Farthing Funeral Service

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Funeral Directors Category: East of England

  • Luke Farthing. Other Farthing people who also conduct funerals are Andrea Race, Chris Griggs and Sharon McDonald.

    Farthing Funeral Service is a rare thing; a long established business that has retained the best of the past – the acquired experience and knowledge of over a century and three quarters of carrying out funerals for local families – and married it to a canny eye on the rapidly changing needs of bereaved families in the 21st century. The combination is strikingly successful.

    Luke has spent most of his life immersed in the funeral business. The youngest of four sons, all born and brought up in Ipswich, he and his brothers all helped their parents Donald and Margaret during the school holidays. Luke studied law at Cambridge, but soon after graduating he joined the Ipswich office in 1985 to work full time for the family firm, along with his eldest brother Robert.

    Back then, it was known as Farthing, Singleton and Hastings, the latter names reflecting the 19thcentury undertakers who had served the families of Ipswich since 1840. Like many small undertaking firms established in Victorian times, the original C. Hastings and Son and Edward S. Singleton businesses had gone up for sale after many decades, and the Farthing family ended up acquiring them in 1960 and 1975 respectively. Luke’s grandfather, Stanley Farthing had come into funerals from the building trade, like so many of his generation, and his son Donald had taken on the responsibility for the funeral side of their work.

    The history of Farthings is important because it shows the deep roots the company has in the community it belongs to. The years of serving families from Ipswich and the surrounding villages imbue the business with the patina of immense trustworthiness, and this is well deserved, but this is no company that relies on former reputation to keep going. The Farthing men clearly had vision and determination to build on the quality of the company they inherited custody of, and Donald and Margaret and their sons steered the business safely through the years of change in the 1970s and 80’s, retaining their independence with determination as many other firms succumbed to being bought out by national and then multi-national companies.

    Instead of following the trend of the time, Farthings instead embarked on an investment programme that saw the Felixstowe branch refurbished, and the Ipswich branch relocated to a purpose built, brand new premises in 1993. Deben House in Woodbridge Road was designed with thoughtfulness and insight to be a place where bereaved families would feel a sense of calm and tranquility as soon as they entered the building.

    The reception area is spacious, light and airy, with a quiet calm that immediately settles the mind, a striking water feature provides a soothing sound in the background, and comfortable sofas to one side of the door offer a waiting area where you can gather your thoughts before being taken into one of the lounge style rooms to begin to talk about why you have come here. Large windows and an atrium above the water feature allow natural light to spill generously into the space, and there is no clutter, just big plants and a few pieces of furniture that have obviously been carefully chosen.

    Everything about Deben House sets the tone for your experience with Farthings. There is a quietness and a quality to the feeling of the building, and this reflects the people who you will meet here. Luke’s wife Liz has now joined him to work full time in the family business, after supporting him for the last three decades while bringing up their four children. They are clearly devoted to their life’s work, to providing the best possible experience for the families who entrust them with funeral arrangements and their integrity and thoughtfulness emanates throughout the business.

    Liz has a natural attention to detail and an awareness of the importance of the smallest of subtleties, which makes her a perfect fit with Luke’s years of experience and quiet competence. They both have warm and generous natures and an unflappability about them, you sense that nothing would faze them, and no matter how complicated or chaotic a scenario might arise, you would be in safe and capable hands here. And it’s not at all somber, there’s none of the faux sympathy, no servile attitude, no paternalistic authority or strange and unfamiliar terminology – everything about Farthings is straightforward, open and transparent. And personal.

    The years of service that underpin today’s experience of Farthings are complemented by a forward looking, 21st century understanding of the complexities of bereavement and a devotion to getting everything right for you. Luke, Liz and their team share a commitment to providing the highest standard of personal service for families who choose them, and they will put themselves out in whatever way required to ensure that you get exactly what you want or need from them.

    Professional training is something that really matters to the Farthings, Luke was an examiner for the National Association of Funeral Directors for many years, as well as a premises inspector, and the calibre of staff that work alongside them is extremely high. Andrea Race, who looks after the Debenham branch, achieved the award for the highest marks in the Diploma in Funeral Directing, and Sharon McDonald who assists Luke and Liz in the Ipswich branch also arranges and conducts funerals. Chris Griggs runs the Felixstowe branch, and he has benefited from individual tuition by Luke, learning from one of the best funeral directors in the land.

    In addition to the professional training that underpins their work, there is also an awareness of the need for self-care, for mindful compassion and for emotional support and awareness for staff who deal daily with the sadness of others. Liz is a great advocate for this, and, along with her creative eye and sense of integrity, this is an aspect that sets Farthings apart from other, less thoughtfully aware funeral directors.

    The Farthings team have all been with the company for a number of years, with Mick Peirson and Paul Pyther being the other team members you may come across, along with some trusted part time staff. This small number of people together provide tremendous service for families from Ipswich, Felixstowe and the many villages throughout the area. The continuity of care that the company prides itself on means that you will have one person providing committed personal and individual attention to your needs throughout your dealings with them, and they will genuinely treat you as if you are the only person they are looking after.

    Specific Gravity

    Devotion. The feeling of absolute commitment to being of service and of use to families who have been bereaved is quite tangible at Farthings, but in a quiet and understated way. The heritage of 176 years of experience serving local families is important – for the right reasons, there is a trustworthiness and confidence born from years of looking after others, and a sense of safety, of continuity. Luke is a gentle and charming man who has a real awareness of the privilege of his calling, and he is well respected both in his community and by other local funeral directors for his way of doing things. He is described by a fellow funeral director as ‘a true scholar and a gent’, and his passion for caring for bereaved families is imbued in the values of his business.

    What\’s Important?

    Supporting each family to choose and create exactly the type of funeral that they want or need. Committed personal attention for everyone who entrusts them to care for a relative. Dedication, and attention to detail.

    What\’s Different?

    A willingness to change and adapt as society’s needs from undertakers evolve. Many funeral directors with such a long history take a long time to do things differently – Farthings are looking ahead with interest and excitement, and responding to the changing needs of families with thoughtful and intuitive ideas. This willingness to change and adapt is not new – the mortuary area at Ipswich looks like it has just been refurbished, but it was installed over twenty years ago anticipating the needs of the 21st century.

    We also really liked the new look of the business – in 2015, which was the 175th anniversary and which also coincided with Luke’s brother Robert retiring from the company, Luke and Liz decided to change the literature and the website and give the ‘brand’ a fresh new style. The logo of the Viking ship gives a nod to the River Deben where the Viking burial was found, and also acknowledges Luke’s love of sailing, a personal passion which is reflected in the paintings of local rivers on the walls of the branches.


    • Your first call will be most likely answered by Luke or Liz if it’s after hours. During office hours you will speak to Chris if you call Felixstowe, Sharon, Andrea, Luke or Liz will take your call at Ipswich, and as Debenham is a tiny branch open by appointment they will probably pick up the phone to a Debenham caller too.
    • Home visits – yes, more than half the families who choose Farthings prefer to make the funeral arrangements at home. For those who go into one of the branches, arrangements will be made in one of the lounges designed to make families feel as if they are in a comfortable sitting room rather than a funeral director’s office.
    • Family participation – positively encouraged.
    • Same sex person to wash and dress? Yes, just mention this if it is important.
    • Embalming – not encouraged unless it is felt there is a good reason (long delay / journey involved or the nature of the illness before death) but it will be discussed if they feel it is advisable or if you indicate you want to consider it.
    • Ethnic specialism – happy to serve everyone of any ethnicity or culture.
    • Home arranged funerals – yes, if you need advice or some assistance with caring for someone yourself Farthings are happy to help, and have done so in the past.
    • Local celebrants – They can suggest really good celebrants to work with you to create the type of funeral you want, and will offer you a choice of different people.
    • Website – recently redone, the website is fresh and attractive and includes a ‘My Wishes’ downloadable form where you can note your preferences for your funeral.
    • Client support – excellent support throughout your involvement with them, then, if needed, you will be gently signposted towards specialist support after the funeral. Luke trained as a bereavement visitor for Cruse and was involved in the establishment of the Ipswich branch in the 1990’s so fully appreciates the value of specialist bereavement counselling.
    • Money matters – very good value. Farthings are not the cheapest in the area, their prices are mid-range, but they will give you 100% personal service and attention and a service of exceptional quality.
    • Parking – There is parking on the forecourt at all branches, although at Felixstowe you may prefer to use the parking bays opposite to save getting back out onto the road with traffic approaching round a bend.


    Really lovely, gentle, thoughtful people who are completely committed to getting it right for you.

    The calibre of this business is not just in its pedigree, quality though that is, it is in the ethos of service and their intelligent understanding of how important their role is in serving you.


    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.

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