Funeral Directors Category: North East England
Keith Munt and his wife Jenny. Keith, a funeral director with many years’ experience, left a large corporate funeral business on what he describes as ethical grounds, having found it impossible to continue focusing on targets and profit rather than on the needs of each bereaved family.
Soon after walking away from the corporate world, Keith was offered the opportunity to become a shareholder in a small business that had been started a few years earlier, and he and Jenny are now the sole proprietors of Saint and Forster.
They started with a blank canvas, and set out to create something that was personal, beautiful and thoughtful – a complete antithesis to the world Keith had left behind him. The result is extraordinary. Together Jenny and Keith have established a very special undertaking business – and given it the most beautiful home.
“We knew we would be spending 12 – maybe 14 or 16 hours a day here,” said Keith, “so we had to make it somewhere that we wanted to be.” Their premises are gorgeous – big comfortable sofas in rich colours invite you to sit and stay, the window display has memory bears and brightly coloured ashes caskets, and thank you cards spill from almost every surface.
Many of the beautiful objects around have been given as gifts by families who’ve used Saint and Forster’s services – personal, thoughtful and grateful tokens of appreciation for the work that Keith and Jenny have done for them. And these are treasured gifts, each with a story that Jenny and Keith are humbled and proud to relate. The thoughtfulness shown by bereaved families at the worst time of their lives in choosing and giving a present to the undertakers is something that continues to astound and amaze these lovely people, who are simply doing what their hearts tell them is the right thing to do every time.
Keith and Jenny’s commitment to client care and bereavement forms the cornerstone of the company’s business. In Jenny’s words, “unlimited access to the person who has died is a fundamental right”. And they mean it. If you want to be with your relative all day every day then that’s just fine by them – their beautiful chapel with sumptuous, rich decor will be yours for as long as you need.
Keith and Jenny are the only full-time employees of the firm; all other staff, from bearers to embalmers, are hired in as needed. More and more clients are coming to Saint and Forster from beyond their immediate area of Darlington, mostly via the Internet, many of them having rung round local funeral companies to compare price and service. In their own literature S&F recommend that clients “speak to at least three [funeral directors], not only to compare prices but also make sure that you feel comfortable with the person you are dealing with”. This is the sort of openness you can expect from them in all your dealings with them. They are exactly the kind of people you would want to find if you needed a funeral director.
Jenny is an educational consultant, trainer and examiner in the field of Religious Studies, has an MA in World Religions and is presently researching for a PhD at Durham University. She is active on the local Interfaith council and has used her contacts to broaden the appeal of Saint and Forster: “We even have a pagan celebrant on the books”.
Keith is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, an invitation only position based on ethical and innovative business practice. In his spare time he likes to grow rare plants, walk on the moors and visit heritage sites.
Affectionately dubbed ‘the Hippy and the Dandy’ by some, they are stylishly individual and exceptionally bright people.
Most clients of Saint and Forster prefer a traditional funeral and that’s what they’ll do for you, very smartly, too. If you want a less formal affair, they will be extremely happy to adapt to your dress code and instructions. Says Keith, “The only issue for us is what is going to be helpful or useful to the family. We can be ultra traditional or extremely alternative. We aim to celebrate a unique life in a unique way.” They will also offer you the full range of alternatives to a traditional Mercedes hearse.
What’s important? Client choice, put simply. They really mean it, too: they are remarkably flexible and accommodating. They won’t sell you a funeral package, and they’ll charge you only for the services you ask for. Embalming is separated from their costs package and described as follows: “this service may not be needed. If we feel that it would be appropriate we will discuss this with you fully.”
They really do mean what they say by unlimited access as well. The chapel of rest is literally open all hours for all clients: “For one client we decamped here for the weekend”. In addition, their lovely chapel of rest has provided the venue for small funerals.
As you walk in you’ll see a Viking ship. An historically accurate wooden model, it represents their personality in a nutshell. They’re bright, warm hearted and unafraid to be themselves. Their prices are open and broken down clearly for the client. They are also the only funeral directors in Darlington that display their prices online. Clients are made to feel at home in Saint and Forster and their requests are handled with sensitivity. For example, one client had promised her father that she would shave him and “look after him” and Keith made sure she was able to fulfil this request.
- Prices online here Direct cremation £1,512 all-in. Simplest funeral £2,909 all-in (assuming payment received before the funeral date and that a doctor’s form is required).
- Your call will be answered by Keith or Jenny, day or night.
- Home Visits? – Yes, they will come and make arrangements with you at your home.
- Embalming – Not as a matter of course, so ask for it if you want it. If they think it necessary, they will discuss it with you carefully.
- Continuity of care – Keith and Jenny will be there for you every step of the way and on the day itself.
- Family Participation – If you’d like to come in and wash and dress the person who has died then they’ll be there for you, to help you or leave you to it.
- Same Sex person to wash and dress? – Yes
- Ethnic Specialism – They are experienced in working with those of other faiths and very knowledgeable about them.
- Local Celebrants – They have good celebrants on their books and will help find the right one for you. They work closely with their celebrants, with whom they share information and ideas.
- Home arranged funerals – Will gladly work with those who wish to care for their person who has died at home: see the Do It All Yourself section of the Good Funeral Guide website.
- Web Site – Outstanding is the downloadable price list – they were one of the first to introduce this. Lots of really useful information. One of the best websites we’ve seen.
- Other services -They offer memorial books which provide a pictorial tribute to the life of the deceased using pictures and documents supplied by the family and also a photographic and/or video service at the funeral if required. Other services they can offer include pet funerals, accredited by the Association of Private Pet Cemeteries & Crematoria.
- Premises – bright and airy, a refreshing change from most funeral directors.
- Prices – Extremely competitive
- Parking – Plenty of on-street parking just outside.
We like their commitment to transparent, ethical pricing, and note that they offer very good value for money. They will bring a very personal touch to even the simplest funeral. Saint and Forster is both wholehearted and highly professional. They have a passion for their work. As we’ve already noted, this is a funeral home with a very distinct personality. Call them or drop in, then take it from there. We are grateful to the Rev George Callander, President of the Society of Bereavement Practitioners, for recommending this funeral home. He can’t speak highly enough of it.
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.