A funeral home in Farringdon has recently opened a most unusual museum, of the history of funerals. Not just British, but how humanity entire seeks to commemorate the death of loved ones and noble ones.

From early Saxon to modern day, this is an eclectic display of news clippings, photos and some Victorian display signs.

The museum was opened just last June, by a member of staff who happens to be a local historian as well, and the passion for history and funerals has resulted in a basement space being turned into a museum.

Entry was, on my visit at least, was a case of ringing the doorbell in the funeral home next door, and a cheerful lady opened a side door to let me in. As you’re left alone, with the doors locked, there’s a bell to ring to be let out again, otherwise, feel free to wander around.

It’s not a display with a lot of expensive relics on display, although there are some classic Victorian gold and black signs, it’s more a collection of interesting snippets and facts, laid out with vintage photos and display boards.

You won’t be able to have a Viking funeral today, alas, but it turns out that your ashes can be put into a model Viking boat and set adrift. Or your ashes can be scattered in the waters around Venice if you want a more romantic passing.

The history of Egyptian funerals, Assyrian, Hindu, Muslim, various Christian sects, are all explained in bite-sized morsels.

While we often think of grand Daimler limousines as the staple hearse for English funerals, they are actually declining in popularity — the point that a recent Bond Movie struggled to find enough to offer the classic image of a funeral cortege. Although the funeral hearse in resplendent Union Jack colours wasn’t one of the ones used

Elsewhere, this tube geek learned that two people have used the London Underground to travel to their funeral – William Gladstone and Thomas Barnardo. Now I have an aim to make it three!

A funeral that ran late caused a town to change its name. The town of Whitley turned out en-mass to celebrate one of its greats, William Oliver, but his body was sent to Whitby by mistake. Outraged, the town changed its name in 1902 to Whitley Bay to prevent such a mistake from happening again.

Ironic in a way, as the black stone, Jet, which became very popular as Victorian mourning jewellery comes from Whitby.

These are some of the tales, and there are many more, to take away. My own research pile grew slightly thanks to the visit.

It’s a curious little museum and very much a personal labour of love rather than a curated collection of rare artefacts. Thanks to that it has a more human touch than some museums that coldly set out displays for academic study.

As such, I liked it.

The museum, at 29-31 Roseberry Avenue, EC1 is generally open on Wednesdays 10am to 4pm, but if making a special trip, maybe phone before hand as sometimes the funeral home is otherwise occupied and not for a short time — call them on 020 7837 1775.


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  1. Melvyn says:

    I suppose this is somewhere to go if you have time to kill !

  2. Andy P says:

    Looks dead interesting to me

  3. Jorge Dos Santos says:


    I am Gothic and I like to visit Creepy places, like Funeral Museums and Torture Museums.
    can you tell me more about it and where it is located in London?
    thanks for your help.
    have a nice day,
    Mr. Jorge Dos Santos

  4. Allie Passfield says:

    Shame the hours are so limited. I’m an Undertaker and would be really interested in visiting – but during the week I’m doing funerals lol

  5. Jackie Horne says:

    Wonder if you would have any history on Simpsons undertakers in East Street, Walworth as great grandfather was employed their back in the 1900.Francis Chappel on that site had a refurb and up until then the photograph in the reception area was a picture of great grandfather. We know that the horses were kept stabled around London Bridge area but alas we have no living relatives with any knowledge. If you can’t help could you point me in the right direction. Many thanks

  6. Nicolas Wheatley says:

    This is a great article about an interesting small museum that deserves to be better known.
    However, the information about Thomas Barnardo’s funeral using the Underground is incorrect. At the time, 1906, the line was part of the Great Eastern Railway and it didn’t become part of the Underground until 1948. There are more details in a book coming out in October 2020 called ‘Final Journey- the Untold Story of Funeral Trains’; the details are available by internet search.

  7. Brian Parsons says:

    In addition to this museum, there is also the Frederick W Paine Museum at 24 Old London Road, Kingston-upon-Thames KT2 6QG. Tel 0208 547 1556. The museum contains photographs, ephemera and many exhibits relating to the company and the funerals it has carried out since the early years of the twentieth century. The museum also houses the firm’s extensive archive of funeral records (including many from other companies). The interior of the building, with its stunning oak paneling, is grade two listed on account of being a unique surviving example of an Edwardian undertaking premises. There is an annual series of lectures (past subjects have included the Brookwood Necropolis Railway (John Clarke), London cemeteries and the changing face of funerals in London). Entry is now only by appointment; please phone on the above number. Inquiries from historians and serious researchers are most welcome. However, the museum is currently closed due to the current situation.

  8. John Baker says:

    My wifes family name is buffin and in the 1800’s there”s seems to be a family tradition of undertakers across London,I was wondering if there’s a register or some kind I can explore,for family ancestry,Yours john Baker.

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