Not many have heard of a cardboard coffin, and still fewer realize that they’re taking the world of the modern funeral – particularly amongst the rich and famous – by storm. Coronation Street’s Hayley Cropper was laid to rest in a cardboard casket, but it’s hardly just fictional characters that are choosing this eco-friendly (if quickly deteriorating) material for their final resting place.
68-year-old actress Joanna Lumley, for one, wants to be buried in a cardboard coffin just as her parents were. “I love a cardboard coffin. Both Mummy and Daddy went off in cardboard coffins, painted – Daddy’s was rifle green. Beautifully made,” she tells the Daily Mail. She adds that she also wants to include various items that were important to her in life, such as books, letters, and attractive items such as feathers. “I’m going to have put in all kinds of things for the journey. I think we could jam a bit more in our coffins than we do.”
One reason cardboard coffins are becoming increasingly popular is due to their environmentally friendly nature. Cardboard requires far less wood and resources, and for the plain cardboard coffins, are far cheaper than a traditional coffin. Mike Woodin, pioneer of and principal speaker for the Green Party, was laid to rest in a cardboard coffin decorated with children’s drawings of sunflowers, mountains, and music – Woodin’s favourite things. A bicycle procession carried his coffin to the funeral, a poignant tribute to the Green Party leader.
Prolific author Dame Barbara Cartland, who published 723 novels in her lifetime, and was famously step-grandmother to Princess Diana, is perhaps a more surprising environmental activist. While she originally planned a traditional funeral in the local parish, complete with a lavish marble tomb, the cost to the environment caused her to choose a simple (if beautiful) cardboard casket instead. She was buried under a tree believed to have been planted by Queen Elizabeth I.
Sometimes it’s too hard to accept that a cherished loved one wishes to rest in cardboard for all eternity. Actress Wendy Richard made such a request before she died of cancer in 2009, but her widower John Burns chose to have her buried in a more durable (and perhaps palatable) bamboo casket instead. He did, however, honour her request to have the order of service include a printout of her favourite chili con carne recipe. Her funeral was attended by over one hundred EastEnders cast and crew.
Others choose to go in the opposite direction: with the most lavish casket possible. The Ga tribe of Ghana famously honour their departed with ornate and unusual coffins shaped like items that were important to the deceased: Coca-Cola bottles, mobile phones, shoes, fish, hammers, airplanes – even one shaped like a cow.
This may seem surprising to the more reserved, traditional British, but the demand for such unusual caskets stretches even this far north. Vic Fearn, a Nottingham casket maker, has been creating remarkable coffins and urns since 1990. Their “Crazy Coffins” are completely bespoke and finely crafted to suit the wishes of their customers. Previous constructions have included a Rolls Royce, a skateboard, a yacht, and a train carriage. Fearn also designs urns – one of which, shaped like the Starship Enterprise from Star Trek, garnered the company a huge amount of publicity.
Whether these burials sound bizarre or wonderful, what is clear is that everyone can have the funeral that they choose. Here at Sussex Funeral Services we are very pleased to be able to offer our clients a bespoke funeral, one that personal to your loved ones, that makes that statement as to who that person was and how they lived their lives. We will pull out the stops to give you what you want.