I wonder if you knew …..
..why did so many funeral businesses start off as Carpenters or Cabinet Makers and why are we called Undertakers?
For many years, if you needed anything made of wood, you would go to the carpenter or cabinet maker.
Doors, windows, beds, tables, chairs and of course, coffins.
Any woodworker could put a sign in their shop window to advertise that they could also make coffins.
It wasn’t until the Victorian era that Undertaking began to emerge as a new trade and during that time, many woodworkers incorporated ‘Funerals Undertaken’ into their business strapline.
As a result of that, we became known as Funeral Undertakers, later shortened to simply Undertakers.
When paging a Funeral Cortege (walking in front of the hearse), why do we walk in front of the funeral cortège and should our hat be on our head or off it?
Unlike a good many of our funeral traditions, the practice of paging the deceased is not Victorian but Medieval. Medieval Squires would walk in front of their deceased Masters as they were taken from the place of death to the church for burial whilst bearing their shield and plumed helmet for all to see. Historically, the hat would be carried.
Why are church gates called Lytch Gates?
The word Lytch derives from the old English word ‘lit’ meaning body or corpse.
In the pre-hospital days when most people died at home their body or corpse would have to be transported to the local church for burial, often on a church-owned bier.
Protocol states that the deceased must be led into church by the officiating priest who in some cases would be waiting, sometimes not. Should the Westcountry weather decide to mark the occasion with wet and inclement conditions then the Lychgate provided a modicum of shelter for the funeral party whilst they waited.
Some had a coffin bier and seating, so we could assume that a wait for the priest was expected.
Why are lilies associated with death and funerals?
Lilies are associated with funerals due to their association with purity and chastity (sayings such as “pure as a Lily” or “Lily-white reputation”) and the belief that the soul regains its innocence upon death.
The Victorians were especially fond of lilies and used them to symbolise purity, mercy, innocence and grace.
When Eve cried in the Garden of Eden, feeling repentance for her sinful act, the first lilies grew where her teardrops fell.
Why are so many Churches next door to pubs? (or vice versa!)
In Monastic times, many travellers were Pilgrims or people on church business. Lodgings and stabling were most often supplied by the ecclesiastical authorities who built them next to the church.
Mine’s a pint!
Why coffin bearers are called Pall Bearers?
A funeral pall, or mort-cloak or death cloak, is a long cloth used to cover any type of casket during funeral ceremonies and is thought to originate from using a soldier’s coat to cover his dead body on the battlefield.
Strictly speaking, a Pall Bearer would carry the overhanging corners of the Pall, to stop them getting caught in the wheels of the bier (or trolley) used to carry or bear the deceased.
Today the term is also used to describe the coffin bearers.