John Dilnot Smith WheelwrightThe Dilnot Smith family tree is fairly long and has been traced back to the invasion of William the Conqueror. Our side of the family has always remained in Woodnesborough.

Although early family records were destroyed, I can prove 6 generations of Funeral Directors. John Dilnot Smith, my Great-Grandfather, moved to “Belle Vue” Beacon Lane, Woodnesborough in 1900 when the present house was built. The family business was Building Contractors/Wheelwrights and Undertakers. His son Richard came into the business after the 1st World War, and continued until my father, Ernest took control in 1960.

The funeral undertaking side of the business had grown to the point where my father dropped the building side and traded solely as Funeral Directors. I entered into partnership with my father in January 1984 and eventually bought out his share in October 1988.

My wife Sally and I started a programme of development and modernisation which resulted with the opening of a branch office at Walmer in 1991.

Walmer opening 1991 opening of a branch office at Walmer in 1991

To say that there have been a few changes is quite an understatement. It has been known for the news of a person’s death and the request for our services to be sent to Great-Grandfather or Grandfather “Dickie” by letter. After the initial interview and taking of measurements a coffin of oak or elm would have been hand made, lined with swansdown and fitted with the chosen handles. The deceased would have been bathed and prepared by the local nurse or midwife, Ellen Dilnot Smith (my great aunt - keep it in the family) and the coffin delivered at dusk. If the house was local this was quite often done by hand cart. The deceased would then stay at home until the funeral.