This post was first published by Croydon Advertiser on 07/03/2018.
One of Croydon’s oldest businesses is moving to a new home
J B Shakespeare Funeral Directors has been in the same building on George Street since 1877.
Back in the 1870s, a man called James Benjamin Shakespeare began a business, planning, directing and making coffins for funerals.
J B Shakespeare is still going strong today and although many aspects of the business have changed in the last 141 years one thing has remained the same – its head office on George Street in Croydon town centre.
But time has taken its toll on the old building – which is one of the most recognisable on what is one of the town’s busiest streets – and the current owners have decided it’s time to move base and say goodbye to their historic home, and move to a new office in Wellesly Road.
“Unfortunately we got to a stage where the cost to repair everything in the old building was too much, and we took the difficult decision to leave,” explained funeral director Luke Dighton, 33.
“The new premises will have a lot more room and, despite where we are located, it’s a lot quieter and more private for us and our families.”
The business has been handed down through the generations, and is now owned by Chris Dighton, the son of John Dighton, who ran the business with one of founder Mr Shakespeare’s grandchildren, John.
Croydon has always been J B Shakespeare’s home, which is one of the reasons general manager Peter Bryant thinks the firm has been able to survive for so long.
The 52-year-old said: “We have always had a close connection to the people of Croydon, and we are a fiercely independent company.
“We are able to offer people the personal touch you don’t get from a lot of the larger funeral corporations and I think people particularly appreciate that in regards to funerals.”
Peter explained that he had been in the funeral business for over 30 years, but it was not until he joined J B Shakespeare that he felt like he was offering the right service.
“We can spend time with our families, and we have all been in the situation they’re in, so we just treat them like we’d want to be treated, and I think the amount of families who use us again and again shows that we’re doing the right thing,” he explained.
J B Shakespeare has arranged thousands of funerals over the years, including the service in 2016 for one of the country’s most beloved comedians, Ronnie Corbett, who lived in Shirley.
“I think our reputation as one of the oldest funeral directors in Croydon made his family come to us, and it was a real honour to serve him and his family,” said Luke.
Asked whether the business is looking forward to its 150th anniversary in a few years time, Luke said it is definitely a goal he feels can be achieved.
He said: “We do of course hope that the business will continue to run in the family, and it’ll be great to reach 150 years.
“It has been a pleasure and honour to look after people at the George Street office, and we look forward to continuing our service at the new office.”