Cooper and Son, a long-established traditional family funeral company based in Uckfield, Sussex, has renovated a 350-year-old former undertaker’s and wheelwright’s cottage – Rose Cottage – as their funeral home.
As part of this refurbishment, four stained glass windows have been installed in the Chapels of Rest to mark both the history of the listed building and its new life as a funeral home.
The chapels were dedicated by the Bishop of Lewes at a special service attended by clergy, dignitaries and VIPs from across the County. The windows were the winning commission of a national competition sponsored by Cooper & Son and run by the Worshipful Company of Glaziers.
The company felt that it was a great honour to be selected for such a prestigious nationwide competition and the windows have been widely acclaimed.
More than 50 entries were received from all over the country. Sarah Evans of Harpenden won the commission for her brilliant design, which fulfilled the brief of a secular but spiritually uplifting theme.
Sarah worked on the idea of a journey as the theme for the design. It starts with a flight of birds, set against what she calls the timeless landscape’ of the Sussex Downs. The other panels continue the Journey. There is a circular motif, representing the cycle of life and also the wheelwright background of Rose Cottage. Another shows the sun setting on the earthly journey and rising on the start of new life. Water is depicted in all the windows, emphasising the flowing nature of life.
There is a reference to the Cooper family and business, together with a red rose, representing the family’s history and log association with Rose Cottage.
At Cooper and Son there is a strong sense that life begins and ends at home – which is why Rose Cottage is presented to visitors in a personal, homely and family orientated way.
In 2005 the windows won the Sussex Heritage Award for Building Craft presented by The Rt. Hon. Lord Lloyd of Berwick, PC.
Appropriately, Rose Cottage has strong family links with the firm… it was the home of funeral director Clive Cooper until 1990, and the family home since 1932.
Rose Cottage Funeral Home is a double fronted brick building some 350 years old, with sash windows to the front, set in rose gardens on rising land on the southern outskirts of the town.
The Chapels of Rest
The chapels are provided for relatives of the deceased to visit their loved one in privacy for as long as they need. This is an intimate space not only for grief, but also for reflection, for memories, for reconciliation and for taking leave of the departed.
The history of the funeral business can be traced back to 1863 when Mr Markwick ran a wheelwright, carpentry and undertaker’s business. The horses for the horse drawn hearse and bier were stabled at the back of the premises, the grazing was in a field opposite known as Meadow Place.
Wheelwrights became rare with the onset of the motor era, and Mr Markwick’s first motor hearse was a Minerva – shortly to be followed by a Rolls Royce Silver Ghost.
He was joined by his son Ronald in the 1920s and on this retirement, Ronald Markwick advertised for a partner. Local architect Ernest Chilton recommended Mr F C Cooper for the position and the partnership of Markwick and Cooper was formed in 1933. Mr & Mrs Cooper moved into Rose Cottage which has remained until recently a resident for funeral colleagues. The Rolls Royce Silver Ghost hearse was beginning to look rather dated and two 1938 Rolls Phantom II hearses and limousines were purchased. These continued until 1971 when the petrol crisis prompted a change to smaller engine vehicles – Austin Princesses which have since been regularly replaced with more modern energy efficient vehicles.
Clive Cooper joined the business in 1959 and on Mr Markwick’s retirement in 1977 he became a partner. The business was then known as Cooper & Son and a new branch was opened in Lewes in May 1984.
In 1933 a new branch was opened in Seaford and two years later Clive’s son Paul joined the family firm.
In 2002, they returned Rose Cottage back to a funeral home – a move which brought them full circle.
Photo of Rose Cottage, 2022