Opals Funerals Ltd.

  • GFG-2024-400x400-1

Funeral Directors Category: South East England

  • Funeral Director/s:

    Frances Alcock. Frances worked as a nurse in the NHS for over 30 years in various roles; in the community as a District Nursing Sister, as a Nurse Practitioner, a Multiple Sclerosis Specialist Nurse and in Oncology. With a BSC in Health Studies, it is clear she explored all many different aspects of nursing, and the best qualities of a nurse are evident when you meet her.

    Frances is instantly likeable, unfazed by anything, practical, kind and thoughtful. She really listens too, not just to what is being said but to what isn’t, and her experience and background means she is able to really ‘get’ people quickly, tuning in to feelings and emotions. She’s very much a people person, with great natural skills and an easy, comfortable manner that puts you at ease straight away.

    The transition from experienced nurse to a funeral director is, when you think about it, a very logical one, but it’s a path that very few have taken. Frances is a pioneer in that she realised that the skills she had were completely transferable, that caring for patients and their families as a nurse was very similar to caring for people when they have died and the families they have left behind. And this realisation began to take shape when she went to the funeral of her beloved uncle in October 2013.

    It wasn’t a good send off for Don; during the eulogy the officiant referred to him as ‘Bob’. There was reference to a cruise that he had been on during his life (he hadn’t).  Leaving the ceremony, rather than feeling that her uncle had been given the best possible service, Frances’s overriding thought was ‘I could do better than that’. But instead of simply letting that thought go and accepting the funeral as ‘just the way it was’, Frances was inspired to find out more about the funeral business.

    Typically, she did this thoroughly. She read a lot, she spent longs hours doing research, she set about finding people who were working in a way that she liked and meeting them, she visited lots of funeral homes and wrote a business plan. She found a training course and qualified as a funeral celebrant, and embarked on a six month Inspiring Speakers programme operated by Ginger Public Speaking (“The best money I ever spent!”) from which she graduated at an advanced level.

    A supportive funeral director nearby willingly shared his expertise, and she came across various helpful funeral directors who were happy to let her spend time shadowing them and answering her questions. It all helped build her understanding of how she wanted to become involved in the world of funerals.

    She never intended just to be a funeral celebrant, as she likes and wanted to be more hands on. She wanted people to realise they have more choice and offers a different approach to the local funeral companies that are very traditional. There is nothing wrong with traditional funerals Frances is keen to emphasise and OPALS have assisted with these and are very happy to support families if that is what is right for them. She however wants to offer a more personal approach as she believes conventional funeral practice does not always provide the scope for families to be as deeply and personally involved as they would like or need.

    Opals are the birthstone for October, the month in which Don had been born and the one in which he died. October figures a lot in the story of Opals Funerals! The word opal derives from the Greek ‘Opallos’, which means ‘to see a change (of colour)’ – all so fitting for the change that Frances had been inspired to make. And in the same month, (October again) her Aunt Nancy, Don’s wife, died, and Frances was able to carry out the  funeral service herself, something she looks back on with great pride.

    Opals Funerals grew gradually; Frances intuitively knew that she needed to go slowly and not overstretch herself. She visited clients at home, hired mortuary facilities from other funeral directors, and hired people to help her when she needed them. She kept her overheads low, and began to build her business, investing in a great website and looking after each family who engaged her in such a way that the company’s reputation began to spread. As time went by, it was clear that her approach was meeting a need, and she started looking for premises of her own.

    By October 2016 she had found somewhere that was just right, in Hedgerley, close to her home. A former beauty salon, in a tranquil location on a quiet road overlooking a green, the building didn’t need much to be done to it in order for it to be the way Frances wanted; it had wooden floors and downlights throughout, a light filled reception area and various smaller rooms which provided perfect spaces for the various things she needed – somewhere to sit with clients to discuss arrangements, somewhere where people could have privacy when spending time with the person who has died, room for a mortuary and refrigeration, a kitchen and a bathroom, a door at the back and some parking spaces in the car park at the rear – everything was there ready for her.

    With the help of friends, Frances made the few adjustments that were needed, and 1 Hedgerley Hill was tastefully decorated and furnished and ready to receive guests in March 2017.

    When you enter, you step into the reception area with natural light coming in through the large windows. To one side is Frances’s desk and a low unit for storage, while above the desk a shelf holds five candles with the letters OPALS, a clock and an elephant. There’s another elephant on the bookshelf in the opposite corner, with a matching shelf with wooden letters spelling out LOVE and a photo of Uncle Don and Aunt Nancy.

    A small contemporary table and chairs offers somewhere to sit for anyone dropping in for a chat, while through a doorway to the right is the smaller room where you can sit in more privacy. There’s another table in here, and a sofa. The colour scheme is a pale green, reminiscent of the most beautiful opals, with contrasting cream walls – it’s a really attractive, comfortable welcome.

    Going through the central doorway opposite the entrance door, there is a room to your left which is where you can come and spend time with the person who has died. Frances calls this the Family Room, it’s called simply what it is, a room where families can be together after one of them has died. The room itself is simple and contemporarily decorated, with a screen in front of a small hand basin. (Another screen is used to hide Frances’s desk if she is with clients making funeral arrangements – she feels that looking out onto a busy desk of papers isn’t what people need when they’re talking about something so important, so she just brings out the screen and places it across.)

    Opposite the Family Room is the door leading to the well-appointed modern mortuary, with refrigeration spaces for three people. The room itself is cool and well equipped, and people are welcome to see it if they want to know whereabouts their relative will be cared for (just make an appointment with Frances to ensure that the privacy of other people’s relatives in her care is maintained).

    The premises are perfect, and have helped Opals Funerals have a home. It’s still a one person business though, so when she’s out on funerals or collecting people who have died, the premises will be closed – she advises that you telephone first to make an appointment.

    Away from her new career, Frances continues to give back to society in other ways. She volunteers regularly at Crisis at Christmas, marshals the London Marathon, is on the committee for the Hedgerley Memorial Hall and helps with the social functions. She enjoys spending time outdoors and is a big fan of Parkrun that takes place every Saturday morning at Black Park, she also enjoys cycling and walking. Her two sons are young adults and she enjoys spending time with them and with her friends, going to the theatre and cinema and generally keeping a good work / life balance.


    Specific Gravity:

    For Frances, creating Opals Funerals isn’t just about having a business, it’s about getting people to have the conversation about death and dying. She is passionate about getting it right for clients and starts with a blank piece of paper every time, without any expectations.

    She sees her role as being supportive and as flexible as each client needs, aiming every time to do ‘what is right for you’. She offers caring, unique, modern or traditional, affordable, family led funerals, and prides herself on being completely transparent and honest.


    What’s important?

    Frances’s recognition that by encouraging clients to get involved and create the funeral that works for them, the experience is so much richer and more fulfilling for them than it perhaps would have been in a more passive role.

    Her determination to be completely open and transparent in every aspect is evident from first contact, whether this is via her website or by speaking with her in person. And her passion for spreading the word that a different approach to funerals is not just possible, but perfectly acceptable, and in most cases, desirable. She’s taken to public speaking like a duck to water after completing her training, and often gives talks to groups locally.


    What’s different?

    It is rare to find someone who is capable of carrying out the practical aspects of funeral arranging and directing and also of taking on the role of funeral celebrant.

    The skills needed are quite different, and most people are stronger in one role or the other, but Frances has garnered all of her experience, innate abilities and training and is able to fulfil both aspects with equal ease. Most clients realise that she is a trained funeral celebrant from reading the information on her website, and many ask her directly to lead the funeral ceremony while making the funeral arrangements. It makes sense from the client’s perspective – the conversations that form part of arranging the funeral flow seamlessly into those that help structure the ceremony.

    And to be honest, because of Frances’s approach of empowering families to be as involved as they feel they can be in everything, often she finds that she simply is needed to steer the proceedings, maybe introducing the various speakers or music that the family has chosen, but very much helping them to lead the ceremony themselves. She is always supportive though, and will lead the service if required or take over from family if necessary.



    • Your first call will be answered Frances. Occasionally one of her trusted self-employed colleagues might step in, almost always it will be Frances you speak to.
    • Home visits – yes absolutely. Especially for older or frail clients who might find a visit easier than travelling to the premises, but Frances finds many clients prefer to have her come to them.
    • Same sex person to wash and dress? If needed.
    • Embalming? In Frances’s opinion? “Totally unnecessary most of the time. I have only had one person embalmed since opening Opals”.
    • Ethnic specialism? Happy to serve clients from all cultures and ethnicities. She recently helped a Hindu family and is more than happy to work with all cultures and faiths.
    • Home arranged funerals – Yes absolutely, and something Frances has done on a number of occasions.
    • Local celebrants – Happy to recommend local celebrants and equally happy to carry out this role for you, whichever works better for each client.
    • Vehicles– The main Opals Funerals vehicle is a smart Galaxy, but if you want for traditional formal vehicles Frances can hire these for you for an additional fee.
    • Website– Really good, modern and informative website that clearly reflects the values, style and quality of Opals Funerals. All prices online.
    • Client support – Exceptionally good throughout your contact with Opals. (As you might expect from someone with Frances’s background and approach to her work).
    • Money matters – Really clear and straightforward pricing information on the website, showing a basic price including all the necessary components and then outlining optional extras and the costs involved. Full payment is usually required before the funeral.
    • Parking–plenty of space to park outside



    What Frances has created here is exactly the kind of funeral company that deserves to be recommended by the Good Funeral Guide.

    When we visited her as part of the GFG accreditation process, we ended up overstaying by two hours as we looked through the many orders of service from funerals she has facilitated over the last four years and talked about each one – a fascinating and often moving reflection on her work, not least because the little booklets were all so different (Frances encourages families to design their own rather than using standard funeral director templates, and the results are immensely personal).

    The company strapline is ‘Family led funerals’ and this is just what we most like to see. As Frances says, doing this work “is very similar to nursing in many ways, caring for people when they need it most.”

    And this care is appreciated by everyone who chooses Opals Funerals. Here’s a typical example of one of the testimonials previous clients have left for her;

    Frances took time to understand our family and what would work for us and helped us put together a perfect service for my father.

    We could not have asked for it to be any better, as we concentrated on the content, Frances sorted out all the details behind the scenes in a seamless manner.

    I would highly recommend her.”

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    Vanessa Beadsworth
    2 years ago

    I would highly recommend using Opals. Frances made my mother’s funeral all about her life and not her death. She gently nudged us into some decisions that were very helpful and it was a completely stress free process.

    Lorraine Morton
    2 years ago

    Planning a funeral could not have been further from my thoughts so when my husband died very suddenly I was at a complete loss regarding what to do.
    A meeting with Frances at Opals confirmed that I had found just the person I needed to guide me through the process. We were given options which I did not know were available and we had a calm and unhurried service at Greenacres tailored to our requirements.
    I would like to thank Frances once again for the wonderful support she gave to myself and my family.

    Hannele Knuuttila-Lycett
    2 years ago

    I recently lost my husband and the sheer thought that I have to start organizing his funeral was really daunting. I decided to go with OPALS as they are in the next village. When I met Frances who is the owner of OPALS I already knew then that she would steer me through this difficult process. She has very good contacts which she can recommend, like Debbie at the Garden Room who made most stunning floral arrangement on my husbands’s coffin, she also put me in touch to a very nice Celebrant with whom I could talk what kind of service I wanted to my husband. The Order of Service was also done by Frances’s contacts and she even knew a very nice place where I could held the Wake. I am most grateful to Frances that I was able to give the funeral I wanted to my husband. I can recommend OPALS without hesitation as they can really help you through a painful process at the very sad time.

    Anne Bowles
    2 years ago

    Following the death of my husband I was recommended by a friend to use Opals – I was so pleased that I did. The whole process was made more bearable by Frances and her suggestions – we looked at (on her recommendation) and chose Greenacres, for the service, which we found to be a beautiful alternative to a crematorium. My son read the Eulogy, but Frances made a wonderful Celebrant – linking together all the threads of the ceremony. It was a very well attended funeral, and I have lost count of the many times I have been told that it was the best they had been to! Thank you Frances and Opals.

    Heather Welsh
    2 years ago

    We’ve used the services of Opals twice in the past couple of years, which speaks for itself really.
    Frances was very helpful, giving guidance and making recommendations but letting us make our own decisions. Friendly and efficient, she made a difficult process much easier. Frances and her team all ensured everything went smoothly on the day. And whilst it may not be a top priority when saying goodbye to loved ones, Opals offer value for money.

    Diana Anstey
    1 year ago

    When my younger brother died I decided to go with Opals Funerals as they were local. We met with Frances who was able to arrange everything I wanted at an unhurried pace, giving me the confidence that the event would be just what he would have wished for.

    Penelope Ascough
    1 year ago

    I highly recommend Opals funerals. Frances offered all her knowledge and support for the best funeral you could hope for with the sudden loss of my husband. It was focused on celebrating his life and was made very personal. I was guided through from beginning to end. Frances gives much attention to those grieving and listens to what matters to you.

    Janet May-Bowles
    1 year ago

    When my husband died I wanted his wishes concerning his funeral carried out and his mortal remains treated with dignity and respect. Fortunately, I had found Opals Funeral Services. Frances Alcock ensured that our family was listened to, and my husband’s wishes were accommodated. In her kind and gentle way, she guided us through the arrangements, reduced our stress and we knew that the event would be exactly what we wanted. She is very knowledgeable, experienced, and willing to offer advice when needed. The funeral was dealt with in a sensitive and dignified manner. I highly recommend Opals Funeral Services.

    Arranging a funeral is something that most of us have either limited or no experience of. Frances Alcock of Opals Funerals Ltd is a true professional, caring, efficient and a safe pair of hands, who can be depended on to take away the stress. As the Advising Friend for Jordans Quaker Burial Ground I have been involved with several families who have used her services. All of them have spoken highly of her and said that it has been like having a comforting friend at a time of need. I am always delighted when I learn that the funeral will be under her direction because I know that it will be exactly what the family want and carried out with dignity and efficiency.

    E Torpy
    1 year ago

    As some one who has never experienced the death or a close loved one, I couldn’t have asked for anything better than being guided and helped by Frances. She was warm, caring supportive and restored my faith in human nature, as she genuinely took the time to personalise the funeral and understand the family members involved.

    L Smith
    1 year ago

    We cannot recommend Frances highly enough. She helped my siblings and I throughout the whole process and was there for emotional support when we needed it. She made the planning very easy and took care of everything in a professional way while also being caring and compassionate to our situation. We are so pleased to have been treated with the warmth and support that Frances offered. Thank you for everything Frances.

    Katy Marchant
    1 year ago

    I would whole heartedly recommend Frances and Opal funerals. Frances made sure that all of our vision, wishes and needs for our Father’s funeral were met. She supported us with organising the perfect funeral for Dad which involved a Christian green burial in a historic church and a virtuoso international harpsichord player, hurdy gurdy and bagpipe players and a choir. She made sure everything ran smoothly and to plan. She recommended tried and trusted suppliers and crafts people for the willow coffin, flowers and felt shroud We we’re delighted as all their work was excellent and far exceeded our expectations.

    Francis is very skilled and accommodating and knew how to support us not just with the funeral but also with the difficult family issues that can arise when somebody dies.

    I would certainly highly recommend Opals and would work with Frances again if I ever have to organise another funeral.

    Top marks 10 out of 10

    Nicki Foggoa
    1 year ago

    I have used Opals Funerals for the funerals of my Mum and Dad over the last two years, and been exceptionally pleased with the service and compassion given to me and my family.

    Frances is so caring, respectful and sensitive and helped and supported me at every stage. She enabled me to create a very personal and meaningful funeral ensuring that we could have everything that we wanted and that everything went smoothly.

    I would most certainly recommend Opals in creating the bespoke and special funeral that your loved one deserves and to receive such care and compassion at a very difficult time.
    Thank you so much Frances

    Julian Young
    1 year ago

    I would highly recommend Opals Funerals. Frances was a huge help, support and guide for us in arranging my father’s funeral. She was so lovely in the way she arranged and guided us though the process. Her personal attention to every detail and especially being so supportive for my mother made this dreadfully sad time a great celebration of the life of my father.

    As a family we cannot recommend Frances and Opals Funerals highly enough, as both a funeral director and celebrant we could not have wished for better.

    Thank you Frances and Opals.

    Sue Parry
    11 months ago

    When our father died a few years ago, my brother & I hadn’t a clue about arranging a funeral. Clouded with sadness at our loss one of the funeral directors we visited was Opals as it was very near to where our parents had lived. Frances carried us through the whole process. She was kind and supportive, friendly, sensitive and patient throughout. She helped us plan what many people have since said was a perfect funeral for our Dad. When our Mum died, we had no need to research funeral directors as we already knew that we wouldn’t want anyone else except Frances to support us through this next sad time in our lives. I would recommend Opals, and in particular, Frances, wholeheartedly.

    Sue Harold-Barry
    9 months ago

    My daughter and I were so pleased that we chose Opals for my father’s funeral. Frances was so patient, calm, and helpful, and treated us and my father with such care. We already knew that we wanted to hold the ceremony at Greenacres with a committal cremation attended by the immediate family the following day. Frances made some helpful suggestions and arranged everything very efficiently, making everything as easy as possible. My daughter gave the eulogy and Frances acted as celebrant in exactly the way we wished, providing us with a relaxed and beautiful celebration of my father’s life.

    Martin Hanson
    6 months ago

    I would highly recommend Opals Funerals and cannot thank Frances and all her staff, especially Nick, for arranging and performing my fathers funeral. From our initial visit with her a few weeks ago all the way through to the funeral day itself she was so caring and supportive throughout. Her recommendations for the celebrant and florist were perfect allowing a difficult time for our family so much easier and stress free. Thank you Frances and Opals

    Alison Simms
    4 months ago

    Opals helped me greatly when my mother died, making the whole process easy. It was dealt with with sensitivity whilst being very professional and efficient. The recommendations they gave me made the funeral such a beautiful peaceful celebration of her life. I would really recommend them.

    R Groom
    4 months ago

    My father passed away unexpectedly two years ago and I was very fortunate to have Opals recommended to me. As I had no experience of all that had to be done and decided, Frances Alcock carefully explained everything to me and supported me through the entire process. Her recommendations for the ceremony were sensitively made, and the funeral was a positive celebration of my father’s life. When my mother passed away recently I had no hesitation in asking Frances to manage her funeral as well. Frances took great care of us throughout and I am grateful for all the time and effort she dedicated to us. I have no hesitation in recommending Opals, and I would like to add my personal thanks to Frances for all her support.

    Alan Barnard
    3 months ago

    Arranging a funeral for a loved one can be daunting. Frances at Opals Funerals was fantastic at guiding us through the whole process and helped us turn the very sad occasion of the loss of our mum into a lovely celebration of our time together with her. We felt we had a completely bespoke service from Opals and all the pressure was taken off of us. It was such a relief. At an emotional time, the help and support from Frances at Opals was a godsend. Thank you.

    Ian Selby
    2 months ago

    Frances has looked after the passing of both my Mum and Dad in the last year. She is a wonderful professional, very responsive and handled all arrangements with kindness and sensitivity which allowed us to give them the send off the both deserved. Wouldn’t hesitate to recommend.