Funeral Directors Category: South West England
James Showers and Jane Diamond.
Quite possibly both of them will find the prominence of their names in this review uncomfortable, they share an instinctive preference to be in the background rather than the foreground, seeing their roles as being supportive and professional rather than centre of attention.
James founded Family Tree Funeral Company in 2005 after “my father’s appallingly perfunctory disposal ceremony, and my mother’s funeral, which was excellent due to our strong insistence on having it our own way. I saw then that there was such a thing as a good funeral, and what it is that makes the difference.” By the time he founded Family Tree, he had spent time studying and working with a large corporate funeral directors, so had learned the nuts and bolts of the funeral business, but he was determined to bring a different, person-centred approach to serving the people of Stroud and the surrounding areas.
For many years, James ran the company pretty much single-handed, establishing Family Tree as a well known funeral directors in Stroud. When he met Jane in 2018, the two instantly got on – Jane shares James’s passion to normalise the subject of death, she has been running a Death Cafe for years locally, trained as a psychotherapist and emanates an air of calm, quiet competence. Shortly after Family Tree moved from their original home into the premises in Middle Street, Jane joined the company, and now she works alongside James sharing every aspect of the work.
Onetime ad-man, James’s has been a life journey of rich variety and varied vistas. He is a seeker after truth and beauty, whose out of death interests include gardening, dancing, reading, music of all sorts, walking, “wild places and somewhat wild people”, their religions, culture and food, Britishness, British birds, especially marshland species, horses, dusk, compost. He’s a charming, friendly and tremendously nice man, who is instantly likeable – just the kind of person who is eminently suited to helping families feel they are in safe hands when somebody has died.
You can get a sense of him if you play some of the videos which are throughout the website – hear James talking about why he became an undertaker here and read some of James’ writing in blog posts here.
You can get the essence of Family Tree by looking at the website – it’s a wealth of information, beautifully presented in a way that doesn’t overwhelm. Dip in and out, read the blog posts, watch the videos and browse the information sections. You’ll absorb knowledge and become familiar with the empowering approach that James and Jane have to their work.
This attention to detail is also evident when you visit the premises in Middle Street. You step into a large attractive space furnished with comfortable seating and a coffee table on a brightly coloured rug in the centre. To the right is the office area, while curtains at the back of the room screen the area where you can spend time with the person who has died and where they are cared for. It is all very beautiful and the air is scented with essential oils. Doors leading on from this space lead to a fridge and storage areas. It’s all self contained – when people are brought into the care of Family Tree this is where they will be until the day of the funeral.
Works a lot harder than most to ensure you know what your choices are and have the info you need to craft a funeral that reflects your values and represents the life of the person who has died. You can be as involved as you wish, or James and Jane can do it all for you—whatever’s best for you. Dedicated to “inspiring families to reclaim their right to say their goodbyes in precisely the way they want.” James is a brilliant speaker and educator, he gives talks to local groups and, with a colleague, holds workshops on best practice in end-of-life care. Jane has similar skills, and is equally dedicated to encouraging us all to include thinking about our mortality, for all the best reasons.
With James and Jane working with you, you will feel as if you are dealing with a friend rather than a representative of a profession. They will level with you. There are no questions that are off limits, nor suggestions that they wouldn’t do their very best to make happen.
Locally, people looking for a progressive or alternative approach have always found their way to Family Tree, but they are equally adept at supporting families who want a completely traditional funeral. They are used to carrying out funerals in churches or the local cathedral, and can be as formal as you want, or as dressed down – it’s entirely up to you.
- The phone is always answered by James or Jane and you’ll deal with them throughout. During busy periods, they are ably assisted during busy periods by Bath-based locus funeral director, Catherine Miller. But it will be one of these three you speak to. There’s no out-sourcing to call centres or to staff to take calls late at night.
- Home visits or come and meet them in their lovely premises in Middle Street.
- Works with home funeralists “as a matter of everyday service”.
- Same sex undertaker to lay out the body if you wish, and of course you can come and help if you want to be involved.
- Embalming is avoided, it will be offered only if really necessary.
- Family involvement is encouraged – if you have sufficient people to carry the coffin for the funeral then great, not only will that make it far more personal, but it will save you paying for bearers. If you need them to provide them then of course they will – currently the charge for this is £45 per person.
- The customary vehicle used is a dark blue Audi A6 estate, but if you want a hearse then they will hire a big black one (or whatever) if you want.
- Great website, with prices listed for their various services.
- Parking -your best bet is the pay and display car park on Parliament Street (walk down the steps at the Nelson Street exit and turn left, then go left at the Golden Fleece and Family Tree is right there on Middle Street).
Exactly the right people, and a rare find, for anyone wanting a highly personal funeral. Great value for the service you receive. James and Jane are some of the most humane people you will ever meet, and highly capable. We like them very much indeed.
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.