Funeral Director/s: D Read more [...]
Funeral Directors Category: South East England
Duncan Satterly – well known in the local area, Duncan and his wife Sandra own and run this business, in the best tradition of family owned and run funeral directors. They are ably supported by a very small team of staff, so there is a very personal feeling to this company which is apparent as soon as you walk through the door.
Duncan was born and brought up around funerals, his father was a funeral director and for some time Duncan was involved with the family business, alongside his dad and his brother. The company grew to three branches, but after a parting of the ways a few years ago, Duncan and Sandra have taken the Aylesbury and Tring branches forward to become a brand new company.
Unlike most of the other funeral businesses in the area, which are almost all part of large groups, this means that if you choose Churchfield Funeralcare to look after someone who has died, you can be certain that you will be meeting the company owner, who will be personally responsible for making sure everything goes to plan.
Duncan conducts every funeral himself and is completely immersed in the day to day running of his company. If you were to initially meet another member of the team, Duncan will ensure he makes contact with you and will arrange to meet you before the day of the funeral.
This connection with clients is fundamentally important to Duncan – he sees his role as being entirely to serve and support clients who choose his company and has thought carefully about every aspect of the experience that people will have. He’ll happily come to you to discuss arrangements and can tailor any of the services offered to suit individual preferences or requirements. Duncan’s pleasant, gentle manner and calm nature are just the type of temperament suited to his work, he has an air of competence and kindness and sees his role as being supportive and empowering of clients, although he will happily offer advice if asked.
“I don’t think it’s our place to influence people’s decisions in any way, but we can always advise or guide families if they need us to. What I want to be able to do is offer a professional and compassionate, personal service, funerals are so personal, and I believe that a corporate approach just can’t be personal enough,” says Duncan. “Most people won’t realise that some companies keep the original name but are now owned by large corporate companies, so the service they will receive just won’t be the same as we can offer.”
Duncan has a small team of staff supporting him – while Sandra is very involved, the couple have two young children, so family life necessarily involves juggling. At Aylesbury, Debs Miller and Cynthia Warne share the working week, so you may meet either of them depending on which day you make contact. At Tring, Kim Hay has recently joined the company, and when we visited was still settling in to her new role. Behind the scenes, Scott looks after everything, fitting and lining coffins and looking after the mortuary as well as doing all kinds of other tasks. Everyone we met was lovely, and the company feels exactly like the best kind of small family, all working together to ensure that each client has the best possible experience.
Duncan has prioritised the details and services that families will notice, and minimised the stuff that other funeral directors seem to be so concerned with. There is no fleet of expensive shiny cars out the back, Duncan hires vehicles in as needed, keeping his overheads down and enabling him to pass on these savings to his clients. He rightly believes, as we do, that as long as funeral vehicles are well turned out, most families won’t even notice what make or model black car turns up on the day.
Duncan’s focus is on the things that matter – looking after those in his care, and ensuring that their relatives are given attention, time and support, with all the information they need to make informed decisions.
Every client will receive a beautifully presented loose leaf folder with details of what to expect and what needs to be done after a death has occurred, contact details for local register offices and crematoria and other essential information. There are various other leaflets that you’ll be offered according to the type of funeral you are considering. Prices are clear and transparent, and various options are available, from a simple funeral with a choice of coffins through to an entirely bespoke funeral where you can choose from the entire range of products and services, all itemised with prices in the leaflet offered.
Previously located in large premises just a little further along the road, Churchfield Funeralcare now has a new home in Aylesbury, close to the centre of the town near Market Square in Buckingham Street. A former hair salon, it was entirely gutted and refurbished according to Duncan’s exacting requirements before opening for business in May 2019. People passing by can see into the spacious reception area, where you’ll probably find Duncan, Debs or Cynthia sitting at the desk – it’s reassuring to be able to see who you’ll be meeting before you enter, and something that many funeral companies don’t seem to have realised.
The décor is fresh and modern, with striking wallpaper on the wall to your left as you enter – ‘chosen by Sandra,’ says Duncan with a wry smile. You get the feeling he might possibly have preferred a different style, but it works really well and adds to the contemporary feeling of the premises. Just beyond the reception area is a large room with comfortable chairs around an oval table which is used for making funeral arrangements in privacy, again, it’s bright and light and modern, and has been designed so that it’s suitable for older people who might find rising from low sofas difficult. It’s also easy to spread out all the paperwork which accompanies making funeral arrangements. A coffee machine and glasses for water are to hand, and it’s quiet and peaceful despite the bustle of the road outside.
Down the corridor leading to the rear of the premises, doors open into a bathroom, a kitchen, and the Quiet Room which is where you can spend time with the person who has died. Beyond here, at the rear of the building, is the mortuary area, with refrigeration and space to prepare coffins and to wash and prepare people for their funerals. If you’d like to see where your relative will be looked after, just ask – and if you’d like to be involved in preparing them for their funeral, again this is absolutely fine, just mention this when making the arrangements.
The premises at Tring are awaiting a refurbishment to bring them in line with the new colour and style of the company, but they are perfectly adequate in the meantime. The door opens into the reception area, where you’ll find Kim behind the desk, to the left there is a comfortable arrangement room with sofas and chairs and a small writing desk, while to the right of the reception you go through to two separate chapels where you can spend time with your relative.
The personal touch is fundamental, the connection between the client and the funeral home that they hire is deeply important and very personal, and this understanding has informed the way Duncan and Sandra have set up their company.
“We are being entrusted with the most important and precious thing, the care of someone who has died, and the arrangements for their funeral,” says Duncan, “You can’t help but be totally connected with each family you serve, you are being invited in to the most intimate experience, and it is a privilege and a huge responsibility.”
Previous clients often keep in touch, and Duncan is both touched and appreciative of these special relationships that were forged at a time of deepest grief. It is testimony to the impression that this gentle man makes on people who could easily just want to put the whole experience behind them.
Getting every tiny detail absolutely right. And getting the balance right for every client. For those who just want to hand everything over to a funeral director and be guided by them, then Duncan and his team can offer advice and guidance to help you achieve the exact kind of funeral you want. Equally, if you have strong ideas and want to take the lead, then they’ll be right there to support and empower you to do just that. And everything in between.
Churchfield Funeralcare is the perfect example of how old-fashioned courtesy and kindness can be blended with a fresh, modern approach, resulting in exceptionally personal service at a price that is fair. It’s exactly how we think funeral directors should be, with the company owner completely involved with and connected to the funeral arrangements.
Unlike nearby corporate or group owned businesses, Churchfield Funeralcare offers clients completely personal, bespoke service from the people who own and run the business, something we believe clients will benefit tremendously from.
- Your first call will be answered by Duncan or Sandra or one of the small team, Debs, Cynthia, Aine, or Kim
- Home visits? – absolutely, just ask
- Same sex person to wash and dress? Yes, if this is important to you then ask. Equally if you want to be involved then you will be very welcome.
- Embalming? Only if specifically required, and with approval from the client. Duncan views embalming as an intrusive procedure.
- Ethnic / cultural specialism? The community around the Aylesbury branch is culturally a very diverse one, Duncan and his colleagues are on hand to offer support or guidance or supply any services that might be required.
- Local celebrants – the company have a carefully selected number of celebrants on their list that they are confident to offer to clients to choose from. They monitor the ceremonies carried out by celebrants and pass on any feedback, it’s important to them that everything is perfect, as any celebrants they suggest also reflect on their reputation.
- Vehicles– Hired in from a local carriage master to order, Jaguar hearse and limousine as standard but the full range of alternatives can be chosen instead.
- Website– Nice looking website with prices available to download for the various services offered.
- Client support – Throughout your dealings with Duncan and his colleagues you will feel entirely supported. Plans are in place for follow up support.
- Money matters – Fair, transparent and good value for the level of service you will receive.
- Parking– Nearby pay and display car parks for both premises.
We really like the ethos of Churchfield Funeralcare. Duncan and Sandra have overcome some difficult times in the past to reach where they are today, but they have been committed to continuing to offer the people of Aylesbury, Tring and the surrounding areas the best possible service and care at the most difficult time in their lives.
“If we had given up and closed the business when we were faced with problems, then who would be doing what we can do for clients?” says Duncan. “We know that we have made a difference to many families, and we are going to continue to do our absolute best to do so for many more.”
And it seems that this is exactly what clients are looking for. From a recent Google review; ‘We intended using the services of a Funeral Director we have used in the past for another family member but when we called into Churchfield\’s office we were impressed with the professional, compassionate and understanding manner in which we were treated. Nothing was too much trouble. Everything asked for was accommodated.’