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History of Dignity Funeral Plans

Dignity funeral Plans and crematoria have been serving their local communities for generations. The following are a few examples of our proud heritage.

1812 - George S Munn & Co, Glasgow

George S Munn & Co. is Dignity Funeral Plans oldest funeral directors and is situated on the south side of Glasgow. They have been providing funeral services for their local community since 1812.

1840 – Francis Chappell & Sons, London

Francis Chappell & Sons have been part of the south east London community since 1840, when the founder, John Chappell, opened the first branch on Deptford High Street. In 1875, John’s son, Francis, joined the business and over the next 20 years they started to open other branches.

By 1905, Francis and his son, Stanley, also managed branches in Catford, Lewisham, Eltham and Brockley. Although the Brockley branch is no longer there, you can still read the name, John Chappell, on the brickwork of the building if you look diagonally across the road from the cemetery gates.

By 1935, 'Chappell's' was the single largest funeral company in the country, with around 14 funeral homes. Francis retired in 1939 and Stanley’s son, Rex, joined the family business in 1946. By the time Rex retired in 1977 there were 12 branches under this name. This network continued to be developed, firstly by Great Southern Group and then by Dignity. There are currently over 21 branches of Francis Chappell & Sons in operation.

1848 – J Rymer Funeral Service, York

In 1848, James Rymer founded the family business in premises very close to York Minster. By 1925, Jack Rymer, then aged 15, was managing the business after the death of his father. The branch moved to Penley’s Grove Street, its present location, in 1967. J Rymer Funeral Service joined the Dignity network in 1994 and today is managed by the sixth generation of the Rymer family.

1852 – Highfield Funeral Service, Huddersfield

Highfield Funeral Service was established in 1852 by James Garside. Despite being only 20 years old, James developed the business and was later joined by his son, Eli Fielding Garside, and grandson, Ronald Garside. The funeral home moved from Golcar to the centre of Huddersfield in 1958, where it was managed by Ronald’s only son, Adrian, and then to its present location in 1970. In 1982, Simon Garside became the fifth generation of his family to join the business. Simon emigrated in 2006 and Highfield’s was acquired by Dignity Funeral Plans.

1855 – Ginns & Gutteridge, Leicestershire

Ginns Funeral Directors was listed in a local trade directory for Leicester dated 1855. In the early part of the 20th century there were several competing funeral businesses bearing this name – all run by different members of the Ginns family – until they amalgamated with another local funeral director and Ginns & Gutteridge was established. Frank Ginns and his half-brother, Arthur Cambers Ginns Gutteridge, became partners in 1936 and formed a limited company in 1951.

1857 – Lawrence Funeral Service, Halifax

In 1857, John Lawrence established his family business, J Lawrence & Sons, in Halifax, Yorkshire. They produced furniture but occasionally made coffins for local families. By 1945, the Lawrence family were arranging enough funerals to open a chapel of rest. Over its 160-year history Lawrence Funeral Service has acquired several other local businesses, including Danescourt and Robertshaw Greenwood, which are also part of the Dignity Funeral Plans.

1857 – E Finch & Sons, Aldershot

In 1857, Emmanuel Finch established E Finch & Sons on the High Street of Aldershot. During the 20th century the business built its reputation by conducting military funerals and pioneering many new initiatives, including the first motorised hearse in the area.

1872 – East London Cemetery, Plaistow

East London Cemetery in Plaistow was laid out in 1872 to meet the increasing demand from the City and surrounding areas of East London. It is the oldest cemetery managed by Dignity.

1876 – Beckenham Cemetery, Kent

Beckenham Cemetery was opened in 1876 and is the resting place of cricketing legend W G Grace.

1880 – J H Kenyon, London

James H Kenyon opened his first funeral home on Edgware Road, London, in 1880. The business expanded to include a further five branches in north west London and became one of the most well-known names in the profession, conducting funerals for the Royal Family, politicians and other prominent figures.

1884 – Frederick W Paine, London

Charles Paine opened his first funeral home in Station Road, New Malden, in 1884. Ten years later the business was passed on to his eldest son, Frederick W Paine, who opened two further funeral homes over the next few years. Upon his death in 1945, there were 15 funeral homes and offices bearing his name and 14 of these continue to serve their local communities in south west London as part of the Dignity Funeral Plans.

1903 – Birmingham Crematorium

Birmingham Crematorium opened in 1903. At the time it was one of only nine crematoria in the UK.

1906 – W Kaye & Son, Leeds

In 1906, Walter Kaye, a local cabinetmaker, started to conduct funerals. The business moved to its current premises in Beeston Road in 1963.

1914 – John Bardgett & Son, Newcastle upon Tyne

John Bardgett, who had been working as branch manager of another local funeral director, established his own business in 1914. By 1916 his three sons, John Ernest, Arthur and Stanley had joined him and the formed a limited company in 1935. John Bardgett & Sons were the first funeral services in Newcastle to have motorised vehicles and throughout its history have always invested in the most modern fleet and facilities it could afford. The company moved to its present location in 1965 and was acquired by Dignity Funeral Plans in 1996.

1920 – W S Harrison & Son, Newcastle upon Tyne

After serving in World War I, William Samuel Harrison established himself as a funeral director in the east end of Newcastle. In 1928, he was joined by his son, Albert, and they began to serve increasing numbers of families throughout the 1930s. After the Second World War, they acquired several other funeral businesses and over the next 30 years the business continued to grow and investment was made in new branches and vehicles. In 1980, David Harrison, great grandson of William Samuel, joined the company and continues to manage these Dignity Funeral Plans branches today.

1928 – Jonathan Harvey, Glasgow

In 1928, Jonathan Harvey, a local motor engineer who also managed a vehicle hire company and cab service, established a funeral business on Argyle Street in Glasgow. A second Jonathan Harvey funeral home was established in 1950 and over the next 40 years another four branches were opened in the city.

1930 – South London Crematorium

Following World War One more people became interested in cremation and the fifth crematorium in London was built in Streatham in 1930. There were originally three chapels but only St George’s remains in use today. The mausoleum was the first to be built in Britain in over 150 years.

1950 – Seaford & Newhaven Funeral Service, East Sussex

C Morling Ltd, primarily a building company whose carpenters had made coffins for over 100 years, opened an office in Seaford as its funeral business. Seaford Funeral Service was developed by the Goacher family in the latter part of the decade and served the growing community from the family home during the 1960s, before moving to new premises in 1971.

1953 – R Metcalfe, Tring

In 1953, Frank William Metcalfe purchased part of a shop that had previously been a tailor and then a greengrocer to set up his funeral business. The business was acquired from a Mr A Underwood, who had served as the local undertaker until his death. Frank’s son, Ronald, soon took over the business and was joined by his son, Peter, in the 1960s. Sadly, Ronald passed away in 1992 and Peter three years later. Peter’s hymn book remains in the chapel of rest, identified by his handwritten statement of ownership.

2001– Dignity Caring Funeral Services

All of these businesses came together in 2001 to create Dignity Caring Funeral Services.

2008 – Middleton & Wood, Wigan

After serving the people of Wigan since 1857, Middleton & Wood relocated to purpose-built premises in Rosebridge Way, Ince, in 2008. The business was originally founded by James Middleton, who owned a coaching business and George Wood, a coffin maker and wheelwright.

2008 – Northern Ireland

In 2008, Dignity Funeral Plans acquired its first branches in Northern Ireland. Three of these are in Belfast with one each in Bangor, Newtonabbey and Carrickfergus.


In 2013, Dignity Funeral Plans acquired 40 funeral businesses and two crematoria in the north of England from Yew Holdings Ltd.

Today - Dignity Funeral Plans Statement

Dignity Funeral Plans is a British company that is listed on the London Stock Exchange.

We maintain the rich heritage of each of these funeral businesses, employing local people who understand the customs and traditions of their community.

We strive to set the highest standards for the funeral profession in terms of client service and care for the deceased. Every Dignity funeral director is rigorously monitored to ensure its client service, premises and vehicles are of the highest standard. We treat all clients as individuals and every family with compassion, respect, openness and care.