Funeral Directors Category: South East England
Paula Clinch – this is her company, she is the ‘daughter’ in the ‘R H Faulkner & Daughter’ name above the door, which is a tribute to her parents, Rosemary and Harry Faulkner.
And despite the traditional style name, this is a young company, not an old established one. Paula arrived in the funeral sector after a career as a dental nurse and practice manager. She had also looked after the accounts for her husband’s company, so she had a good grounding in managing a business, but it was the deaths of her parents, first her father in 2017, and then her mother in 2019, that drew her to the idea of opening her own funeral home.
She applied for a role with a large corporate funeral company with the intention of gaining understanding and knowledge and learning how to organise a funeral She joined the company shortly after her mother died in 2019, and astonishingly, just days after her mother’s funeral, and having had just two days training, she was placed in sole charge of a branch office. As she says, “It was sink or swim. And I swam.”
Despite this very challenging start, at the height of her own personal bereavement, Paula remained with the large company for two years, but she grew increasingly unhappy about the policies and practices that were introduced. She was particularly reluctant to implement additional charges for elements of a funeral, e.g., charging bereaved people for visits to the chapel of rest, or for having the funeral cortege depart from the family home rather than the funeral premises. Paula felt strongly that families should be able to have the funeral they wanted, given the already high fees being charged for professional services, without being charged extra, and she eventually realised that she couldn’t continue working for a company when she fundamentally disagreed with their approach. When yet another additional charge was implemented, she refused to comply, and handed her notice in on the spot. It was a whole year earlier than she had intended, but she was about to open her own funeral home.
She had found a suitable property in Lynchford Road, and, with the inheritance bequeathed to her by her parents – and with the full support of her husband, Nigel, she signed a lease and set about preparing the premises to be the kind of funeral home she had envisioned. Together, she and Nigel wielded paintbrushes and rollers, and the end result of a light, bright, welcoming funeral home was ready to be opened to the public in early 2022. It was a huge gamble, and for a time Paula wondered whether she had taken too big a risk, but by the summer of 2022, bereaved families began walking through the door, and very rapidly, RH Faulkner & Daughter became a success.
Interestingly, the fact that the business is entirely female run is often the reason that clients choose to use them – the funeral sector continues to be very male-dominated even in the third decade of the 21st century, so a female-led funeral company is still unusual. For some clients, the idea of using a funeral company owned and staffed by women is immensely comforting, and often clients mention this when talking with Paula or Loz.
The very conscious decision to be seen as normal people who are able to help with organising a funeral has been incorporated into the design of the premises – through the large windows spanning the front of the building you will usually see Paula sitting at her desk, wearing a polo shirt and casual clothes (unless she’s about to head out on a funeral). There is a spacious reception area leading to a private room for making funeral arrangements, and further back, a chapel of rest, with a quiet area where visitors can take a moment to compose themselves after visiting their relative. The décor is fresh and light, with attractive wooden interior doors with curved windowpanes mirroring the curves above the window outside, and the pale green exterior is picked up in the neutral light greys of the walls and floor – this is a funeral home that has clearly been designed to be modern and inviting.
As with many traditional high street funeral homes, people who have died are looked after elsewhere. In this instance though, the mortuary space – or care centre – for RH Faulkner is just along the road, in secure and functional premises, where Paula’s colleague Loz (Lorraine Smith) looks after the people in their care. Clients are welcome to visit the care centre if they would like to, Loz is immensely proud of the pristine mortuary space that is her domain. Loz starts her day at the care centre where she checks on everyone that the company is currently looking after and carries out any care that is required. Once her work in the mortuary is complete, she joins Paula across the road to do any other tasks that are needed for upcoming ceremonies.
This is a small, tightly run funeral company; it is just Paula and Loz who work here, which enables full continuity of care for anyone who chooses RH Faulkner & Daughter. It will be Paula and Loz who come to collect the person who has died, they are the only people who have access to the mortuary space and who carry out the personal care, and they will both be fully involved in the arrangements for the funeral. Paula tends to be the person who answers the phone and who carries out the funeral arranging, but on the day of the funeral it will be Loz driving the hearse and helping to carry the coffin, while Paula conducts the funeral. Extra staff are hired in as needed, Paula has a team of reliable bearers who she calls on to assist with funerals, and her husband Nigel is proficient in washing and polishing the funeral cars, but it is Paula and Loz who are at the heart of the business.
The two women are clearly close friends as well as colleagues, and their work seems to be a natural extension of their friendship. Knowing each other so well and understanding exactly what they both feel a funeral should comprise means that they have a seamless way of working together. There’s a strong sense of common purpose, that they are both totally dedicated to ensuring each family they work with feels as if they are the only family that matters, even when they may have many other funerals at various stages of arrangement. This dedication is very clearly felt and appreciated by the many families who have chosen them in the short time since they opened for business, the online reviews constantly refer to Paula and Loz’s kindness and attention to detail.
Paula’s aim is that every client who chooses her company is able to have exactly the kind of funeral they want. She spends hours with each family, listening to them, finding out about the person who has died and exploring how the family would best like to honour the life of their person. She’ll make suggestions, come up with additional ideas – and often enhance whatever a family has asked for with extra personal touches, perhaps arranging to have a favourite flower engraved on a coffin or obtaining a particular shade of colour for her cravat and any ribbons to match the favourite football team of the person who has died. Small things perhaps, that many people might not notice, but thoughtful, personal gestures that mean the world to the family involved.
It’s clear also that Paula is blessed with a friendly, compassionate personality, and that she has the gift of making people feel instantly at ease. Her thoughtfulness and kindness is frequently noted in reviews and testimonials from clients, and people often mentioned how supported and reassured they felt once they found her, what a relief it was to feel in such safe hands.
The continuity of care made possible by RH Faulkner & Daughter being a small, independent company is fundamental to the way that Paula works. It is the diametric opposite to the way that she had to work while she was with the large corporate company, where she felt that clients were passed between various staff members and teams carrying out the different elements involved with organising a funeral.
Now that she runs her own business, she has ensured that she and Loz are the people who you will deal with from start to finish; from the moment you first make contact with them, either to just make general enquiries or to inform them that someone has died, through to the collection of the person who has died, their personal care, making the funeral arrangements, the day of funeral ceremony and beyond, it will be just Paula or Loz you will be dealing with.
This close involvement with each family allows Paula and Loz to build strong bonds and connections, and to quickly build trust – some of the clients they have worked with describe feeling like they were part of the family, and many others mentioned how relieved they were to have found someone they could lean on and have confidence in at such a difficult time.
The fact that this is an all-female business is important. In a way, this defines the values of this company; the feminine approach to both caring for the people who have died, and to looking after those who are grieving and who need to organise a funeral. It’s much easier for a woman to be tactile with people, to gently touch a hand or offer a hug, and women can more easily adopt a very gentle approach to which can help settle anxiety and apprehension.
Meeting Paula and Loz, it was very apparent how warm and friendly they both are, and easy to understand why they have had so many glowing reviews from families they have worked with. Their thoughtfulness and care about their work is obvious, as is the immense pleasure they get from being able to do the extra little things for clients – they showed us some of the ‘favours’ they had made ready for an upcoming ceremony; carefully prepared little bags containing a favourite sweet loved by the person who has died and other little mementos, tied with ribbons that co-ordinate with the colour theme of the funeral.
There is a third female involved with the company who we haven’t mentioned, but who frequently gets referred to in thanks and testimonials – little Trixie, Paula’s Yorkshire Terrier. Trixie is often in the office with Paula, and has an uncanny way of knowing her role as part of the support team – she welcomes affection and cuddles from bereaved visitors, and she often quietly lays alongside coffins in the chapel of rest until visitors arrive, taking care of those who have died in the way only a dog can do.
- Prices: – the CMA required standardised price list is on the company website and on display in the premises, and the costs for both unattended and attended funerals can be found on their website
- Your first call will be answered by Paula. In the rare instance that she is taking a day or two off, she leaves a fellow independent funeral director looking after any calls, but 99.99% of the time it will be Paula who picks up your call.
- Home visits: – yes absolutely, always offered
- Family participation: – welcomed. If you’d like to help look after your relative Loz will welcome you to the care centre and assist you with any of the care that is needed. If you want to carry the coffin on the day of the funeral, then Paula and Loz will explain everything to you carefully so you feel confident – and they will also have their team of bearers discretely present in case you change your mind.
- Same sex person to wash and dress: – yes, just mention this and they’ll make sure that only same sex people are involved in any personal care of your relative, bringing in male staff as required.
- Embalming: – Unlike many of the other companies on our listings, Paula recommends embalming where clients want to spend time with their relative in the chapel of rest. The company use a trusted female embalmer who will also remove any medical devices or apparatus left in place by medical teams.
- Ethnic specialism: – No particular specialism – Paula and Loz support families from all ethnicities and cultures.
- Home arranged funerals: – very happy to provide advice or assistance as required for families caring for their relative themselves
- Local celebrants: Paula has currently taken the decision to work with just two trusted and experienced celebrants who she is happy to recommend to families, with a small selection of other, more recently qualified ones.
- Website: – Functional website with practical information.
- Client support: – Superb, the personal connection that Paula and Loz make with clients is evident, and ongoing support well beyond the funeral (if you need it) is just part of the service you’ll receive. They also offer the GriefChat support service on their website,
- Money matters: – good value for money, especially for the personal service that you will receive.
- Parking: – Available directly outside the premises
This small company has been created to provide the kind of personal service that Paula believes every family should receive. She has blended traditional values and standards with a very individual, feminine approach to funerals, and it is obvious that the local community in and around Farnborough is responding to this. After a few quiet months in early 2022, word began to spread about the kind of service that Paula offered. By the time we met Paula and Loz, in the autumn of 2023, they had already helped many local families, far more than Paula had hoped for or anticipated when she first began to dream about opening her own funeral home.
Her pricing is fair and extremely good value, particularly for the level of personal attention that clients receive, often with Paula and Loz going far beyond what would normally be expected from a funeral director. They are particularly good at themed funerals, assisting families to create memorable events that are highly personal to the person who died, for no extra cost – they see it as just part of their job to help their clients be creative.
We look forward to re-visiting RH Faulkner & Daughter in the future to see how they have established themselves as time goes on. From what we have seen, we are very confident that Paula’s supportive and empowering attitude to working with bereaved families is exactly the way forward, rebalancing a historically patriarchal way of handling death.
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.