Andrew Johnson. Immen Read more [...]
Funeral Directors Category: London
Andrew Johnson. Immensely personable, warm and likeable, Andrew has created a genuinely family run funeral business which began in 2011 when he left the Army. He had a successful military career before changing direction and becoming a funeral director – something he has never regretted at all.
Andrew had felt drawn to funeral directing since working for a local undertaker when he was a teenager, and he continued helping a friend who runs a funeral business during his time on leave from the military. When he left the Army, he knew that he didn’t want to work within a large organisation again, and the idea of opening his own funeral business became a reality.
He found the ideal premises in Plumstead, a former tool shop (previously a fish shop) it is located in the heart of the community on Plumstead Common Road. Andrew had grown up just a few miles away, so he knew the area well, and he and his wife Lisa lived locally until they started their family and moved a bit further out of town.
To begin with, Lisa helped him, sometimes with their little twin daughters crawling around the reception area, and Andrew’s father was also involved and could often be found manning the office while Andrew was out conducting funerals. For a while, Andrew’s niece looked after the administration and funeral arranging, but she left some years back, and was replaced by Bridget, who is still with the company today. Together with Chris, Andrew’s nephew, (who looks after the Charlton branch alongside Jude, the most recent member of the team), Andrew and Bridget are some of the nicest and most welcoming people you could find if you need to arrange a funeral.
When we visited, a steady stream of passers-by waved at Bridget, who was sitting at her desk in the open reception area where we were chatting. Very clearly Andrew’s right-hand person (and called ‘the boss’ by Andrew), Bridget assists with all aspects of the work. She goes out with Andrew to collect people from their place of death, and helps to look after them, washing and dressing and placing them in their coffins. She meets families and arranges funerals with them and takes turn answering the company phones after hours. Equally as immensely likeable as Andrew, Bridget also brings with her a wealth of her own personal experience that has enhanced and rounded the service that Andrew’s company offers.
Both Andrew and Bridget emphasised many times during the visit how important it is to provide each family with a service that suits them, and they see their roles as steering families through an unfamiliar process, offering gentle suggestions as they learn what each family is wanting to achieve with the funeral.
They start every conversation about funeral arrangements without any expectations, listening carefully and picking up cues and signals as they do so. They want to dispel any notions about expensive funerals being the norm and will offer ideas of alternatives to make funerals personal without incurring additional costs. “The last thing we want is for anyone to get themselves into debt for a funeral,” says Andrew, “We can always come up with ideas that people might not have thought of, and I tell them not to worry one bit about what any neighbours might think, that’s not what this is about at all.”
Working through the pandemic with such a small team could easily have meant that they closed their doors and minimised their contact with people to ensure they kept going, but instead both Andrew and Bridget felt strongly that they needed to do whatever they could for families who had been so traumatised by someone dying when restrictions were at their height. They risk assessed every situation, every funeral, and found ways of giving families some semblance of normality even when everything was so difficult. Andrew arranged for a coffin lid with a window in it to be made so that families could come in to the chapel of rest – under careful conditions – and see for themselves the face of the person they had lost, often someone that they hadn’t seen for months. PPE was acquired from wherever Andrew and Bridget could lay their hands on it and they looked after the people in their care to the best of their abilities, constantly reading and following the latest changing guidelines, while trying always to put families’ needs first.
In 2021, Andrew opened a second branch in Charlton, just a few minutes’ drive away from Plumstead, and another ‘village community’. Just a few months after opening when we visited, it was already well established in Charlton and local families can now know that their relative is looked after locally rather than in neighbouring Plumstead. Chris and Jude are based in the Charlton branch, while Bridget remains in the Plumstead one and Andrew can be found at either when he’s not our on funerals or visiting families.
Both premises have the same ‘Andrew Johnson’ look – a smart green exterior, welcoming reception areas, comfortable private rooms where funeral arrangements can be discussed and chapels of rest, and large refrigerated spaces at the rear where the people in their care are looked after until the date of their funeral. If families want to come in and help care for their relative there is plenty of room for them to do so at either branch.
When he’s not working, Andrew is the proud and extremely busy father of his three young girls. His wife Lisa shares his interests in film, fitness and food.
Tends towards the traditional, but will happily dress down if asked. He says, “Tradition is important, it offers a central foundation to what we do as people, family and communities.” As an ex-Army man, Andrew knows how to run a smart funeral, and is frequently called on to look after military and services funerals. He’s widely experienced in serving all of the diverse communities in the area and is familiar with all of the cultural customs and traditions.
Serving each family with whatever it is that they require. Andrew doesn’t do package funerals; he and his team meet each new client without expectations of what they might want and listen carefully to make sure they get it right. If money is tight then they have plenty of ways to help make the funeral beautiful and meaningful without costing a fortune. They work closely with local florists and celebrants and can recommend people who they trust completely to help with the flowers and ceremony.
In a time when many funeral businesses have become part of larger chains, the brilliance of a small, personally owned and run funeral company is evident. Andrew’s warm, kind personality and the friendliness of his close team immediately make you feel at ease, and the five star Google reviews left by previous clients and the hundreds of thank-you cards they have received reassure you that your first impression is one shared by everyone they have helped.
- Your first call will be answered by Andrew, Bridget, Chris or Jude, and whoever it is will see the whole process through with you.
- Family participation – absolutely, positively encouraged.
- Same sex person to wash and dress? Yes, Andrew, Bridget, Chris and Jude all look after the people in their care.
- Embalming – if they feel it is beneficial or needed then they will recommend, otherwise no embalming is done routinely.
- Ethnic specialism – Andrew and his team are experienced in looking after clients from all the diverse communities in the area.
- Home arranged funerals – Yes, 100%, happy to advise or offer any help that you might need.
- Local celebrants – They work closely with some excellent local celebrants and will suggest the person they think will be the best fit with your needs for the ceremony.
- Website – nice, clear website, informative and easy to navigate.
- Client support – Totally supportive. From the first contact with the company all the way through and afterwards, the kettle is always on if you want to pop in whenever you feel like a chat. The support that you will receive here is second to none.
- Money matters – Very good value. Prices are online and clearly outlined.
- Parking – Available on local roads at both branches.
Utterly decent, straightforward, kind and honest. A very high degree of personal service from someone who knows how lucky he is to be doing this work, and who a team of wonderful people and family who are equally invested in making sure your funeral is as good as it can possibly be.
Any decisions you take on engaging the services of a funeral director should be based on your views and research. You should not rely solely upon the views and opinions offered by us.