Sixty hours

Funeral costs - what aren't they cheaper?

You might have seen a number of adverts on TV talking about prepaid funerals, which are a very good idea, but have you thought about why a proper funeral costs what it does? Up and down the country, funeral directors work hard to make the worst times in life as bearable as possible for their clients. We’re trained professionals and always try to offer the advice most suitable to the needs of each client, who are most often a grieving family or friend of the deceased.

From pick-up of a deceased person to erecting a memorial, the work of a funeral director takes well over 60 man-hours.

First contact

Unless a person has arranged a pre-paid funeral plan, the first contact we have with a family is usually their call for us to take the deceased’s body into our care. Our first response team will come out at all hours and pick up from all kinds of circumstances. The team will usually consist of two men, driving a specially converted vehicle, and with great care they will transport the deceased to one of our mortuaries.

The deceased will be stored in a dedicated mortuary, where their body will be cleansed, prepared, and, most often, embalmed by a professional embalmer. They are always treated with the utmost dignity and respect and we will take whatever time is needed to make sure they are ready for viewing, if that is what their loved ones want. There might be a wait of up to three weeks for the funeral to take place, and more if there is a coroner involved.


There can be a huge amount of paperwork after a death, and your funeral director does as much as they possibly can to help. The funeral arranger is specially trained to help clients deal with all of the detail and will take as much time as needed. All the while, the funeral arranger will arrange a suitable funeral service (whether a burial, cremation, or direct cremation), walking the client through every detail, choice, and decision about dates, times, venue, chapel visits, music, celebrant, coffin, clothing, flowers, vehicles, bearers, printed orders of service, donations, and all the other things that must be finalised. They will take time to listen to their client, helping them as they begin the process of grieving.

In our experience, the more carefully we address the details, the less likely it is that the day of the funeral will feel like an ordeal. A good funeral director’s team will be compassionate and highly professional, something that I’m proud to say my own team most definitely are.

The funeral and the days following

On the day of the service itself, everything should run smoothly, from transport to the service itself. There are between 6 and 10 people working on your behalf; the conductor, the celebrant, drivers, bearers... not to mention the staff at the venues. Then, after the service, we continue to support the client. Following a burial, we assist with the choice of memorial, manufacturing, engraving, and installing it for the client. Similarly, after a cremation, we pick up and store any cremated remains, and help the client to consider and choose a suitable container or memorial, if that is their wish.

Continued support

Even after the practicalities are finished, a good funeral director will keep in touch and help in any way they can. The Hunnaball Family Funeral Group hosts annual remembrance events called ‘Light a Candle’ and ‘Name a Star’, giving grieving families and friends the space to remember and give thanks. We understand that the ordeal of losing a loved ones does not end with the funeral service.

You get what you pay for

Funeral services are not cheap, and we’re sometimes asked why this is. The simple answer is that behind the scenes, a large number of specially trained people, dedicated facilities and specialist transport are involved. Care of the deceased and their families can never be rushed or skimped; it is a sacred trust which takes many hours of dedicated work.

Trevor Hunnaball with Daughter Polly

Trevor Hunnaball - 65 years in the industry

The years have flown by...

This year marks 65 years since I began working in the funeral industry, and the years have flown by. It’s been a privilege and great pleasure, although hard work at times, and I wouldn’t change a thing.

I started work in 1957 at WH Shepherd, straight after I left school... I was just 15 years old. It was the only thing I remember ever wanting to do. But the shiny black cars were a factor too. I loved the cars.

I joined as a trainee funeral director and worked very hard to learn everything I could. It was so interesting. I learned how to make coffins, bear at funerals, conduct funerals, and to clean the cars... and I cleaned the cars so many times.

It’s one of the things that hasn’t changed... the cars have to be perfect for the families!

Becoming a Managing Director

I became Managing Director of the company when I was still quite young, in my late twenties. When you love what you do, you work hard at it.

It wasn’t until 1983 that Melanie and I bought Geo. Paskell in Manningtree, the first branch of what became the Hunnaball Family Funeral Group. We also had a flower shop, and a successful car hire company which allowed me to indulge my love of classic cars at the same time as supporting our new business with limousines.

What a journey it’s been since those days. We no longer have a florist shop or car hire business, but the Hunnaball Family Funeral Group serves people from across Essex and Suffolk. We have 11 branches, a service centre, training centre, memorial department, and a garden of rest. We’re a true family business. Five of our six directors are members of the Hunnaball family (the sixth is a close friend), and we have a fantastic team across our business, all of whom we think of as our work family.

We’ve conducted thousands of funerals; including cremations, burials at sea, in woodland, in gardens, and so much more. We serve every religion and none, work with people from many different cultures, and it’s been a privilege, a joy, and hard work...

There is nothing I would rather be doing.

About Hunnaball Family Funeral Group

As I look back, I can only be grateful. The business we’ve built is defined by compassion and professionalism, with the highest standards of service. People know when a funeral has been conducted by the Hunnaball Family Funeral Group for all the best reasons.

I’ve also seen lots of positive change in 65 years. An increase in equality in the funeral industry with our iconic ‘Ladies in Hats’, woodland burials, proper training and professional qualifications, the growth of the hospice movement, mental health awareness, open discussion of the issues surrounding death, and so much more.

During 2022, I will post a blog every month. I want to consider the funeral industry through the eyes of 65 years in the industry. But, first and foremost, as we start a new year, I am simply thankful for a very blessed life and a most rewarding career. And more, for the people I share them with.

Trevor’s Christmas message 2021

No-one can say that 2021 hasn’t been memorable!

It’s been challenging, sometimes difficult, but, as I reflect on the last year, there’s still a great many things to be thankful for.

First among them, I feel so blessed to have and work with my family. I’m the same as our clients in this way, thankful to have family to share both griefs and joys. Many of my family also play a huge part in the life of the Hunnaball Family Funeral Group. Their dedication, both to our clients and colleagues, is inspirational.

Second, I feel very grateful for my work family, not only those who are seen by our clients, but also those who work behind the scenes to ensure we deliver the best care for each and every family we serve. Without their hard work and diligence on behalf of the Hunnaball Family Funeral Group, we could not do what we do. Our reputation for compassion and professionalism is upheld by them.

Finally, I’m very thankful that, even during a pandemic, we’ve been able to serve so many grieving families and friends so well. It’s one of my pleasures to read the comments and testimonials sent in by our clients. Many are contained in cards and letters to the teams in our branches, and they all say thanks for the great work we do. But they have other common themes too. They talk about our amazing people, and how compassionate, professional, caring, kind, well organised, and helpful they are. They tell us how much they appreciate our attention to detail, and the helpful manner shown by everyone they meet who works with us. And they mention the excellent standards upheld by our drivers, bearers, conductors, celebrants, and, most especially, our funeral arrangers, who walk with them through the whole process of organising a funeral.

As both the Chairman of the company and a member of the team, I am thankful and proud.

As we stand on the edge of a new year, there are also many reasons to look forward to 2022. It’s my 65th Anniversary of working in the funeral industry, but it’s also a time of hope and opportunity. Hope, that Covid will be defeated and the restrictions pass, and opportunity, to serve many more clients who will, as a result of our compassion and professionalism, become our friends.

I wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Peaceful New Year.

Trevor Hunnaball

Count your blessings

Count your blessings as we Name a Star

As Christmas draws nearer, we thought we would spend some time counting our blessings.

First, we are blessed at the Hunnaball Family Funeral Group to have an amazing team. We’ve got through Covid, thanks in no small part to their ceaseless efforts. During the hardest times, they simply kept going, day after day, without grumbling, working incredibly hard, and never, at any point, letting the level of their service drop. Every one of them has cared for our clients with compassion and complete professionalism. They are phenomenal and we’re deeply thankful to have such a dedicated and skilled work family.

Second, as restrictions continue to relax, we’re so thankful, carefully, to welcome back to our branches real people. It’s so much easier for everyone involved in a funeral to be allowed to talk face to face, albeit at a social distance. It’s easier to communicate, listen, and show compassion to the families we serve in the midst of their grief.

Third, we’re thankful for smiles and tears. We must continue to wear facemasks for the safety of others, but when we’re settled in a meeting and able to remove the coverings, we can actually see the expressions on one another’s faces. Organising a funeral can, for obvious reasons, be a sad undertaking, but in the UK we smile often when we talk about our family. Even the family we’ve lost and miss so much. Face to face meetings are often punctuated by as many smiles as they are tears, and we feel so thankful to be allowed to share them.

Finally, we’re grateful to be able to engage with the community once again. For so long we’ve been locked in our offices, meeting online and talking on the phone. Now our teams are freer to meet families in person once more, support local charities, attend meetings, and make a positive impact on the communities we serve. We’re still taking great care with everyone’s safety, but it is very important to the Hunnaball Family Funeral Group that we play our part in making the locations we serve into the best places they can possibly be.

For Christmas, our Name a Star trees are in every branch of the Hunnaball Family Funeral Group, as well as a few other venues, from 1st December. We warmly invite everyone to visit one of our branches, dedicate a Christmas star to the memory of someone you love and miss, and hang it on the tree. If you feel unable to do that because of health concerns... simply ring your local branch and one of the friendly funeral arrangers will be delighted to name a star on your behalf.

We are looking forward to 2022. We believe and hope it will be a better year for everyone... not without challenges, but safer and calmer all round.

Merry Christmas and a very happy 2022 to all our family, colleagues, friends, and customers!

The Hunnaball Family Funeral Group star, available in every branch.

Colchester celebrates Light a Candle

Colchester celebrates Light a Candle

On Saturday 20th November, as a culmination of the Light a Candle events in 2021, the Colchester Branches of the Hunnaball Family Funeral Group are hosting a second Light a Candle event. The church of St James the Great Church, East Hill, Colchester will be open for people to drop in between 11am and 1pm, so they can light a candle in memory of the people they miss most and take a valuable opportunity to give thanks and remember. There will also be a short service of remembrance and thanksgiving in the church at 1130am, which anyone can attend, a further opportunity to remember the people they miss most.

Melanie Hunnaball said, “Our Light a Candle plans for events in 2021 were developed with Covid restrictions very much in mind. As a result, instead of the usual services of remembrance, many of our branches made alternative arrangements for people to drop into a venue where they could remember their loved ones at a social distance. However, since Covid restrictions have continued to ease, we wanted to offer the chance for those people to gather for a church service too, when we can remember as a community or group.

“We’re grateful to the amazing team at St James the Great church in Colchester, who’ve agreed to put on this special service as an addition to the commemorations which have already taken place for our other branches.”

At the same time, in West Mersea, our branch, JK May, will hold their Light a Candle event at the Free Church in Mill Road, from 10am – 12 noon.

Remembrance 2021

Remembrance 2021

This year is the centenary of the Royal British Legion, founded on 15th May 1921 following World War One. They have worked tirelessly since their foundation to support former service men and women, and their families, in their return to civilian life, often following life shaping experiences or injuries. As a result of their work, Remembrance Day and the Poppy Appeal have become an important part of our national life in the UK, when we unite to commemorate the sacrifice of the few for the sake of the many, remember everyone who has been affected by war, and gather in a unified expression of memorial and respect.

We are deeply appreciative of their work. World War One was not, as once hoped, the war to end all wars and the Royal British Legion have continued to make a huge difference in the lives of so many. Now, 100 years later, service personnel from the UK, and many other nations, still risk and sacrifice their lives and war continues to be a fact of life in every corner of the world.

It is more important than ever to remember the fallen, the suffering, and their loved ones and families.

The Hunnaball Family Funeral Group are proud to have a variety of links with the armed forces. We have our head office in Colchester, which has a long history of involvement with the military, we actively seek to employ former service personnel, and we continue to raise money and awareness on behalf of men and women who have served. We conduct services for many former service people of different generations, helping to acknowledge their lives and the contribution they have made for all of us.

Last year’s Remembrance was a very different experience for us all, thanks to Covid, but this year, commemoration will be more like we all expect. We will gather to observe silence, lay wreaths, buy poppies, and remember... together. Every branch of the Hunnaball Family Funeral Group will lay a wreath at their local war memorial, as well as support the Poppy Appeal in any way we can. You can follow the link to donate and leave a dedication on our Poppy Appeal page.

We encourage everyone to mark Remembrance Day with a moment of silence and, if you have faith, a prayer. Please buy a poppy and give thanks that we are privileged to live in a country where we are free to remember. The Royal British Legion is as important as ever and this year’s Remembrance events are, as always, something very special.

We will remember them.


Light a Candle 2021

Light a Candle 2021

We want to invite all our clients, together with their families and friends, to remember the people they miss at special ‘Light a Candle’ gatherings during the next few months. Each branch will open a local venue so that you can drop in, give thanks for your loved one, and light a candle in their memory. Details of Light a Candle events, locations and times can be found below.

The annual Light a Candle services, held by the various branches of the Hunnaball Family Funeral Group, have always been such an important part of our work. They’re an opportunity for the staff in our branches to invite the bereaved families and friends they have served while arranging funerals to gather together and remember the people they miss most. Each one is a chance to remember, reflect, and light a candle.

Life can be so very busy and many of our clients, who often become our friends, greatly appreciate these opportunities to remember the ones they miss. However, thanks to Covid, the 2020 services were replaced by a single ceremony, which was streamed online and can still be seen on our YouTube channel. While it was a helpful alternative, it was nowhere near as good as the usual services in a local church and the physical action of lighting a real candle in a real place.

However, we’re all painfully aware that we’re not out of the woods yet. Covid is still with us, and many people continue to feel uncomfortable in large public gatherings. So, the Hunnaball Family Funeral Group have made the decision to do things a little differently in 2021, but still give everyone the chance to light a candle.

Each Hunnaball branch is partnering with a local church or venue, to open a space for a few hours so that people can drop in when they’re ready, to give thanks, remember, and light a candle for their loved one. In this way, everyone can remain socially distanced and wear masks if they want to. It is an opportunity, not only for our own clients, but for anyone who has lost a family member or friend and would like to remember them.

We think that after the Covid pandemic it’s even more important that we give real opportunities to Light a Candle.

Venues will be hosted by members of our amazing team, who will be happy to talk and give direction. In many cases, these will be the people who served you, so it is a chance to remake acquaintances and chat to old friends. There might also be a member of the local community to talk to and pray with, if needed.

We truly hope that these Light a Candle days will be helpful, helping many to remember and give thanks in a meaningful way. We hope to see you there.

If you want to know more, please talk to your local branch.

Light a Candle days                                  

Manningtree branch (Geo. Paskell of Manningtree)

Saturday 13th November 2021, 10am – Noon

Venue – St Mary's Church, Church Hill, Lawford, CO11 2JX

West Mersea branch (JK May of West Mersea)

Saturday 20th November, 10am – 12noon

Venue – West Mersea Free Church, 32 Mill Road, West Mersea, CO5 8RJ

Colchester branch

Saturday 20th November, 11am – 1pm

Venue – St James the Great, East Hill, Colchester, CO1 2QL


Sow With Love

We think of ourselves as one family helping another during some of the most challenging times any family will face. We want to give families the very best care and support we can, and a part of that is to offer them choices to help make the funeral service for their loved one special to them, their family, and their friends. We partner with a number of businesses to help us give more choice to those we serve; before, during, and after the funeral service itself.

Sow with Love is one of those businesses. Company founder, Lisa Bass, offers families bespoke packets of flower seeds to be sown in memory of their loved one.

Lisa writes;

“When I lost my own father, I wanted to do something different to give my family and friends the opportunity to remember him in a special way. After all, he was a special man. But I couldn’t find what I was looking for and, after doing some research, I put together individual packets of flower seeds in his memory to give to everyone who came to the funeral. I thought that they could all sow the seeds in his memory and remember him every time they saw the flowers bloom.

“It worked really well and my idea was so well received that I decided it was something that might help other families in their time of grief. So, I set up my business, Sow with Love, to provide families with unique packets of seed to use at the funeral of their loved one and help them remember and commemorate in this special way.

“The seeds are usually chosen by families because the flowers were a favourite of their loved one, and each packet is personalised. They can be different colours and decorated with ribbons and in other ways too. The outside of each packet is printed with an appropriate wording, to make them unique to the situation and remind everyone of the person they are remembering. Often, the family choose a phrase which was a favourite and will remind everyone of the person they are meeting together to remember and commemorate.

“For me, it’s really important that the choice of seed, packet, decoration, and wording is completely up to the family. Then we can help them remember the happy times on their difficult day and enjoy their special memories as their lives go on.”

To find out more about Sow with Love, you can talk to your funeral arranger, visit Lisa’s Facebook page @sowwithlove, or email her on [email protected]

Chelsea the embalmer

Chelsea works as an embalmer at the Gate House, our operations centre. She does amazing work. In her spare-time she volunteers with Clacton Lifeboats, driving the machinery which launches the boats and bring them out of the water. We thought it would be interesting to offer an insight into the important work she does.

"I’ve been working as an embalmer for the Hunnaball Family Funeral Group for over 7 years. I joined when I was just 17 for work experience and liked it so much that I stayed on. I had originally wanted to be a paramedic, but when I started this work something clicked and I knew it was what I wanted to do.

"After 2 years of training with a member of the British institute of Embalmers, I passed all of my exams and qualified as an MBIE (Member of the British Institute of Embalmers) in May 2018.

"My job is to look after the loved ones of families while they are in our care, and I have such a passion for it. I make them look presentable and peaceful, ready for a chapel visit (if that is what the family want) and the funeral. It involves applying cosmetics, washing and styling hair, shaving and cleansing and painting nails, dressing them into their chosen clothing (or an ivory gown) and placing them neatly into their coffin.

"The embalming process is important for other reasons too. It slows the natural deterioration that takes place after death and is an important part of health and safety. This sounds a bit dark, but it’s so important to help families see their loved one at their best, and funerals don’t always happen quickly. During the pandemic, when there were such a huge number of deaths, embalming was really important because funerals were delayed.

"Some people think that my role is morbid and depressing, but it’s not. I love the job I do here at Hunnaball, and it helps so many people. It’s very rewarding to be entrusted with someone’s loved one, and to present them for their chapel visit or funeral. It also makes me proud to be working with a company that provides such a caring and excellent service. I’m fulfilling my dream and providing the best care and dignity I can for families and their loved ones.

"Occasionally I meet the families face to face, and some are shocked that I’m both young and female. They’re so grateful that I’m able to make their loved one look like they were before they were ill. Things have changed a lot since back in the 1900’s, when the majority of people working in the funeral industry were men. I’m thankful that I work in a place where women and men are given equal opportunities to reach their potential.

"Going forward, I really hope to continue in my role, providing families with lasting memories of their loved ones at peace."

To find out more about the things that we do, please take a look at our homepage.

Dying Matters Awareness Week 2021

This year, to mark Dying Matters Awareness Week, of which we are long term supporters, we've created a help sheet aimed at helping people to talk to their friends and family about their wishes in the event of their death. It isn't always easy to start a conversation about death or dying, but it's a natural part of life, and, as with so many things, being able to talk about it can be a great comfort.

‘Let’s Talk About Death’ is a series of simple suggestions to facilitate discussions between family members and friends. These are designed to help people to tackle this potentially difficult subject with more ease, well before it is needed.

Download our fact sheet here: Let's Talk About Death - May 2021

This year has really focused our national thinking on how precious, but also how unpredictable, life can be. Many of us give no thought at all to how we would wish our lives to be commemorated – and that’s fine, except that it can leave friends and relatives with a dilemma as to what their loved one might have wanted. During Dying Matters Awareness Week, we are all encouraged to talk more about death as a natural part of life. That can be very healthy, but it can be difficult to get started.

In some cultures, mentioning death is something of a taboo, but we have found that once people get talking, they gain enormous peace of mind in letting others know their wishes in advance. For example, most of us have a favourite song, poem, or scriptural reading that we would like to have played or read at our funeral. Many people now express a preference for not having everyone wearing black at their funeral. It is helpful to record this. Our handy document, My Funeral Wishes, is a really good place to start.

We felt it was time to facilitate these sorts of conversations more easily.

Of course, the ultimate in planning ahead is a pre-paid funeral plan, which more and more people are opting for. This allows them both a degree of self-determination and a strong measure of peace of mind. Many feel that they have lifted the burden from their loved ones at an extremely difficult time. Hunnaball Family Funeral Group offers a range of options for pre-paid funeral plans for this reason.

Our hope is that just reading through the sheet will take some of the sting out of the issue and help people to talk more freely. If just one conversation is facilitated, that will be excellent.

There are also some excellent resources on the Dying Matters website.

We particularly love this leaflet; Things to do before you die.

Our friends at Compassionate Communities are also taking part:

You can find out more about events for Dying Matters Week here in Essex via these links: