The Newman Brothers Coffin Works in Birmingham, England, still offers a look at traditional coffin-making.

England’s Foremost Purveyor of Funeral Furniture Hasn’t Changed a Bit Since the 1960s

England’s Foremost Purveyor of Funeral Furniture Hasn’t Changed a Bit Since the 1960s

Atlas Obscura
Your Guide to the World's Hidden Wonders
Nov. 11 2016 12:30 PM

Newman Brothers Coffin Works

15184139688_f1770d64df_k
The old coffin factory.

Elliot Brown/CC BY-SA 2.0

Atlas Obscura on Slate is a blog about the world’s hidden wonders. Like us on Facebook and Tumblr, or follow us on Twitter.

As of 2015, 75 percent of the deceased in the U.K. are cremated, but this wasn't always the case. It used to be that most people were buried, and in England, the finest coffins were made by the Newman Brothers.

Alfred and Edwin opened their business in 1882, originally just casting brass for toys, jewelry, and furniture. Their coffin castings (hinges, crucifixes, handles, etc.) were the most profitable products though, and this eventually became their primary business. Coffins made at the Newman Brothers factory would be the final resting places of both Winston Churchill and Princess Diana, among many others. The final owner of the Coffin Works started out as a lowly secretary, and when the company was dissolved in 1999, she set about preserving it as a historical visitor's attraction.

Advertisement

The company didn't update after the 1960s, so walking into the factory is like stepping back in time. Much of the original machinery is still present and in working order. Visitors are encouraged to "punch in" on arrival and are shown around by former factory workers turned tour guides. Attendees are even allowed to test some of the equipment to fully experience the "sights, sounds, and smells" of working in a midcentury funerary furniture factory.

For a factory whose industry relied on death, the Coffin Works Museum is actually quite cheery. The museum hosts a series of events including craft workshops, art exhibitions, and Día de los Muertos parties, as well as educational events that detail the ways in which death rites have changed from the 19th to the 21st century.

If you liked this, you’ll probably enjoy Atlas Obscura’s New York Times bestselling book, which collects more than 700 of the world’s strangest and most amazing places: Atlas Obscura: An Explorer’s Guide to the World’s Hidden Wonders.

Atlas Obscura is the definitive guide to the world's wondrous and curious places.