carrigemasters, Dottridge would send a hearse to any of the London termini to meet a funeral party arriving from the provinces; the cortege would then go to a cemetery. An advertisement from The Undertakers Journal dated 1907 shows a hearse and following carriage waiting for a train at Euston station. Although as noted above the focus of the firm was on wholesale supply to funeral directors, one important funeral managed by Dottridge was that of founder of the Salvation Army, General William Booth, who died in August 1912 and was buried at Abney Park Cemetery in Stoke Newington, north London.

Journal

An early view of the old posting yard (Dorset Works) before redevelopment A hearse and carriage waiting at Euston Station The funeral of General Booth was undertaken by Dottridge Bros in September 1905. Mr S Diamond was responsible for the arrangements. He worked for the firm for 50 years and died in 1848, three years after he retired. Hearse bodies being constructed at Dorset Works in 1901 The `Washington' Hearse for children Dottridge Bros floral carriage The Excelsior electric motor funeral car of 1910 A Ford hearse advertised in 1922 number of different types of wheel biers which were used for transporting coffins in cemeteries and also for short journeys on public roads. This advertisement showing five models appeared in 1906.

The

Described as `Undertakers' Manufacturers and Warehousemen', Dottridge's advertisement from Kelly's Post Office Directory published in 1890 gives an insight into the extensive array of services it supplied to the industry. Coffin, caskets, carriages, drapery, palls, plumes and brassware were some of the goods. Just before the turn of the twentieth century, monumental masonry, embalming and arrangements for cremation funerals would also be added to the list. The firm advertised extensively in the trade press and from 1898 to December 1983 their advert always occupied the front cover of The Undertakers' Journal (UJ). Until the late 1930s these were always illustrated; the images provide a unique record of the organisation's innovative characteristic and their ability to respond to changing requirements. The following section describes some of the aspects of its supply work.

Funerary Transport

An advertisement on the cover of UJ in July 1901 shows one of Dottridge's principal activities; the construction of funeral vehicles. The need for horse drawn transport to replace walking funerals had commenced in the 1830s with the opening of cemeteries away from the metropolitan area, such as Kensal Green, Abney Park and West Norwood. Travelling to these new burial places was time-consuming for the undertaker who needed an efficient and dignified mode of transport. Dottridge responded with a range of designs for horse-drawn hearses built by carpenters and wheelwrights engaged at Dorset Works. The `Washington' model of hearse was advertised in 1901 for 80 Guineas; a smaller version for children's funerals was also available. The `Westminster', `Victoria', `Salisbury' and the `Manchester' models were also available. A further type was the `Floral Carriage' used solely for carrying flowers. However, a transition was ahead, albeit a lengthy one as it was the 1950s before the horse drawn hearse was finally replaced by the motor vehicle. The first advertisement for a Dottridge built motor vehicle was in 1910. It was not, however, for a motor hearse but for their `Excelsior' electric motor funeral car ­ a form of transport well ahead of its time. Funeral directors were hesitant to adopt motor hearses and at first vehicles were only generally used for transferring coffins. Appropriately, their next vehicle advertisement which appeared a year later was for a `closed van'. During WWI the firm capitalised on the requisitioning of horses by the

Samuel Dottridge

D

ottridge Brothers was arguably the most important firm of funeral wholesalers from the mid nineteenth century to the 1950s. Supplying undertakers with coffins, handles, coffin trestles, wheel biers, embalming fluids and equipment, vehicles and many other accoutrements, the firm occupied a crucial position meeting the needs of the numerous family funeral businesses operating throughout the UK. Today, although the trading name is consigned to history, Dottridge Bros continues to be remembered for their horse drawn hearses a number of which are still used by carriage masters. Drawing on a range of archive materials, brochures, newsletters and publicity documents, and supplemented with many images largely taken from The Undertakers' Journal, this article traces the previously untold story of a unique organisation.

The Leading Supply House

"A wonderful place is Dottridge's. It is the centre of what may be called the wholesale undertaking trade, where the retail undertakers are themselves undertaken and supplied with all they need, from coffin to tombstone. From all parts of the country telegrams and letters are continually coming in and packages continually going out by carries and fast train, all labelled `immediately for funeral' to ensure quick delivery." (Gordon WJ (1893) The Horse World of London)

army as a reason for the industry to shift to the use of motor hearses, even if it was only for removing the deceased. A year after the end of WWI, Dottridge were advertising themselves as having for hire, `The largest and most reliable fleet of saloon hearses, limousines, and laundaulettes'. However, horse drawn vehicles were still used for the majority of funerals. Nevertheless, the firm identified that a change was underway and over the ensuing years a variety of vehicles were converted for funeral use. In 1921 the `Saloon' hearse on a 16hp Sunbeam was offered followed a year later by a Ford. By the 1930s they carried a full page advertisement for motor vehicles in the UJ; although the horse drawn hearse continued to be in use in London; Dottridge had made the decision to cease their production and focus on motor vehicles. Mention must be made of one other form of funerary transport: the wheel bier. Used for transporting coffins short distances such as from a cemetery chapel to the graveside, or from a country church to the churchyard, Dottridge advertised a number of different designs. In 1906, five types were available including one where the coffin was enclosed by a metal surround; such a design signifies the origin of the word `hearse' as a frame covered in fabric under which the coffin rested during a service in church. When adorned with spikes (used for holding candles), it was not dissimilar to the harrow ­ the old French word for hearse. These forms of transport were often kept in a `bier house' located in a cemetery. Their use was finally replaced by the motor hearse during the interwar years, and today funeral directors use a collapsible metal trolley for moving coffins.

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10 Dottridge constructed a

11 Embalming being carried out

at home

Embalming

Although there are a number of nineteenth century accounts of preservation of the body by arterial injection, most embalmments were carried out by physicians. However, in 1882 a representative from Dottridge Bros. had attended a trade convention in the United States and had approached the embalming instructor Dr Auguste

The Early Years

Samuel Dottridge was born in1811, the youngest son of a large family. After leaving school he was apprenticed

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FEATURE

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at Dorset Works removing the deceased from a hotel or boarding house Dottridge Bros

The

Renouard to come to England on a $5,000 a year contract over five years to teach embalming. He declined but agreed to visit England in June 1900 to instruct undertakers in sanitary preservation. The course attracted 48 participants. Clearly their own staff received tuition as Dottridge's advertised the availability of `certified operators' in the UJ, (in fact, Dottridge's Mr S Diamond embalmed General William Booth in August 1912) and ambitiously announced that they were willing to send staff to `any part of the kingdom.' The promotion of embalming led to one of the most striking images the firm ever published. It depicted a moustached and gloveless embalmer using a hand pump to inject embalming fluid into a body positioned on a collapsible bed. It first appeared in the UJ in October 1904. At the time funeral directors did not accommodate bodies on their premises in the interval between death and the funeral. In recognising that embalming could not always be carried out at the family home, Dottridge's provided an equipped `laboratory and operating room' where the embalming could take place; it was probably the first firm to offer such a facility. They also had a `mortuary chamber' where the body could remain until burial; again a highly unusual feature in undertaking premises at the time; it would later known as a `chapel of rest'. This image along with those of the mortuary and the embalming appeared on the cover of The Undertakers' Journal between 1903 and 1913. It was during this period that the firm published their illustrated booklet entitled Embalming which explained the treatment, and advertised embalming instruments and products such as the canvas body carrier, disinfecting sprays, and the `Tarichon Embalming Table'. Embalming fluids ­ `Debee' and `Dottoformal' ­ were available along with disinfecting cones, antiseptic lozenges and soap, the `Aerozone Vaporiser and a sanitary blanket. One intriguing item to effect the discrete removal of a body from a hotel, boarding house or public institution was the `Mortuary Couch'. With a hinged lid and upholstered exterior not dissimilar in style to a chaise longue, the body could be placed in the casket compartment beneath thus avoiding `... consequences prejudicial to the interests of the

proprietors'. During the 1920s the `DB Temporary Preservation Kit' was advertised at £6 10s. However, the supply of such equipment to a limited number of prospective purchasers was nevertheless competitive. The back cover of UJ was always occupied by an advertisement from Dottridge's rival supply company Ingall, Parsons, Clive & Co Ltd. They were in a habit of mirroring their products against those advertised by Dottridge; some even had very similar names. For example, Ingall's embalming kits were named after distinct north London suburbs ­ Walthamstow, Tottenham and Holloway ­ locations where the Dottridge identity was well-known. In 1936, sanitary equipment returned to the cover of the UJ with the white enamel adjustable `DB' Preparation table (costing £27 10s), and embalming kits (costing £7 10s or £14 depending on contents). Two types of 'Sanidot' embalming fluid were also available. By the mid 1940's, `Carswan' and `Cavidot' fluids were marketed. Although not advertised in UJ, Dottridge also supplied `Drikold' for arresting deterioration of the body. Giving the appearance of compressed snow, the dry ice with a temperature of 110F below zero was supplied in frozen 25lb cylindrical blocks which could be cut using a saw. It needed to be wrapped in greaseproof paper and placed on the lower part of the chest and the abdomen. Within two hours the cavities would be frozen and this would last for 24 hours. Gloves had to be worn for handling Drikold. Promotional literature held at Hackney Archive details that single blocks packed in cardboard and delivered to a London station cost 7s 6d.

Cremation

Dottridge were also keen to promote another important twentieth century phenomenon: cremation. Although the first cremation in England took place at Woking Crematorium in March 1885 it was not until the interwar years when the preference for this method of disposal increased significantly. It was not until 1965 that cremations began to overtake burial. Until Golders Green Crematorium opened in November 1902, Londoner's requiring cremation had to be taken to Woking which involved a journey by horse hearse to Waterloo, the conveyance on the Necropolis Railway from Waterloo to Woking or Brookwood, and finally, by

hearse the mile and a half to the crematorium at St John's. Dottridge recognised the potential of cremation and provided undertakers with an appropriate range of merchandise. From mid 1909 the UJ cover illustration was used to depict Dottridge's `City' cremation coffin. To meet the requirements of cremation authorities prohibiting the use of solid wood coffins with metal fittings, Dottridge offered a coffin constructed from `...three-ply birch upon a frame, waterproofed, and lined completed with polished oak finish.' Later in the year they displayed a range of five cremation caskets and urns made from bronze, brass, porcelain, oak and mahogany. Sometime around 1925, Dottridge published Cremation in London. Produced in the same format as their Embalming booklet, it was unashamed promotional material for Golders Green Crematorium in addition to being publicity for Dottridge; it is not known whether the latter was a shareholder of the private company owning the facility on Hoop Lane. Until 1915 when West Norwood Crematorium opened, Golders Green, Woking and the City of London at Ilford were the only crematoria in the south of England and the objective behind the booklet was to provide undertakers with information on how to arrange a cremation in London of someone living away from the capital by using Dottridge's services, particularly transport. Starting with `Instructions for arranging cremation in London or the provinces' which included details of statutory forms to be completed as well as travelling arrangements using Dottridge hearses and motor vehicles when meeting a funeral party at a London station, there was also a large section on the memorialisation of ashes. This comprised images of the urns or caskets and the opportunity for ashes to be deposited in a niche in the crematorium at Golders Green which would then be enclosed by a metal grille designed and supplied by Dottridge.

Coffins and Coffin Furnishings

The mainstay of Dottridge's work was the manufacturer of coffins. These could be

obtained by funeral directors ready constructed and internally lined, and catalogues depict a vast array of styles in different woods and internal linings. Early advertisements refer to the `large stock of machine­made coffin, in oak, elm, zinc or lead ready for immediate delivery', while later an illustration of the `central timber mill' was used in copy until the 1920s. This was not located at Dorset Works but at Stean Street in nearby Haggerston. Adjacent to the Grand Union Canal, the wood was unloaded from barges and stored at the site until the prepared boards were required for coffin construction at Dorset Works. Wood was sourced from Japan, Canada, America and the home market. Coffins and caskets were despatched by train to their destination, thus confirming the words of JW Gordon quoted above. A novel introduction was the coffin `set' or `knock downs' as they were referred to by the trade. Comprising six parts - the lid, base, two sides and head and foot end panels - these could be assembled by funeral directors. They were especially popular for export purposes and by the 1920s they were despatching thousands each year to India, the Cape and Australia. An advertisement from 1905 shows one pattern while their 1915 catalogue depicts the `Briton' coffin with raised lid and plain sides. It was available in English elm, Canadian walnut, pitch pine, Canadian elm, I" oak and 1" mahogany. Metal coffins were also available in addition to lead lined coffins for burials taking place in a catacomb or vault and where the deceased was being transported overseas. One cover illustration shows the `Plumbers' Workshop' with lead panels being cut and beaten; metal lined coffins would be sealed with solder. The latest technology was utilised by Dottridge; one advert of the 1920s asked `Why Make you own Coffins? Let us Supply you' `You save ­ labour, capital and rent' while `You gain ­ advertisement, experience and profit'. In 1926 they advertised `Solframe. A Triumph of Machining' which was a solid machined panelled side with the appearance of framed panels.' The `Whitehall' casket appeared in 1931 and an inexpensive model, the `Cornwall' a year later, the cremation casket, appropriately labelled the `Phoenix' was produced in 1934 while a split lid casket called the `Lincoln'

was marketed in 1935 along with an equivalent for cremation called the `Vulcan.' Shrouds for dressing the deceased and linings were available from the drapery department at Dorset works. Dottridge also manufactured metal coffin furnishings such as handles and nameplates. An illustration from 1901 shows the `brass finishing and engraving department'. A smaller image shows the engravers at work on nameplates; these were available in brass, lead, nickel, copper, silver and tin. Post WWI, this department was used to produce metal wall-mounted war memorials for churches, civic buildings and commercial organisations. A catalogue from the late nineteenth century also shows other metal items including iron grave makers, zinc troughs for natural flowers and wire flower guards to protect arrangements left on graves.

12 Dottridge's preparation room 13 The mortuary couch for 14 Embalming kits available from 15 The `City' Cremation coffin 16 Part of the range of urns

available in 1913 from Dottridge Bros

17 The machined wood

department in 1901

18 Coffins being constructed in

the workshop at Dorset Works probably in the 1930s

Other items

Dottridge Bros were mindful of the need to keep ahead of changing demands. They were also an innovative organisation and not shy of introducing ideas from other countries, particularly the United States. Items such as the `Grave Lowering Device' (or more accurately, the coffin lowering device) was one such initiative. It was a metal frame placed over the grave upon which the coffin rested on webbing. At the moment of committal the coffin would descend; it eliminated the need for coffin bearers to lower the coffin manually. It was never adopted to any great extent in the UK. Another advert depicted a coffin selection facility hidden in the walls of a funeral arrangement office. It enabled the concealment of `...all details which may be considered objectionable [coffins and caskets], while every facility for display when required is obtained.' It is doubtful if any funeral directors utilised this scheme in their premises. In the mid 1920's, `Grasslike' matting to cover the spoil from graves were advertised. Other items supplied included coffin trestles and candlesticks for positioning around a coffin in a chapel of rest. Many of these items were on display in

19 A coffin `set' or `knock down' 20 Plumbers preparing metal

coffins

21 The brassware and engraving

shop in 1901

22 The coffin lowering device 23 Trestles and candlesticks

advertised in 1909

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FEATURE

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showroom in a funeral director's premises. It is doubtful if this arrangement was adopted by funeral directors this side of the Atlantic Works, probably in the 1940s

The

Dottridge's showroom at City Road to which funeral directors were invited. However, the Manufacturers of Undertakers' Woodwork Association organised displays of members' goods; Dottridge exhibited at Leeds in 1926 and in Manchester four years later where their stand had the `Moon' coffin in grey weathered oak, and two caskets: ` the `Saturn' and the `Mercury'. The firm also had a mobile showroom.

Development at Home and Abroad

The success of the business and the ability to respond to changes in funerals lead to a number of major developments. Firstly, more extensive premises were acquired in East Road along with a timber yard and woodworking mill in Haggerston. However, due to the widening of East Road two years later, Dottridge had to move their premises back by 10 ft and in doing so they reconstructed the office accommodation. When a representative from UJ visited the newly rebuilt premises in 1913, it was noted that there were over 321 employees within the office and works as machinists, electroplaters, engravers, packers, warehousemen, coffin-makers, coffin-late makers, coach builders, engineers, show-room hands, drivers, chauffeurs, ostlers, etc. There were 115 ­ mostly black - horses in the stables and three motor hearses with a fourth under construction. In 1911 Dottridge Bros (South Africa) was registered with a store being established in Port Elizabeth. An article about Dottridge published in 1921 drew attention to the fact that `knock down' coffins sets were produced mainly for the export market. In 1924 the wholesale supply firm of David Dickie & Sons (Glasgow) became an associated company. Masonry had been part of the portfolio of services with Dottridge becoming one of the leading suppliers of marble from Italy to England for cemetery memorials. Under the parent company, they traded as The Italian Sculptured Marble Company Limited; The Italian Marble Company Limited (a quarry owning company in Carrara); The Italian Marble Company (South Africa) Limited, and Marble Decorations Limited

There were also changes as a new generation entered the business. Edwin SG Dottridge, son of the first chairman, came on board in 1898, followed by Hugh W Dottridge, son of William Dottridge, a year later. H Roland Dottridge, son of Henry Dottridge, in 1901, and Russell H. Dottridge, son of William Dottridge, in 1910. WWI also brought a number of challenges to the organisation. Staffing level suffered as one hundred and sixty employees served with His Majesty's Forces. From the Executive, H. Roland Dottridge served in Palestine, where he was wounded, and Russell H Dottridge served in France. A memorial to those who died was erected in the main office at East Road. (The memorial can be seen in the premises of JH Kenyon, funeral directors, in Freston Road London W10). The firm also lost a number of staff in the Spanish `Flu Pandemic of 19181919. Although Samuel, the eldest son, had died towards the close of the century, Edwin, William and Henry all lived until after the Great War. Edwin was the first chairman, and on his death in 1919 he was succeeded by William, who died three years later. Henry then became chairman in 1922. On his death, in 1929, he was succeeded by his son, H Roland Dottridge. Russell H Dottridge died in 1931 of an illness resulting largely from the effects of exposure that he had suffered during the War. The first major change after the end of the Great War was the extension to Dorset works. Acknowledging that motor vehicles were increasingly being used on funerals, Dottridge Bros enlarged its garage facilities. The freehold of the premises at East Road, covering about four acres, was acquired and a considerable part of the premises was rebuilt, and a public garage and the necessary machine shops were established. A few years later an additional large garage with warehouse accommodation above it was built. Beyond the centre of activity a woodworking mill had by this time been erected at Bedford.

Development from 1939

During WWII, Dorset Works suffered considerably during the bombing of London's East End. Depending on 26 accounts, up to nineteen devices fell on Dottridge's premises, and in 1941 the firm's coffin-making mill was burnt out by a `shower of incendiaries.' The firm already had a mill at Bedford and

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illustrations of the seasoning sheds appear on the cover of the UJ. However, much activity remained at Hoxton and it was decided to rebuild rather than relocate. One of the few surviving newsletters entitled `What's Going On?' (September 1946) describes the scheme: `Our plans for a new woodworking Mill were already completed in August 1939. A three story building to contain the whole of our coffin, coffin set and moulding production, including the Stean Street Mill, was to have gone up on the site of the old Mill, which was later to be burnt out completely in the Blitz. We were faced with the decision to carry on and build or wait and see. We waited. Our present plans... provide for putting up a two story steel frame building on the site of the old burnt out Mill now used as a timber stacking yard." No progress was made with this scheme One task which Dottridge undertook during WWII was funerals for those killed during Air Raids. Documents held in Hackney Archive show that the firm arranged for the burial in October 1940 of 20 victims who died in a raid at Buttesland Street; there is also an invoice dated May 1941 for the interment of 32 bodies at the Great Northern Cemetery at New Southgate who met a similar fate. In 1950, Dottridge purchased a seven acre site at Marshmoor, Welham Green near Hatfield in Hertfordshire where they constructed a purpose-built coffin factory together with a mill. Here coffins sets were produced in oak, elm and chestnut. Comprising 25,000sq ft, sixty men were employed and the unit was equipped to reduce manual handling. Of note is the fact that Dottridge was responsible for marketing veneered coffin using modern glues which had been developed for use in aircraft manufacturing. Sadly, ill-fortune soon struck as the works were destroyed by fire in 1963. A further relocation was made to Downham Market in Norfolk with many of the 80 employees transferring to the new facility. In the post war years there was a shift of emphasis as Dottridge adjusted the scale of their activities. By 1945, the business had three distinct trading areas: the training of embalmers, the construction of motor vehicles and coffin production. This decision can be attributed to the increasingly competitive nature of between firms supplying funeral directors. For example, the growing preference to adopt embalming encouraged funeral directors to train staff while other firms utilised organisations such as the Lear Embalming Service with their team of mobile practitioners. Furthermore, cremations increased significantly in the postwar period and numerous firms sought to

supply the market with inexpensive machinemade coffins. Similarly, a large number of specialist firms engaged in converting vehicles into hearses and limousines had entered the market. Despite being advertised from August 1944 onwards, the first post-war class at the Dottridge School of Embalming and Funeral Hygiene wasn't held until two years later. It was attended by ten funeral directors and the tutor was SJ Letts, a member of the British Institute of Embalmers. Based at Dorset Works, the school occupied a lecture room and a mortuary with three embalming tables. Two courses were available; a three week continuous course or, for those combining work with study, a four month programme with lectures and practical work held on Saturdays. In respect of coffin production Dottridge's post-war range of coffins and caskets made at Hatfield included ones using chestnut and poplar while in 1955 they introduced a light weight plywood coffin. What's Going On? which appeared in August 1946 stated that designs for new hearses `stopped dead' in 1939. However, even before the end of the WWII, Dottridge were advertising that funeral directors should watch for the `post-war designs'. In June 1945 they said that `A prototype of this combination of new hearse and chassis design will, we hope, be on view for inspection very soon after the cessation of hostilities in Europe.' In 1955 their Austin Princess long-wheelbase limousine appeared while in 1967 they advertised their Austin A60 conversion hearse; a further model was constructed with fibre glass body work. One of their last models was a Mercedez-Benz long wheelbase Mark II hearse conversion which was advertised in 1972. By this stage, however, there were a large number of firms building funeral vehicles and in 1973 Dottridge advertised a motor hearse for the final time in UJ. One of the last hearses to be constructed was a one-off. Staff working at Dorset Works during the 1980s recall the `Dorset' hearse. Giving the appearance of a Daimler DS420, the vehicle was based on the conversion of a Ford transit van.

funeral director's business had commenced; it was as if the business had turned full circle. Charles Selby of Bow, William Beckett in Highgate and HE Merrett of Bethnal Green became part of Dottridge Brothers along with firms in Sussex, Kent and Bedfordshire. The London operational base was at High Cross in Tottenham and also at Capworth Street in Leytonstone. The firm also continued to serve the Jewish community by holding contracts to arrange funerals in conjunction with synagogue burial societies. The final move from Dorset works was made in 1984 when the head office was relocated to The Grange at Hoddeston in Hertfordshire. A year prior to this the last Dottridge family member had withdrawn from the business thus ending 150 years of family control. By this stage the firm had 200 employees and thirty funeral directing businesses located in north London, East Anglia, and the south east. This had increased to 46 branches when Dottridge was purchased by Kenyon Securities PLC in January 1988 for £11.5M. Two years later Kenyon merged with the Birmingham based funeral director Hodgson Holdings which became PHKI. In 1994 Service Corporation International purchased PHKI. Following a management buy-out in 2002, this became Dignity Caring Funeral Service PLC. The last branch trading as Dottridge Bros was at Roman Road and this closed around 2000 thus bringing to an end over a century and a half of heritage.

24 A scheme for a coffin

25 The showroom at Dorset 26 The clerks' office at Dorset

Works following the rebuilding in 1913

27 Dorset Work was extended

in 1923 to provide garage accommodation for 100 vehicles. Engineers and chauffeurs lived above the premises.

28 The garage was constructed

using iron spans. The 18ft turntable capable of carrying eleven tons can bee seen in this photograph. Elsewhere there was a 60ft inspection pit and an underground storage tank for petrol with a self-measuring pump.

29 The coffin production facility

at Marshmoor Green which opened in 1950

References

Funeral Service Journal Various dates The BUA Monthly various dates The Funeral Director Various dates The Undertakers' Journal, Various dates A Century of Service 1835-1938 Dottridge Brothers Ltd (1935) `What's Going On?' various dates and other printed material held at hackney Archive Gordon WJ (1893) The Horse World of London London: JA Allen & Co Hodgson HOP (1992) How to Become Dead Rich London: Pavilion Reader D (2008) A Pictorial History of the British Hearse Hordle: Dean Reader Illustration from The Undertakers' Journal/Funeral Service Journal and the author's collection

30 The coffin production facility

at Marshmoor Green which opened in 1950

31 A view taken in 1939 of the

construction and finishing shop in the coach building department

32 A Rolls Royce hearse

advertised in January 1945

33 An Austin A60 Dottridge

conversion advertised in 1967

34 Dottridge Bros continued

to supply funeral directors with vehicles well into the twentieth century. This advertisement dates from 1924

The Twilight Years

By the 1960s, Dottridge Bros had refocused once again as a programme of purchasing

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