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The history of Neville Funeral Service

In 1875 after their Joinery apprenticeship and traditional journeyman period with a Bedfordshire builder, two brothers Thomas and Edward Neville started working for themselves as T & E Neville and from the outset were involved in building, joinery and undertaking.

At the turn of the century, Stanley Henman, a Foreman-Joiner from Bromham near Bedford, entered the company. His knowledge and skill contributed a great deal to the already growing reputation of this growing company.

The two principal families of the company forged a permanent link in 1906, when Stanley Henman married Thomas Neville's daughter, Clara. They had two sons, Stanley, who would take no active role in the business and Bernard, born in 1910.

In 1909 the first member of the second generation of the Neville family joined the business with the arrival of Tom Neville's son, Tom junior, who took over the running of the funeral business until his premature death in 1930.

By the early part of the 20th Century additional premises had been found to accommodate the funeral side of the business and the 'fleet' increased to twelve black Belgian horses, two glass sided hearses and four Shellabiers.

Following Tom junior's untimely death his son, also named Tom, took some interest in the business, joining in 1932. The new manager of the funeral business was old Tom Neville's nephew, Ernest Wood. His father William had worked for the firm, his brother Bert, was employed as a carpenter and joiner, and his elder son, Stuart, joined the firm in 1938, later followed by Stuart's brother, Hugh, both of who would also work for the funeral service.

By 1948 Ernest Wood was making a number of changes to the funeral business. The last of the Belgian Blacks were retired to grass at John Neville's farm. Rolls Royce funeral cars and hearses were purchased to replace them.

In 1953, in anticipation of the redevelopment of Luton Town Centre, the shareholders purchased Common Farm, in Leagrave on the outskirts of the town. Equally significant for the future of the business was the entry of the fourth generation of the family to the business. Michael Henman began work in 1950 at the age of 16 and Peter in 1953 at the age of 15.

The funeral service were the first part of the business to relocate from central Luton to Leagrave in 1967 and in 1975 the company celebrated their centenary with an awards ceremony and lunch for all of the staff.

1n 1976 Neville's purchased the building and undertaking firm of George Squires and Sons of Shefford.

During the next few years the Neville funeral business took major strides forward. This followed the appointment in 1979 of Peter Aspinall as manager of the business who was appointed managing director, and retired in 2012.

Following Bernard Henman's death in 1985 a new company, Neville Funeral Service Limited, was formed. Until that time it had always been part of T & E Neville Ltd.  It continued to expand as a business with the purchase of Peacock's former memorial masonry yard in Shefford. A further branch was opened after the purchase and conversion of a redundant church in Ampthill which incorporated the newly formed flower service run by Peter Aspinall's wife, Denise.

Michael Liddle, our current managing director, joined the business in 1989 and in 1990 the business was further enhanced when Arnolds Funeral Service in Bedford was purchased to enable the proprietor to take semi retirement.  Since the millennium further branches have been purchased in Hemel Hempstead and Hitchin as well as the memorial business of Garlick Bros in Bedford.

It is a sign of the family continuity and commitment provided from this link that sees members of the fourth and fifth generation still actively involved in the running of the business.

Many of the original family and business documents and records have been loaned to the Bedford County Archive so that the history of the business can be shared within the wider local community. A recent addition to the collection has been a selection of original funeral ledgers dating back to 1905.

To celebrate our 125th anniversary in 2000 a history of the company was written drawing on the memories of family members and pensioners.

If you would like a copy of the book

'Building the Name – Neville'
The Story of a Family Business 1875 - 2000

Please contact our head office and ask for Vicky Trumper.

Company staff in Castle Street yard 1919
Staff charabanc outing to Brighton, June 1926