Previously known as B Read more [...]
Funeral Directors Category: South West England
Previously known as Bewley and Merrett, the company changed names in 2018 to reflect the people who actually own and run the company, and in 2020 rebranded to become AJB Funerals.
Aaron Bewley and his dad Jonathon are the third and second generation funeral directors who run this company, although Jonathon has mostly handed over the day to day running of the business to his son nowadays. It may well be Aaron who you see conducting funerals, although colleagues Angela Phillips and Sarah Ellis also do so – the company ethos is that whoever you meet with to arrange your funeral will help guide you through all aspects of the funeral, right up to accompanying you on the day of the ceremony.
“We really encourage families to personalise the funeral if they would like to, rather than just going with the standard options,” says Aaron, “although this is fine too if that’s their choice.” Photos of some of these personalised funerals can be seen on the stylish canvases on the walls of the premises, beautiful photographs that are a subtle way of letting you know that this company is different in many ways to the traditional perception of a funeral director.
Aaron’s approach is to start each funeral without any assumptions or expectations. His way is to simply sit with each family and talk with them, no arrangement form in front of him or paperwork to be completed, that can come later. He’d rather learn about the person who has died and the type of ceremony their family feel will reflect their personality and memory, and then help shape a fitting tribute that the family feels fully in agreement with – and control of.
This is very much a family owned and run business, with the Bewley family right at the heart of it. As well as the support of Jonathon and his years of experience, Aaron also has his wife Amber working alongside him, sharing his vision for taking the company forward in new, creative ways whilst retaining the superb reputation the company has earned over the years.
Aaron’s mother, Kate Bewley, a director of the company, is a talented florist and provides funeral flowers for clients and flower displays for the premises, she also is the creator and nurturer of the beautiful gardens outside the properties and creates stunning window displays, (both the gardens and window displays have earned well deserved local awards).
Aaron’s sister Rosie provides valuable administrative support, particularly looking after donations that have been made in memory of people who have died.
Together, the family form the foundation for the team of staff, a small group of gentlemen many of whom who have worked for the company for years, including James who seems to turn his hand to every job that needs doing behind the scenes at Corsham, the main branch in Pickwick Road where the mortuary is based and the vehicles are garaged.
It is never an easy task to follow in the footsteps of your father and grandfather while bringing your own personal touch to the business that they founded, but Aaron has done just this in an incredibly impressive way since joining his dad in the family business in 2001. He originally started as a funeral operative, having spent some time working in horticulture on huge projects, leading large teams in a highly-pressurized working environment. When Aaron started shadowing Jonathan at funeral arrangements and on the day of the funeral ceremony, he was inspired to find ways of making the funeral more personalised to the individual wishes of each family, and now this ‘creating each funeral from scratch’ approach is the norm for the whole company.
It’s a long way from the types of funerals his grandfather Dennis Bewley would have been familiar with when he took over the old firm of H. Merrett Funeral Directors which had been serving local families since 1890, but the transition to being a thoroughly up to date and modern type of progressive funeral directors is largely due to Aaron’s passion, foresight and people skills, gently steering the formerly traditional business into becoming very much a contemporary company, fully in tune with the rapidly changing expectations of the public.
Although now officially retired, Jonathon is still very much involved, coming in to Corsham most days and keeping an eye on what is going on, making sure that the high standards he instilled are maintained, it is Aaron at the helm looking after the running of the company, and coming up with ideas about the direction that the company should take. In this he is supported by his wife Amber, who has a background in customer services of the highest level. Amber is now business manager for the company, taking on some of the administrative tasks as well as looking after products and services, and having an eye on the overall ‘look and feel’ of the business.
Their premises are lovely. So lovely is the newest branch, in New Road in Chippenham, that one lady walked in thinking she was at a spa. That’s quite an accolade for an undertaker’s business. The gardens outside Corsham and Melksham spill over with colour and lush greenery, resulting in winning the Best Commercial Premises category in the Corsham in Bloom competition many times, while the window display in Chippenham won the ‘Best Dressed Christmas Window Competition’ in 2017. Inside each of the branches, the company’s trademark olive green colour is picked up in the décor and the contemporary furnishings provide a feeling of calm, while the attractive canvas prints add splashes of colour as well as inspiration for funeral ideas.
Aaron is mostly based at Corsham, which is where everybody in the company’s care is taken and looked after. All families are made aware that their relative will be taken to Corsham where the mortuary facilities are, and as the other branches are just a few miles away, often Melksham and Chippenham families will come and spend time with their relative at Corsham rather than having them brought over to the local branch.
Behind the small reception area at Corsham the separate building houses a large, comfortable room with sofas which is where funeral arrangements are discussed, and also serves as a waiting area for families spending time with their relative in the chapel of rest, which leads off of this. Beyond the chapel of rest is the spacious mortuary, which in turn leads to a workshop (James’s domain) and garage space. All of this building is going to be renovated over the coming years as part of Aaron’s plans to improve the facilities they offer, but as it is now it is absolutely adequate and perfectly fit for purpose.
At Melksham, the premises are quite small, but provide a useful local base where Melksham families can make funeral arrangements and spend time in the chapel of rest if they don’t want to – or can’t – travel to Corsham. When we visited, Angela Phillips was there, although often Amber bases herself at Melksham.
At Chippenham there are two branches, the original one in Orchard Road is now used by appointment, and offers a local chapel of rest where Chippenham families can spend time visiting their relative, while the newer branch is in New Road. When we called in we met Sarah Ellis, named Most Promising Trainee Funeral Director in the 2017 Good Funeral Awards. (The company was also runner up in the Best Modern Funeral Director category). Funeral arrangements can be made here in the attractive surroundings and a new chapel of rest is shortly going to be built at the back of the premises.
Evolving the business to meet the changing needs of the families they serve. This is a company that is not afraid to change and adapt when need be, and the passion that Aaron and Amber and the team have for their work is evident in everything they do. The impeccable attention to detail that is the underpinning strength of an excellent funeral director is fundamental to the way that this company carries out funerals, but alongside this there is a refreshing willingness to keep up with the times, and to lead the way in providing bespoke services at fair prices.
Supporting the local community in all kinds of ways, sponsoring and taking part in events, raising money for local charities, being involved with the people around them on an equal level rather than to promote the business – Bewley people are very much part of the communities they serve, and this is apparent in their many ways of being connected.
Maintaining the highest of standards while taking the company forward into the 21st century in pioneering ways is also really important to Aaron, and this very much involves a sustainable, eco-friendly approach. His latest – and most exciting – innovation is the decision to invest in two new Tesla electric vehicles to replace the old-style limousines. We believe they are the only funeral directors in the UK to offer Teslas, the state of the art electric cars, as standard for transporting families to funerals. When we visited, the charging unit was in place in the garage, and the delivery date was just a few weeks away. It will be fascinating to learn how local families respond to the opportunity to use this sustainable method of transport for funerals. A Bewley Nissan Leaf electric hearse may well follow if there seems to be local support for the idea.
Environmental issues are so much a part of the business that there is a company Green Statement here:
What particularly struck us when we visited was the real sense of care throughout this business. Aaron’s passion for his work is evident and contagious, and with Jonathan’s support and the tightly knit family involvement, this is shared throughout the company. The staff members we met are all clearly absolutely in love with their work, and have been mentored and encouraged to be the best that they can be. This is then reflected in their care for families, and resulted earlier this year in the company winning both the Chippenham BID Customer Service Award, being named finalist in four categories of the Wiltshire Business Awards 2018 – and then being named Winner in the Customer and Staff Care Award category.
As if these accolades weren’t enough, the company also scored 100% in a mystery shopper survey, one of just 7 companies out of 87 to do so. They received a Platinum Standard Award from Chippenham Connected for the experience the mystery shopper had when they visited Sarah who was in the branch on the day.
Unlike many funeral directors, Bewley’s have embraced social media and use it well. They have an informative and active Facebook page and Twitter account where they share news about their many activities in the local community as well as other information. Their website carries lots of news about what they’ve been doing here.
And putting your needs first and above everything else is what makes this company tick. They’ll wear whatever you want, find whatever type of coffin or vehicle you’d like, and help you create exactly the style of ceremony that works for you.
- Your first call will be received by Aaron, Angela, Sarah, Gemma or Amber
- Home visits – always offered first, otherwise you can go to any of the three branches at Corsham, New Road Chippenham or Melksham.
- Same sex person to wash and dress? Yes, just mention this.
- Embalming? Not routinely carried out, and only performed with express permission from the family after the process has been sensitively explained if it is deemed to be advisable.
- Ethnic specialism? Their services are inclusive and available to everyone. They will help people from all cultures and traditions, and if there are specific instructions you want them to follow they will follow these carefully to ensure everything is done to your wishes.
- Home arranged funerals? Yes, as much support or advice as you require
- Local celebrants – the ones suggested by Bewley’s are people they have known for many years and worked closely with. Whoever is helping you with funeral arrangements will tell you who they think might be a suitable officiant and why and see if you agree.
- Vehicles: The Teslas are coming! For the time being the company will retain a traditional hearse.
- Website: Beautiful website, very reflective of the look and style of the company. Photos and prices and lots of information, well written and easy to navigate.
- Client support: Superb!
- Money matters: All prices are online and broken down so you can see in advance the costs for the various components of a funeral. A deposit is requested before the funeral takes place, with the balance being invoiced afterwards.
- Parking: Close to the town centre in Corsham where there is plenty of free parking. The Melksham site is adjacent to a large car park. In Chippenham, the Bath Road car park is a short distance away.
Rightly recognised with a number of awards, this is a small, beautifully formed funeral director company that is wholly engaged with the communities they serve.
The dedication of the family and staff who run it is evident, their commitment to both the families they work for and to the environment is laudable, and the service they provide to the people of Wiltshire is outstanding.
We are delighted to welcome Aaron and Jonathon Bewley to our list of Recommended Funeral Directors.