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Walwyn’s Notches Up Three Quarters Century

Walwyn’s Notches Up Three Quarters Century

JC Walwyn & Sons Limited, the Ashbourne-based family business which specialises in manufacturing coffins and caskets, celebrates their 75th anniversary this year with a pledge to remain at the forefront of the industry.

The family firm are based on the Airfield Industrial Estate in Ashbourne and employ 38 people including members of the third and now fourth generation of the family.

The company was set up in 1947 by John Charles Walwyn (known as Charlie) who was a joiner by trade and set up as a funeral director and coffin maker in 1947 in Station Street.

Charlie’s three sons John, Philip and Keith worked alongside their father and increasingly focused on the coffin making side of the business.

They originally made solid wood coffins but the introduction of veneers in the Sixties transformed the whole coffin manufacturing industry – including JC Walwyn and Sons Limited.

To keep up with the demand from a growing national customer base, the brothers bought a plot of land on the newly founded Ashbourne Industrial Estate in 1972 and the purpose-built factory was officially opened in 1974.

By 1991, JC Walwyn were producing more than 1,000 coffins a week and further extensions to the factory site saw the introduction of specialist machinery which gave them the quality control to produce their own quality veneered boards - keeping JC Walwyn at the forefront of the coffin and casket manufacturing industry.

The range of coffins and caskets on offer has grown over the years and now includes veneered, solid or foil coffins and caskets in various designs, colours, and styles.

The company also provides ashes caskets, scatter tubes, bio urns and a full fitting service including handles, linings, frills for funeral directors across England & Wales.

JC Walwyn make every coffin to order – receiving precise measurements and specifications from their funeral director customers.

The coffins are then made in the factory by a highly skilled team and are delivered by the company drivers within an industry leading timeframe.  Special deliveries can also be made within 48 hours if requested.

Today, JC Walwyn & Sons Limited is run by two directors – Keith and his sister-in-law Janet whose husband Philip sadly died in 2013.  The eldest brother John remained active in the business before he retired due to ill health in 2005.

The next generation working in the business are Philip’s sons Mark and Simon and Keith’s son Steve who all worked in the business from a young age and have their eyes on the future sustainability of the company. 

Recently Clare, Keith’s daughter, has started working as a part time admin assistant and Steve’s 18-year-old son Kian, now also works in the factory during university holidays.

Keith Walwyn explained:

“It is a real achievement to reach 75 years in business – particularly in the competitive industry that we work in.

“From small beginnings – making 100 coffins a week in their premises in Station Street - we now have an extensive factory and produce over 25,000 bespoke coffins a year for independent funeral directors across the UK.

“We have been at the forefront of new production techniques over the decades including the move to making veneered coffins and introducing sustainability features in the factory such as solar panels and a biomass boiler.”

Mark Walwyn said:

“We have quadrupled in size over the past 30 years. By handling the whole manufacturing process in house, we can closely monitor quality control.”

“This is a very skilled job and many of the employees in the factory have been with us for more than 30 years.  They are now training the next generation who are joining us to ensure that the skills are continued.”

Simon continued:

“We all take a huge pride in our work and ensure that everything is spot on right down to the last detail.  This could be getting the pantone colour just right for a Ferrari-red coffin for a racing fan to engraving a personal message on a coffin.

“Whatever the brief, we are all well aware that the coffin or casket is being made especially for a person and we treat every piece as if we were making it for a member of our own family.”

Steve Walwyn explained that the company’s range of work reflected the changes in lifestyle and people’s funeral preferences.

“The style and materials have changed dramatically over the years, and we produce the whole range of options from traditional solid wood coffins to brightly coloured and personally engraved coffins which reflect how the funeral industry has changed and become far more personal.”

“Coffins are also longer and wider than they used to be which shows how each generation are changing. Sizes and shapes are getting larger”

Janet Walwyn, who heads our accounts division concluded:

“We are proud to be an Ashbourne company that have reached a historic milestone of 75 years in the town and are flying the flag for the town in the Funeral Industry.

“With the next generation taking up the reins – I am confident that there will be many more ‘big birthdays’ to celebrate at JC Walwyn in the future.”

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