Funeral Directors Category: South East England
The business is owned by Paul Sullivan, Dip FD,who started in the funeral industry in 1992 when he was aged 19. He mostly runs the business himself with the support of Alan Goodall and his wife Beryl, and a loyal team of casual staff. (Paul’s brother Alex has also been very involved working alongside Paul managing the office, but when the pandemic occurred, Alex took furlough to ensure a close family member wasn’t put at risk).
Paul’s love of funerals began when he was in the sixth form, and through dogged persistence, he managed to get a position as an employment trainee through Kent Skills a year later. His first years in the funeral world were spent working for a large corporate funeral director, and he gained much experience and achieved the diploma in funeral directing during this time.
After moving from the corporate world to work for an independent funeral director at Deal and Woodnesborough, Paul expanded his experience to every aspect of running a business, and in 2006 he made the decision to start his own company. Sullivan and Son opened on March 31st 2007, and for the first few years was entirely run by Paul on his own.
Alex joined Paul on a part time basis in 2009 and the small team now carries out ten times as many funerals as Paul did in his first year, as Sullivan and Son’s reputation has grown in the area. Families who have been clients in the past are now coming back to the company to help them again when another family member dies – a sure sign that the standards of service are as good as you can get from this small company.
When Paul’s not working, his two sons and little daughter keep him busy and he’s a keen member of the Dover Rotary Club and the Dover Society as well as enjoying golf, cycling, watching movies, listening to rock/blues and playing drums.
Paul is not your stereotypical funeral director – if you want him to dress up in Victorian garb then he will, but he’s just as happy to conduct a funeral in something less formal. Paul’s philosophy is “the funeral should not be centred on the funeral director, but in our role as master of ceremonies we need to be identifiable to all mourners.”
He has a nice fleet of vehicles, though “they are not the most important thing. I believe people will remember the behaviour of the drivers far more than the make or model of the car they are driving.” He sees no sense in spending vast amounts of money on updating vehicles just to have the latest model, preferring instead to ensure that the cars he uses are polished and clean, and the prices he charges clients are as fair and reasonable as they can be.
If you prefer not to have a funeral ceremony, Paul offers direct cremations for £1,345, all inclusive.
Paul prides himself on the things that you don’t see, the care of the person who has died, and the behind the scenes work that takes place. He’s also all about offering choices – he has a big book with pictures of lots of different coffins, vehicles, stationery and keepsakes which he’ll bring out if you want to look through it, and he encourages you to take your time to find the elements of a funeral that are right for you.
The premises of Sullivan and Son are set in a residential neighbourhood – the building in fact was originally a house but over the years was converted for use as a barber’s and then a hairdresser’s before Paul found it. He has done a lot of work to make the premises accessible for people with mobility problems, and made extremely good use of the space available. Light, bright and airy inside, you enter into a small reception area which opens into the office area where there is a round table and a desk.
The decor is a smart and modern – there is no black and gold solemnity with tinted windows here. On the walls, framed certificates display Paul’s qualifications and there are some old photos of the building as it was years ago and of other funeral directors who are now long gone – Paul loves the historical connections that the photographs conjure up.
Through a door at the side of the office you enter a small lobby leading to the chapel of rest – small and simply decorated, this quiet room has a beautiful contemporary stained glass window created by Derek White, former head of conservation at Canterbury Cathedral.
Behind a locked door is access to the mortuary area, where up to twelve people are cared for at a time, each with their own blanket in the chilled room. There is space for preparing people for their coffins, and access to the rear of the premises for easy transferring to vehicles.
Paul was one of the first funeral directors to offer completely transparent pricing. There is a base cost which covers the work that has to be done for every funeral and after that you just choose the products and services that you need.
If you do this on his website, you’ll see an instant and detailed estimate of charges – we believe he was the first in the industry to offer this, and this transparency is something that sets his business apart in the area.
No other local funeral director voluntarily displayed their prices online until the CMA made it mandatory to do so, and we thoroughly applaud Paul’s open approach to letting potential clients see how much their bill is likely to be without even needing to pick up the phone to him – we wish all funeral directors would offer this.
Paul doesn’t believe in adding a huge markup on everything that he sells. He has a ‘coffin cover’ which can be used to make a simple cardboard coffin look like a wooden casket.
Everything important is under one roof at Beaconsfield Road, (the coffin storage and vehicles are elsewhere) and if you want to visit the person who has died out of hours, you can do so, just ask Paul.
He’s very thoughtful – the type that gently liberates flowers he sees sweating in cellophane at the crematorium. And every invoice is accompanied by a touching keepsake.
- Your call will be answered by Paul, Alan or Beryl, or possibly Alex.
- Disabled Access: yes. Including a fully accessible loo.
- Home Visits: yes
- Embalming: if needed. Paul’s not a huge fan and will discuss it with you.
- Continuity of Care: Paul will likely be the person who will answer the phone, collect the person who has died, make the arrangements and conduct the funeral. You can’t get better than this.
- Family Participation: if you want to come and wash or dress the person who has died that’s fine.
- Same Sex Person to wash and dress: yes – just ask
- Ethnic Specialism: Sullivan and Son have good experience with helping people from many religious and ethnic groups, including the large Polish community.
- Local Celebrants: They have a good selection of excellent celebrants and take time to find the right one for you.
- Home arranged funerals: because of their pricing structure, you can pick and mix the products and services you want, and Paul is happy to help and offer advice.
- Education: Paul holds the Diploma in Funeral Directing and is always looking to improve himself and the service he offers. He gives talks to the local WI and Rotary clubs.
- Web site: Very nice website with lots of information, including the excellent itemised price list and estimator.
- Client Support: Paul takes part in the annual All Souls’ ceremony at a local church. He has a list of bereavement counsellors should you need one. He has lots of other ideas but is currently limited for space. If you want to pop in and have a cuppa and a chat, you’ll be very welcome.
- Parking: there is on-street parking available.
- Direct Cremation: £1,345 including medical and cremation fees (2021 cost)
This is one of the very best kinds of independent firms – small, locally-owned and offering lots of choice. Everything is done with enthusiasm, a kind smile and a lot of care, in premises that are quiet and well-appointed.
Over the years, Paul calculates that he has been involved with well over 8,000 funerals – that’s eight thousand families who he has helped to have as good an experience as they possibly can. Many of them have written to voice their appreciation, and Paul has kept the letters. The huge folder is probably the most important thing in his possession – a reminder every day that the job he so loves is one that really makes a difference to so many people.
We have every confidence that Paul Sullivan and his team will work hard to deliver the send-off you want, at a price that’s hard to beat.
Last reviewed on 5th October 2021
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.