The Individual Funeral Company

  • individualfunerals

Funeral Directors Category: South East England

  • Owner / Funeral Director

    Lucy Coulbert is the one woman powerhouse behind The Individual Funeral Company (TIFC) who is on a mission to improve funeral provision in the UK.

    Winner of the ‘Low Cost Funeral Provider of the Year’ in the 2016 Good Funeral Awards with her second funeral company, Coulbert Family Funerals, (see below), joint runner up in the ‘Modern Funeral Director of the Year’ with TIFC the same year, and joint winner of ‘The Most Significant Contribution to the Understanding of Death’ in her own right the following year, Lucy was also named ‘Inspirational Woman of the Year’ in the Thames Valley Venus Awards – a plethora of awards that are rightly deserved by a thoroughly decent human being.

    Oxford based The Individual Funeral Company is Lucy’s creation, she owns it, runs it and is the person who will care for you and your family from the moment you first pick up the phone (no matter what time of day or night that might be) and throughout the days that follow. She is completely dedicated to ensuring that every client she works with gets exactly the funeral they want and need, focusing on bespoke, personal service throughout.

    Warm, friendly and utterly normal, Lucy is the kind of person you instantly take a liking to. There’s nothing hidden, no faux sympathy or pretentiousness about her, just a genuine humanity and passion for getting it right for you. She doesn’t get in your way, nor does she try and impose anything on you. She meets you right where you are, unafraid and unflinching even with the most difficult or distressing of circumstances or the most complicated requirements. She’s genuinely there to serve every client who walks through the door, no matter who they are, and she gives the same dedication, support and care to each family she encounters.

    The Individual Funeral Company opened in September 2013 – a culmination of years of planning and determination, and a massive leap of faith, as Lucy explains; “When I opened the business, I had less than a thousand pounds left in the bank, and a matter of weeks to find the money to pay the next quarter’s rent. But I knew I had to do it.”

    Through a combination of sheer nerve, absolute belief in what she was doing and working evenings and weekends at a second job for two years, Lucy held on through the early quiet days, and gradually the unique quality of the service she provided began to pay off. Word began to spread about the small funeral director business that provided completely bespoke service at a very reasonable cost, and eventually Lucy was able to leave her second job to concentrate fully on funerals.

    This didn’t mean that she slowed down, far from it. In fact in July 2015, she started a sister company to run alongside The Individual Funeral Company – Coulbert Family Funerals, a not for profit company set up specifically to help families who are applying to the Department of Work and Pensions for financial assistance with the costs of a funeral.

    The two companies work hand in hand with each other, with The Individual Funeral Company donating £100 from each funeral carried out to Coulbert Family Funerals to help fund the costs of running a not for profit organisation. Coulbert Family Funerals is named after Lucy’s grandfather, an inspirational figure in her life, and it is a rare thing in the world of funerals – often, large companies aren’t interested in helping people apply for a Social Fund Funeral Payment. Alongside TIFC and Coulbert Family Funerals,  Lucy also offers set price low cost simple funerals via Oxford Undertakers. By separating out her different offerings it is easier for clients to achieve the kind of funeral they need.

    Under the Coulbert Family Funerals umbrella, Lucy  assists with advice on completing  the application form as well as working tirelessly on the family’s behalf chasing the DWP to get a response. She sees no reason why people in receipt of a payment from the Social Fund shouldn’t receive the same care and support as every other family. “We set out to genuinely help people who otherwise may not have been able to arrange the funeral themselves or would have been left with crippling debt. We are certain we can help anyone applying to the Department of Works & Pensions arrange a beautiful funeral and give your loved one the send off you can be proud of,” she says.

    This dedication to helping families who struggle to find the money for funeral costs led to Lucy being invited to give evidence to the Work and Pensions Select Committee. Appearing alongside a representative from the National Association of Funeral Directors, Lucy spoke passionately about her frustration with the existing system that so often leaves families waiting for weeks not knowing whether they will receive any assistance, nor how much. Her appearance led to an invitation to meet Baroness Altmann,  the former Minister of State and a leading pensions expert and political campaigner to share her thoughts.

    As a result of her contribution at the Select Committee and the subsequent media interest, Lucy continued to be sought out for her opinion on the Social Fund Funeral Payment, and she was invited to be part of the DWP working group seeking ways to improve the system. She was slightly bemused by this. “I don’t know how this happened,” she said at the time, “Why am I the only person speaking up?” It’s probably because Lucy is unlike many other funeral directors. She’s straight talking, fearless and take-it-or-leave-it honest. She’s also incredibly bright and very funny.

    Her route to owning her own business and becoming the champion of struggling bereaved families is a tale of determination and dogged persistence. The daughter of a mortuary manager, Lucy knew she wanted to be involved with funerals from an early age, but as a ‘people person’ she didn’t want to follow her mum into a career behind the mortuary doors.

    At the age of 19, Lucy went to work for Co-operative Funeralcare and learned the basics of how funerals worked. She also met some amazing people who remain admired friends to this day, some even attending the opening of her business in 2013.

    After a few years, Lucy made contact with Revd. Paul Sinclair of Motorcycle Funerals, the UK’s first motorcycle hearse service. She wanted to know if he’d offer a franchise to her, but instead was offered a job with him, and she spent the next four years driving up and down the country as one of his hearse riders.

    It was a great opportunity, visiting different funeral director’s premises every day, and Lucy rapidly realised she was getting insight into both how not to do funerals, and how to do funerals exceptionally well. Everything was filed away in the back of her mind, and when she left Motorcycle Funerals for a brief tenure at another national chain of funeral directors, she spent most of her time working on her business plan for her own business.

    The next couple of years were spent doing work wherever she could to keep the wolf from the door, all the time trying to get her business off the ground. Undeterred by setbacks (her bank had never given a loan to a startup funeral director before, and she missed the chance to rent the building she first identified), eventually, after driving around the area looking for somewhere suitable, Lucy saw the premises in Rose Hill, and The Individual Funeral Company had found a home.

    Starting a new funeral director business is a risky thing, but Lucy held her nerve through the first months. “Social media save my a**e,” she says. “I didn’t have any money for advertising or marketing, but Facebook and Twitter were a way of letting people know I was here.”

    The first funeral for The Individual Funeral Company came as a result of The Natural Death Centre recommending a family contact Lucy. The family lived miles away, and the funeral was in London – a baptism of fire that Lucy took in her stride, and since then things have gone from strength to strength. Ten years on, Lucy is a recognised and respected funeral director, both in the area where she works and among her peers.

    Every funeral that TIFC carries out is unique. This is something that Lucy feels absolutely passionately about, for her, every client is in charge, they are the boss, and she sees her role as offering information and ideas to help each client be as creative as they want to be to have the funeral they want.

    She is incredibly thorough in how she does this, starting with a comprehensive email to each client who approaches her, outlining all the information they might need, and offering options. Every client has a tailor made response to the conversation they have just had, including Lucy pointing out areas where they might want to take control or be involved in. Out of the initial conversations and email exchanges, often small comments can spark ideas of how to make the funeral unique for that person, and Lucy will work with each client to develop tases ideas and make them happen. She is more than capable of organising a high profile, meticulously planned military style funeral if this is what you want – or equally at home helping you hold a completely informal ceremony in a pub garden, and with her calm, easy ‘no dramas’ approach she will empower you to do as much of the funeral yourself as you feel able to.

    Whether organising a ceremony in the Ashmolean Museum (the first and only time that a coffin has been allowed to be the centrepiece of a funeral in the museum) or carrying out a direct cremation with nobody attending, you can be certain that Lucy will be completely herself, and that her attention, respect for the person who has died and determination to get everything right will be exactly the same. She’s completely honest and transparent and ethical, just exactly the sort of person you want to help you through the myriad of decisions involved in a funeral.

    Her premises are bright and welcoming. We visited on a Saturday – you can do this by appointment if you want – and we walked past the closed shutters of the branch of Dignity three doors away as we approached. This seemed somehow symbolic. Since The Individual Funeral Company opened, the number of people using the Dignity branch steadily diminished. The personal service that Lucy offers and her clear, transparent and fair pricing contrast completely with the central diary, central mortuary and lack of any mention of prices on the website that Dignity offer. “I encourage clients who are choosing a funeral director to pop up the road and ask for a quote”, says Lucy. “They’re usually back here within three minutes.”

    The large windows and glass door spill daylight into the reception area, and a glimpse of Lucy’s desk can be seen at the rear of the building. It’s usually piled high with work related stuff. The window to the right of the door is used for displays – often including a coffin of some kind. When we visited, a lovely white woollen coffin was in the window with draped gold material providing a backdrop and pots of colourful anemones and grass providing a splash of colour.

    On the right of the reception area is the arranging room, where a large black and white canvas portrait of Queen Elizabeth II smiles down. Furnished simply with a table and chairs, this room offers a space where you can talk in private about funeral arrangements. A curtained window between this room and the one behind allows daylight to filter into the modern, quiet room where you can spend time with the person who has died if you want to do so.

    Lucy doesn’t believe in embalming unless it is absolutely necessary, so she encourages people to come and spend time sooner rather than later. Your relative will be laid on a wheeled bier on tray covered with a crisp white sheet, looking as if they are laid in a bed, and you can spend as much time with them as you want to.

    At the rear of the building, Lucy has a secure, locked temperature controlled cold room where she can look after several people at the same time. This ensures that all the space within the building is available for families to use, the best use of a small premises we’ve seen. Behind Lucy’s desk is a little kitchen area where she makes very good coffee, and a couple of cages alongside her workspace indicate the presence of Bunny and Joplin, her two beloved dogs, who are often beside her when she’s at work.

    When it comes to the day of the funeral, Lucy will meticulously prepare for the day with the team of staff she brings in to help. There will have been copious timeline emails for all the key people involved, including the bearers, carriage master and the person leading the ceremony. This continues on  the day with verbal briefings and final discussions with the minister or celebrant before the ceremony begins. Lucy sees her role as making sure that everyone is in the right place at the right time, supporting the family but in an unobtrusive way – she tells clients that her job on the day is to be almost invisible until they need her, then when they look up they should be able to find her instantly.

    Every funeral that she carries out is special, but for Lucy probably the most important one that she has been involved with was for her dear friend and mentor Paul, the ‘Faster Pastor’ minister who created Motorcycle Funerals, who died in April 2019 aged just 53.

    Setting her own grief aside, Lucy worked with Marian, Paul’s wife, to create the most incredible funeral, taking Paul’s coffin around Donington race track the evening beforehand at speeds of over 100 miles an hour on one of  his own motorcycle hearses,  and then leading the procession of all the Motorcycle Funerals sidecar hearses and dozens of riders of motorbikes the following day to the church for his funeral ceremony, and then on to the little  churchyard for his burial. It was an extraordinary spectacle, meticulously planned and executed by Paul’s protégée, the first rider he employed full time, and the best funeral director he knew.

    Specific Gravity

    Totally as it says in the name – your funeral will be a completely individual one. Lucy’s ethical way of working and her dedication to getting things right for you will ensure that if you choose The Individual Funeral Company you will get personal service and attention of the highest calibre, at an absolutely reasonable price.

    What’s Important?

    Honesty, openness, personal service and doing whatever is needed to make the experience of arranging a funeral as easy as it possibly can be for you. Lucy will meet you as one human being to another, she wants clients to feel instantly relaxed rather than apprehensive and uncomfortable at the thought of meeting a funeral director, so she wears casual clothes in the office, and smart, appropriate clothes for the ceremony.

    What’s Different?

    It’s Lucy herself that’s different. She’s the most likeable, kind person who doesn’t put on a front of any kind. She meets you where you are, and treats everyone with the same kindness and utmost respect. Some of the phrases used to describe Lucy by people she’s helped probably say more than we ever could:

    ‘ Lucy was an absolute rock for us: her compassion, sympathy, respect, practical advice and support were immeasurably appreciated by us all.’

    ‘Lucy was totally transparent about all costs and options so that we could make good, informed choices throughout. She was warm, personable and very professional.’

    ‘I will forever be grateful to Lucy for all her information, advice, support and guidance.  She was reassuring, supportive, kind and understanding. She drew together a funeral that was so nice, we will all have a good memory of that day.  She combined being very calm and professional with very caring and always gave just the right advice or support.’


    • Your first call will be answered by Lucy herself. Day or night, 365 days a year. If she happens to be out on a funeral when you call you might speak to Gemma, her former assistant who continues to help Lucy if needed.
    • Home visits – yes if that’s what you want.
    • Same sex person to wash and dress? Yes, if you want this.
    • Embalming? Not unless it’s absolutely necessary, and Lucy will advise you if this is the case. Otherwise she doesn’t believe in interfering with the body of the person who has died.
    • Ethnic specialism? Lucy is happy to work with people from every culture or background and is experienced in all types of funerals. If she needs to find out particular details to ensure that the customs are carried out correctly then you can bet she will do so.
    • Home arranged funerals – of course. Just let her know what help you need from her. You can pay by the hour for her time if need be, or per service required. See her website for details
    • Local celebrants – Lucy can recommend a few trusted quality celebrants for you to contact. She has excellent local connections with clergy as well.
    • Vehicle – The standard hearse available is a well cared for Volvo or Daimler, but Lucy has a very nice Land Rover Discovery which is increasingly being asked for as an alternative.
    • Website – Very nice website that accurately reflects the values of the company. We particularly like the direct link on the home page that takes you to TIFC’s Instagram account – have a browse through the images here and you’ll instantly get the feel of Lucy and her work. Prices for the elements of bespoke funerals are all online, as are the four pre-defined services offered through Lucy’s separate, low cost funeral service dedicated to simple funerals, Oxford Undertakers.
    • Client support – From the first moment of contact through to the days after the funeral, Lucy will be there for you. Many of the testimonials we have read referred to her becoming like a friend. You will always be welcome to drop in for a coffee and a chat if you’re passing.
    • Money matters – Totally  transparent and very reasonable. Excellent value for the service you receive.
    • Parking – On the road outside or in nearby residential roads.


    For a long time, we encouraged Lucy to apply for accreditation as a Good Funeral Guide Recommended Funeral Director, so it is with much delight that we are finally able to add The Individual Funeral Company and Coulbert Family Funerals to our list.

    Lucy felt strongly that she wanted her premises to be ready for our visit, and it was only once her cold room was finished that she felt that she was in a position to go through the accreditation process – which she sailed through without any issues at all. Since the initial accreditation Lucy has continued to carry out extraordinary funerals, dedicating herself to a limited number of clients that she can give the very best service to each year.

    We are proud to have The Individual Funeral Company included in our listing of the very best funeral directors. This woman is blazing a trail for strong, principled independent undertaking, providing clients that choose her and the people that she cares for with exceptionally good service. We highly recommend her.

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    Reviews from the old GFG site
    6 years ago

    Therese Sove

    Lucy made a big difference in planning my daughter’s cremation and delivering the urn to my hotel in London. She is so professional and went out of her way to make sure I made my flight back to the USA. We were vacationing in England when my daughter suddenly died in her sleep the 1st night. It was a very bad time right before Easter and everything was closed down for pretty much 6 days. Lucy communicated with me and got all completed. thank you Lucy

    Lucy Coulbert

    In reply to Carrie Ryan.
    Thank you so much for your kind comments Carrie. They really are very much appreciated.

    Carrie Ryan

    Way to go Lucy, it’s fantastic to see you being credited for the amazing work you do! My grandad and I will forever be grateful to you for your time and dedication with nans funeral. You rock!

    Reviews from the old GFG site
    6 years ago

    Kindness, courtesy and professionalism
    Dear Lucy

    Thank you for forwarding to me the letter from one of my father’s friends . This typifies the kindness, courtesy and professionalism which characterised your whole approach to my father’s funeral and for which the family was greatly appreciative .

    Best wishes

    With a little gift for you
    Dave & Rosie
    Just a little thank you for all your help and kindness throughout our recent bereavement.
    This is an Isle of Man 50p, made for the TT of 1997, as a reminder to go to the Island when you get the chance – I believe the rider depicted is Joey Dunlop.
    Enjoy the bickies, with love and best wishes

    Thank you Lucy
    Mr S.
    Just a brief note to say thank you properly for helping us navigate the shock and confusion of those first few days and weeks.

    I don’t know if our paths will cross again, but wanted you to know how grateful I am for your kindness and sensitivity – and humour!

    The clue is in the title !
    Diana Woodward
    This week we held my mother’s funeral, which was truly individual, thanks to Lucy. She listened to what I asked for, and held my hand every step of the way. These days you can have exactly what kind of funeral you want, but you would not know this from looking at the big companies’ websites, which tend to offer you Package A, Package B or Package C, and all at far higher cost than Lucy charges. I was knocked out by the rainbow willow coffin that Lucy found for us – my mum would have loved it ! Lucy trained us up to run the crematorium service ourselves and said she would not be there, but she could not stay away and wanted to make sure that it all ran smoothly (which it did, until we were not sure which exit to use !). I can’t recommend her too highly. What a service !

    A woodland burial
    Katharine Wale
    Dear Lucy

    We met at the funeral of a close friend of mine. The funeral was quite unlike any other I have been to – in part because we chose a woodland burial which gave an intimacy and informality to the occasion. It meant a lot to me that you and your colleague managed to be both respectful but not stiff; friendly and supportive without being over-familiar. I also loved the way you turned up in smart black clothes and a pair of wellies – essential clothing items for a woodland burial on a damp winter day!

    David M.
    5 years ago

    I found Lucy Coulbert through The Good Funeral Guide. Hers is the only funeral business they list in the whole of Oxfordshire.
    When Ann died I rang in some trepidation because I had not spoken to, let alone visited Lucy in advance, but I needn’t have worried. From that first contact, with Lucy herself as it nearly always is, I felt we were in safe hands. This was confirmed when shortly afterwards Lucy and her mother arrived to take charge of Ann’s body. She gave us all the time we needed to tell her about Ann and about us and what we wanted. In the coming days and weeks all our contacts were professional but compassionate.
    Lucy led us through all the decisions we had to make, all the administration, all the financial options. She knew when to give us time and when to set a deadline. All this preparation meant that when the day of the funeral came everything turned out as we had planned. That is not luck, it is through teamwork between family, friends and an experienced, dedicated funeral director.
    Thank you Lucy. 

    5 years ago

    Thank you to the team at The Individual Funeral Company. You helped us give our father the send off we wanted. Lucy was very friendly, personable and efficient.

    5 years ago

    Lucy was perfect. Just the right balance of compassion and straightforward practicality. Thank you. Greg Birdseye

    5 years ago

    Lucy and her team are very professional and friendly, They make sure you have all the information you need to help plan the funeral, they are very good at making sure the funeral is bespoke to your loved one that has passed.
    My granddad’s funeral was not easy and very unusual, but Lucy was very supportive and dedicated to making sure the funeral went to plan. Thank you so much Lucy and her team.

    Ray Worth
    5 years ago

    Incredibly good old-fashioned & honest service.

    Nothing was too much trouble, & everything was ‘up front’ & honest with no needless or hidden ‘extras’….

    Prices are VERY fair & reasonable. Highly recommended company.

    Elaine Hawkes-Blackburn
    5 years ago

    Lucy provided an excellent service and helped immensely with planning a funeral that felt personal and meaningful.
    From us initially phoning her and explaining we had no idea what we wanted or what we needed to think about, she made the process seem much less daunting as she broke it down step by step.
    With each stage she explained what the options were, and we never got the impression she was trying to sell us extras that we didn’t want- she was honestly listening to what we felt was the right thing. She was friendly and approachable throughout the process.

    Bernadette Kelly
    5 years ago

    I had never dealt with funeral arrangements before but i very much believe in independant companies anyway..Lucy was so understanding and upselling like a car salesman…not once did i feel like a customer or client. In such sad circumstances she made me smile and i cant thank her enough all done for myself and daughter after Georges death.. Prices very reasonable and made simple with basic package adding extras if wanted.
    People are all Unique so the Funeral should be Individual.. named well..
    Many many thanks again.

    fiona gilbert
    5 years ago

    The thing that initially attracted me to the Individual Funeral Company was their eye catching window displays which made me happy on my way to work each morning. This is what led me to their office a few days after my mother died. Lucy was incredibly helpful and transparent and we really appreciated her help and her time. Unfortunately we weren’t able to proceed with an Oxford based company in this instance. However, I have already told my family to please use the Individual Funeral Company when the need arises for me.

    Vanessa French-Hicks
    4 years ago

    I lost my husband very suddenly. It’s a horrible conversation to have with anyone you hold dear especially with a seven year old daughter. Richard was not religious and wanted to be buried in a natural burial site. Lucy was amazing. Personal, simple details right down to my daughter being involved in designing and decorating her fathers coffin. No pressure. No hard sell. I was amazed at the final cost including the venue for the wake. Family members had recently had a conventional funeral involving a simple cremation and paid nearly £2000 more with another well known company owning a very large chain . Money is important. Especially losing your breadwinner and love of your life.
    Thank you Lucy for everything.
    Vanessa and Penny xx

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