Funeral Directors Category: East of England
Matt Southgate and Liam Roberts. Business partners, hugely experienced funeral directors and thoroughly nice people, Matt and Liam have pooled all the knowledge they both acquired over decades learning their trade, and the result is the high quality Southgate & Roberts premises in central Ipswich.
A former master baker and pastry chef, born and raised in London, Liam came into funerals in 1985 and immediately knew that he had found his vocation in life. He was trained by the best; he worked for a highly renowned London funeral business, which, at that time, held the Royal Appointment. Impeccable attention to detail was the standard for every client, not just the royal family, and Liam absorbed this as he learned every aspect of how to be a funeral director, working from the bottom up.
Over the years, Liam rose to become an operations manager for the UK’s largest service provider, he worked for the Home Office on many disasters assisting with the recovery of the victims and became a consultant and funeral industry expert, but when Matt Southgate made contact with him a few years ago with the plan to open a new business in Ipswich, Liam found he was unable to resist the idea.
Matt had started working in the funeral profession twenty years ago, and, like Liam, worked his way up learning every aspect of the business. He too was trained by a highly respected, family owned company, and the two men instinctively recognised that they shared the same values. Matt had always wanted to run his own funeral directors, as he knew he could offer so much more than was possible in a large concern, and in Liam he found a business partner who was equally passionate about service to families.
The pair found the ideal premises in St. Matthew’s Street in September 2014; a funeral director’s business had been there for years, so the basics were in place, but the property had been neglected and was ready for a makeover. Five months later, and after huge investment of time, effort and money, Southgate and Roberts opened to the public in February 2015.
Easy to find, on a main route in Ipswich, on the outside of the building is proudly proclaimed ‘Funeral Suite and Advice Centre’ – a perfect description of what Matt and Liam offer. The large windows mean that passers by can glance in and see a space that is warm and welcoming, completely unlike the old-fashioned funeral parlours still found in many towns.
Inside, the immediate feeling is of entering a quality hotel reception. Comfortable leather chairs and a low coffee table await any visitors, and many former clients pop in to have a chat and a coffee as they pass. (The coffee is exceptionally good here, by the way.)
An attractive oak clad curved wall displaying the signature S&R faces you as you enter, behind which is a comfortable room with sofas, where funeral arrangements can be made in privacy. Liam usually works at a desk in the corner of this room, while Matt has desk space in the reception area, but they swap over depending on who is looking after each family – whichever of the pair you first speak to will see the whole arrangement through to its conclusion, so you will have the complete and undivided attention of one of the owners throughout your experience with them.
To the right of the dividing corridor is the funeral suite, a large room that is fully functional for funeral ceremonies (but which can also be used for training purposes or meetings). With seating for sixty people, there is a purpose built oak clad catafalque, with electric curtains as seen at any crematorium, adjustable lighting, a complete sound and vision desk and a large TV monitor. Services can be recorded or relayed live over the Internet if required, and the suite can be used for a service at any time on any day.
Floor length beautiful contemporary curtains can be drawn across to divide the funeral suite into two, creating an intimate and warm space for families to come and spend time with the person who has died. The coffin rests on the catafalque and armchairs are brought in, along with refreshments if needed, and families are welcome to spend as much time as they want here.
Opposite is the preparation area, impeccably kept and fully equipped with everything needed to care for the people in Matt and Liam’s care; the experience and attention to detail both have brought to this business is evident here. Every person brought into their care is fully showered and has their hair washed and styled as they would normally wear it (a recent photograph is always requested to use for reference). Quality fridges offer space for larger people, every person has a pillow, and a flower is always placed with them. And people are referred to as Mr. or Mrs, never by their surname alone. They are cared for as if their family is standing beside Liam and Matt all of the time.
Preparation of the people in their care is of paramount importance to both Liam and Matt, and they treat each person with reverence and respect. Matt is particularly skilled in restoring appearance with make up, and, alongside Julie Smith, the award winning embalmer employed by Southgate & Roberts, he works to ensure that everybody looked after by the company looks peaceful and completely recognisable for their families.
Exceptional quality of service at very good value. The years of experience that both Liam and Matt have brought to their business have been distilled into creating the ideal funeral director service. Everything has been thought of, down to the smallest detail, and their personal attentive approach enables clients to take creative control of their funerals with the complete support of a highly professional team. They are absolute in their conviction that they provide the very best service possible in car, professionalism and value for money.
Caring and understanding what matters to each person is part of the essence of this business. Matt and Liam are passionate about helping you get what you want and need from a funeral, and will ensure that the experience you have is the best it can possibly be. They both love the freedom they have to be completely responsive to each family’s requirements, and are wholly dedicated to doing their absolute utmost to serve the people who choose them to care for a loved one.
The little touches. For every funeral there is something special and personal that reflects the person who has died. On the day we visited, a funeral was taking place for a lady who loved yellow roses, they had been part of her wedding bouquet, and she was known for her love of them. Her coffin was decorated with a beautiful display of yellow roses created by Sheila Nunn, the Southgate & Roberts florist, and all the bearers were wearing a yellow rose as a buttonhole, although Matt returned without his – he had given his one to a young family member who had admired it. Additional thoughtful touches enhance each family’s experience.
We were also impressed by the level of dedication of both Liam and Matt, the personal connection they have with each family and the determination to keep getting better at what they do. Along with offering the funeral suite to local charities to use, a sign language class is held there each Monday evening, and both owners and their trainee, Alan, attend each week and are learning to sign. This has already enabled them to communicate with deaf people at funerals and in daily life, something that has provoked very emotional reactions when deaf people have realised they can make themselves understood. As an added bonus, the ability to sign has provided Liam, Matt and Alan with a discrete way of communicating with each other at funerals.
Another example of the innovation and creativity that is part of this business is the recent commissioning of unique bird tables and benches, created by a local charity from recycled plastic bags with the appearance of wood in various hues. These are designed to store ashes, an inspired idea which provides families with a low cost and completely portable place to keep the ashes of someone who has been cremated.
We particularly liked the idea of sending each person who contacts them about arranging a funeral an advisory note immediately, by e-mail and followed up with a hard copy, outlining the things that you will need to think about before meeting them. This helps the subsequent meeting to be a conversation rather than a question and answer session, and provides clients with a fully detailed outline of the subjects that will be discussed to create the funeral the way that they want.
- Your first call will be answered Liam Roberts or Matt Southgate. 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, it will be one or other of them you speak to.
- Home visits – yes, you will always be given the choice of whether to come to their premises or have them come to you.
- Family participation – yes absolutely. The preparation area has been designed for this very purpose.
- Same sex person to wash and dress? Yes, no problem. Matt and Liam will always be involved with caring for each person they are asked to look after, but Julie Smith will wash and dress females if this is preferred.
- Embalming With Julie’s expertise Liam and Matt believe that embalming will always improve the appearance of deceased people, but they don’t believe it is always necessary and will let clients make an informed no pressure choice.
- Ethnic specialism Both Matt and Liam find it amazing that some funeral directors choose to even mention that they serve all communities and faiths – in their ethos it is an absolute given that everyone receives the service they need. They have a number of contacts in the local area who are fluent in the many different languages spoken in the community, and will be able to find someone who will act as an interpreter if required. Currently Southgate & Roberts are the trusted service provider to the local mosque.
- Home arranged funerals – 100% supportive, and have helped families care for their dead themselves on many occasions. ‘Advice is free!’
- Local celebrants – They work with personally vetted, excellent local celebrants, or either Liam or Matt will take non-religious services if you would like them to, providing complete continuity of care at a reduced fee.
- Website – very nice website, fresh and modern and easy to navigate, with prices clearly displayed in great detail.
- Client support – superb. From the moment of first contact through to the funeral and beyond. Many clients pop in to see them as they are passing, and both Matt and Liam will drop in to see former clients at home if invited to.
- Money matters – really good value for money. You will get a first class service for a tremendously reasonable cost. They provide only what you need, and you will know exactly what you are committing to.
- Parking – There is a car park above the premises, and up to 16 spaces can be allocated to families using Southgate and Roberts for a service. Other car parks are nearby.
Liam and Matt are exceptional funeral directors and Southgate and Roberts is an exceptional business. Down to earth, personable, capable and caring, Matt and Liam will stand alongside you and support you every step of the way.
Their combined 50 years of personal experience, their attention to detail and their thorough, thoughtful approach ensures that the service you will receive will be second to none. They see themselves as event planners, not just typical funeral directors, but they bring with them all the quality of years learning how to do funerals perfectly.
Their standards are among the highest we have seen, and it would be hard to find a nicer pair of people to help you and your family to achieve the funeral that you want.
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.