Monday, 1 June 2015

Bromley Funeral vehicles 1803-1915 operated by Dunns

The work of transcribing the first 10 surviving volumes of Dunns funeral accounts is nearing completion and this gives me an opportunity to document the vehicles of the funeral trade carried out by Dunns.
The early volumes from 1803-1830 are descriptive of the Georgian and Regency period of funerals.
As the later volumes confirm the Dunn family prior to 1830 rely on hearses hired by the day although it appears that a hearse was acquired in the 1820's and remained in service. Certainly it is possible to identify this vehicle in accounts as the cost of use was lower than that hired for the occasion.
From the coming of the railway to Bromley the death trade in Bromley changes;it is not uncommon for funeral parties to travel with the coffin by rail and for coffins and Attendant to travel long distances and the accounts include burials in Devon attended and organised by the Dunn family.
In the 1870's there is specific reference to the combined hearse and coach designed by George Shillibeer and as father's give way to son's carrying on the funeral trade within the Dunn family the charge for the "funeral car" reflects use of a Dunn owned Shillibeer. The accounts even detail that the charge for "Funeral car glazed" is identical to the charge for the company's hearse. The Bromley Burial Board Cemetery in London Road was rapidly occupied and the ability to carry passengers (often bearers) as well as the coffin meant it was useful for collection of the body from rail stations in the district  for burial in Bromley.
 The fashion of mourners travelling in carriages continued for a small number of more elaborate funerals but the trade catered to offer a simpler and cheaper funeral for all classes. There was  a readily available group of coachmen in Bromley and Dunn was by the 1870's one of the longest established businesses in Bromley retailing furniture and had expanded from the Market Square premises to open a three storey large furniture depository which housed the vehicle fleet. The Dunn family were one of the major employers in the town.
The need to collect corpses from the Kent County Asylum at Barming Heath lead the family to utilise a variety of vehicles. The company's horse drawn furniture vans were used to collect bodies from Barming and all London Hospitals to bring the corpse in a shell to spend a night before burial either in the shop at Market Square with Attendant or in the depository, This building had been built to be wood partitioned into secure "rooms" for storage and it was therefore relatively simple for a body to accommodated. The accounts regularly specify the location. It is worth bearing in mind that more than one funeral a day might be arranged. Only the large houses of the district could accommodate a coffin and Attendant the accounts specify which room the deceased is to be attendend in such circumstances.
In many child funerals and several adult funerals a year a Brougham was capable of conveying a body to the Cemetery. The Brougham was readily available in Bromley for hire with or without driver and obviously developed as well as cab and fly hire as the need for onward travel from stations developed. The Brougham was a light four wheeled horse drawn carriage which had the advantage of as small a turning circle as the London Carriage Office "Conditions for Fitness" for licensing as a cab for hire.