Austin's Blog


Looking Back at 2021

December 15th, 2021    Author:

2021 seems to have flown by. After the loss and grief of 2020, this year has had its fair share of difficulties. But, just as we did last year, we’ve all pulled together and negotiated our way through another uncertain year, with lots to celebrate as well.

We started the year with Harwood Park being able to donate £10,000 to the Isabel Hospice, through a charitable scheme operated by the Institute of Cemetery and Crematorium Management.  We presented the hospice with a giant cheque in January, knowing just how hard charities have been hit during the pandemic with their fundraising efforts limited by restrictions. Meanwhile, the team were hard at work taking in your real Christmas trees to recycle and do our bit for the environment.

With another national lockdown in force, we joined the Heart FM tech appeal. Many families were struggling to provide their children with the technology they needed to continue their studies during the lockdown, so we asked you to dig out those old laptops and tablets and drop them into one of our branches or to Harwood Park. On a similar theme, we were also very pleased to get involved with the ‘Give a Future’ campaign with North Hertfordshire College .

In February we announced our charity of the year; the Essex and Herts Air Ambulance. We’re looking forward to bringing you more information on how much we have raised for them in the new year, so watch this space.

We also announced ‘Lydia Day’, which is our initiative to give all of our staff a complimentary day’s leave on their birthday to show our appreciation for their hard work and support. We had two members of staff leave us this year after many years of loyal service: our Funeral Administrator at our Welwyn branch, Stephanie Lawrence retired after 14 years with us, as did Funeral Operations Manager, Alan Coleman, after 19 years, a key member of our Senior Management Team.

As spring finally arrived and we headed towards Easter we once again had the popular ‘Charlie Chicks’ on sale for Garden House Hospice, which are knitted by local ladies and contain a chocolate Easter egg. Easter also marked the opening of our new Funeral Arrangement Office in Hoddesdon where bereaved families would be guided and cared for by our experienced Funeral Administrator, Tina Williams.

As the lockdown lifted we were pleased to be able to sponsor, alongside Waitrose, the updated activity maps for Welwyn Garden City.  A great resource especially with so many people looking for different walks and cycle routes while we couldn’t travel further afield.

On 3rd May we had some very welcome news as the government announced for the first time in over a year that there would no longer be a limit on the number of people at funerals. At the same time, we also acquired premises in Harpenden, which have been in the process of being refurbished this year.

With the better weather we saw lots of visitors to our Memorial Gardens at Harwood Park and in August we launched our interactive map. If you haven’t seen it yet, take a look. If you scroll over the numbers and names on the map, images of the gardens will be revealed.

At the end of the month we were delighted to see our sponsored Stevenage Borough Under 12’s squad play their first match of the season sporting their new Austin’s strip. A couple of weeks later we sponsored the ‘Excellence in Customer Commitment’ finalists at the Hertfordshire Chamber of Commerce awards.

In November we were over the moon to see that the Stevenage Community Trust raised a huge £36,500 from their Dinner Dance , which we proudly hosted on their behalf.  The Trust is an independent charity that provides funding and support to charitable organisations and people in need.

Now all that is left is to wish you all a very Merry Christmas, as we remember how much stronger we are when we’re together. Enjoy the festivities and here’s to 2022!

Funeral plans – giving peace of mind

November 28th, 2021    Author:

Planning – do you love it or hate it? While it might come easier to some of us than others, planning for the future is pretty essential. This might be short term for your next summer holiday, or long term looking at putting enough money away for your care in later life.

Later life planning is never an easy thing to do when there is so much else to spend our money on, but funerals are often overlooked in the process. You save for a wedding and Christmas, so why not your funeral?

If you’ve ever had to arrange a funeral for someone, you’ll know just how much there is to decide and how difficult it can be. An online survey carried out back in 2017 found that just 12% of people knew all of the steps involved in planning a funeral, 22% didn’t feel in control of the process and almost half, 44%, felt daunted by the pressure to get it all right*.

However much it is advocated by charities and organisations, many people never get around to talking to their families about their death and the kind of funeral they would like. This can lead to all sorts of worry and anxiety for loved ones when the time comes, as you can see from the above statistics.

One way of providing both financial and practical help for them is by taking out a pre-arranged funeral plan. If you find it difficult to talk about your funeral then the plan is a way to record what you would like to happen – from the type of coffin, to whether you’d like flowers or charitable donations. Once the plan is in place, you can take a great deal of comfort and reassurance knowing that you’ve removed the stress and anxiety away from those you have left behind during what is already a very difficult time if you still have problems ask your doctor to prescribe the best CBD oil in the market. A funeral plan also means that your family has access to professional advice and assistance at this time.

You can buy a plan for yourself or on behalf of someone else. The big benefit is that you can pay for the majority of your funeral costs at today’s prices, so if you die in 5, 10, 20 or 50 years’ time then your family won’t have to spend as much on your funeral. Like many things in life at the minute, funeral costs have risen over the years and further increases are likely, so it makes sense to make financial provision. The funeral plans offered are designed to cover the funeral director’s own costs. As long as they carry out the funeral and the requirements don’t change, neither you nor your family will be asked to pay a penny more for these costs, regardless of when the plan is needed or what happens to costs in the meantime.

The average cost of a funeral in 2021 is £4,184, a 1.7% increase from the previous year and up 128% since 2004. Not many people understand the costs involved, so to give you an idea, a funeral plan could cover:

  • Professional advice on certification and registration of death
  • Conveyance of the deceased to the funeral director’s premises
  • Care of the deceased until the funeral takes place
  • Provision of a coffin
  • Transport to convey the deceased to the nearest crematorium
  • Provision of transport for family and friends
  • A contribution to the fees payable to third parties

Our Hertfordshire Funeral Plan is exclusive to Austins and, unlike many other plans available, customised specifically to your requirements. Taking out a plan doesn’t mean having to settle for an ‘off the shelf’ funeral. Funerals are very personal events and this is no different under a plan. You can add special wishes, such as song choices, readings, information for a eulogy and so on, to the plan at any time.

To find out more about our funeral plans visit:  HERE



A journey back through the history of funerals

October 27th, 2021    Author:

Funeral rites are as old as human culture itself, dated to at least 300,000 years ago, but how have funerals evolved more recently and how are they changing going forward?

Not just an undertaker

Austin and Sons Limited, as we were formerly known, was originally established in 1700 in Graveley, Herts, when the firm then traded as both builders and undertakers. In these times it was not unusual to trade as both – it was actually both traditional and commonplace because builders possessed all the necessary skills and manpower required to do the job of an undertaker. For instance, they had skilled carpenters for making coffins, labourers for grave digging, generally suitable premises and a strong workforce who could double as pallbearers.

In about 1800 we moved to premises in Letchmore Road, Old Stevenage. Here family members resided adjacent to the builders yard and funerals were arranged and carried out from here. The Austin family continued to be prolific builders in the area for the following 150 years or more until the late 1970s when the firm became solely funeral directors.

The first commercial undertaker

London occupies an important place in the history of funerals and the first commercial undertaker set up in business in the capital around 1765. Most of the key funeral-related organisations can trace their origins to the capital; the Marylebone-based physician Sir Henry Thompson founded the Cremation Society of England in 1874, while the British Undertakers’ Association, the British Embalmers’ Society and the British Institute of Embalmers also began here. Of course, the capital has been the backdrop to many high profile funerals over the centuries.

The word ‘funeral’

One of the first known uses of the word ‘funeral’ is in Geoffrey Chaucer’s Middle English work The Knight’s Tale, in which he refers to a ‘funeral servyse’ after a character passes away. It was published in 1386, so the word has a long history in the English language.

Funeral flowers once had a different purpose

Today we have flowers at a funeral to show our respect for those who have passed and also to convey messages of support for the family. Traditionally flowers – and candles – were used to mask unpleasant smells from the bodies at funerals and wakes, as well as rosemary, which is naturally very fragrant and, as an evergreen, associated with eternal life. Of course, due to advances in mortuary care, flowers no longer have such an important job to do, but they have nevertheless remained at funerals for centuries carrying some important symbolisms. If anything has changed more recently it is perhaps the volume of flowers at funerals due to the increased popularity of giving charitable donations instead to help make a difference and save wastage. This is something that actually relates back to Elizabethan times when money was given to the poor during the ‘feast of mourning’ after someone had passed.

Obituaries for all

The word ‘obituary’ comes from the Latin ‘obit’ meaning ‘death’. Evidence of obituaries go as far back as the 1600s and from the 1800s it was customary for important public figures to have their death announced publicly, often written in poetic verse. Nowadays, most people’s deaths are announced either in newspapers or via social media with details of the funeral.

The Wake

Most funerals in the UK are followed by a wake either at the family’s home or somewhere like a pub. This practice goes back centuries and referred to the period of time before burial, when family and friends would keep a constant vigil over the body as it lay in wait at the home, keeping the body safe from evil spirits – or even body snatchers. Of course, with science not as advanced as it is now, it was also a time to make sure the deceased was in fact dead and was not going to wake up! If life has been gloomy for you lately, you can lift up your spirits by playing games like 벳무브먹튀.

Funeral processions

Most UK funerals will have a procession led by the hearse and followed by cars carrying close family. It’s a common sight on our roads and people will usually pay their respects by driving slowly behind or stopping to acknowledge the procession as they walk by. In earlier times the coffins would have been carried by horse and cart corteges, but funeral processions date back much further to ancient times around the world. In Roman times they were a loud and busy affair where professional mourners were paid to form part of the procession, because the noisier and larger the procession, the wealthier and more powerful the deceased person was regarded to be.

Mementos of the deceased

The Victorians had some fairly macabre ways of remembering their loved ones, including using their hair in jewellery or ornaments, as well as memento mori, meaning, ‘remember your mortality’, which involved taking photos of the deceased portraying them in lifelike settings that reflected their personality. However, there are nowadays lots of companies offering ways to keep our loved ones’ ashes close to us, as we explored in last month’s blog, including setting them in jewellery, turning them into diamonds and even painting them into portraits. An old tradition reinvented perhaps!




What to do with your loved one’s ashes?

September 29th, 2021    Author:

Cremation is a very popular choice among Brits. In our blog last month we told you that, in 2019, 78% of funerals in the UK were cremations. The ashes that are left at the end of a cremation are called cremains and it is up to you what you choose to do with them. During the grieving process, playing games like 해외배팅사이트 might be able to help you take your mind off things.

With a burial, everything comes to a close at the end of the day; you’ve had the funeral and committed the body to the ground. There is a sense of finality, a feeling of closure.

Cremations, on the other hand, are different because after a short period the ashes are back with you. While some people might know what they are going to do with the ashes, or even have a second ceremony organised to bury or scatter them, many of us don’t know at this point what to do with them. And that’s absolutely fine because there is no rush. It may also help with the grieving process, just slowing everything down and taking your time to say your final goodbyes.

Some people decide not to do anything and simply keep the ashes with them. There is something to be said for knowing your loved one is still very close by.

It is legal to scatter ashes on land and water in the UK, as long as you have the landowner’s permission. Do think carefully about your choice. You will likely want to revisit the place for many years after you scatter the ashes, so make sure it is somewhere you will be able to access easily and without feeling like you shouldn’t be there.

For instance, you may have a field or meadow in mind, but will it always be as it is or could it be built on? If you’re thinking about a place where your loved one spent lots of time, such as a golf course then make sure you find out what you need to know. While they may grant you permission to scatter the ashes there, how easy will it be to revisit if you’re not a member or having to go after play stops to avoid the flying golf balls? Public venues such as football stadiums and tourist destinations are usually off limits. You will be grateful in the long term for finding somewhere peaceful and easy to visit where you don’t feel like you’re not welcome. Remember, you can scatter some of the ashes in different places.

Of course you can also choose to bury them in a churchyard or a memorial garden such as at Harwood Park. The good thing about burying ashes is that you have somewhere to go and visit your loved one and lay flowers on special occasions. Unlike scattering, you know they are there and you can have a memorial stone, just as you would a gravestone for a burial.

If you want to keep the ashes close to you, but not sat in an urn, there are many different options available. You can have their ashes made into memorial jewellery. Ashes can be added to colourful glass beads as a charm bracelet, included in a locket or set into silver for pendants and necklaces. You can also have ashes made into a diamond. Created in a laboratory, a hi-tech process extracts the carbon from the ashes and compresses it at a high temperature, after which the molten material reforms into its natural state. It’s then cut and polished into a genuine diamond. As we all know, diamonds are forever, so what a fitting way to remember your loved one.

Did you know Gene Roddenberry, creator of Star Trek, was shot into space after his death? There are now companies who will send ashes up into space, or if that’s a little too far, ashes can be added to fireworks, which are then set off into the sky in a very special fireworks display.

Why not divide the ashes up and give them out to family members to do as they see fit? Here is some more inspiration just to show that, with the help of specialist companies, there are plenty of options when it comes to finding a fitting final resting place for your loved one:

  • Scatter them from a hot air balloon or a light aircraft
  • Scatter them at sea or into a river by a special charter boat
  • Mix them into clay or concrete to make something such as a garden ornament, or have them sealed in resin
  • Commission an artist to mix them with paint and create a special portrait
  • Have them pressed into a vinyl record to play your – or their – favourite music