Proud History of Cliff Bradley and Sons Funeral Directors

As with the way of life itself, the role of the undertaker has changed a lot through the years. As we now celebrate sixty years in business, we look back over that time and recall stories and milestones from our past, as we proudly take steps in the next generation.

Meet the Team at Cliff Bradley and Sons

Here at Cliff Bradley and Sons we take great pride in caring for our families, to provide the highest level of service based on experience and a passion for the profession. Our staff are caring by nature and qualified in their roles.

Young Cliff Bradley

1942

The first council house on High Street in Blyton is where Cliff Bradley was born on Sunday 25th January 1942. He lived with his mother Christine, father Bill and older brother Phil. Cliff’s father had previously been widowed which meant Cliff enjoyed the company of his older step brother and sisters, Ted, Margaret and Jean. Cliff was a tearaway as a boy, amusement in those days was different to what youngsters call fun today. Lads got together and made their own entertainment. Mischief night was mischief, but nobody got hurt, or indeed, had any serious damage done. Into his teens, Cliff was very much the sportsman, enjoying running, cricket, football and rugby, playing for various local teams.

Early Work Experience

1958

On leaving Ropery School at the age of 15, Cliff began his apprenticeship with Wildbores, a joinery shop, fitters and funeral directors based on Wembley Street in Gainsborough. He biked to work from Blyton, his shift starting early in the morning. For the next six years, Cliff was to learn the trade. In those days, all workers were expected to act as pall bearers for funerals. A typical working day was busy and varied, completing joinery and when the time came, quickly getting changed into a black suit. Sadly, the owner of Wildbores died and eventually the joinery shop ceased trading. Cliff decided to start on his own in the village where he still lived with mum and dad. And so begins the story of our first sixty years.

Company Founded

1964

With the closure of Wildbores, Cliff founded his own business from home in Blyton, working in a similar way to how he had done for several years prior. As with most village undertakers, their occupation was also as a joiner, the bread and butter money earned that way. Typical activities included cabinet making, house painting, building and odd jobs. I’ve heard Cliff say many a time about how he used to make clothes horses and props, dolls houses and miniature ironing boards. But as you can well imagine, while busy making such items, someone only had to come and say there was a death in the village, and that his services would be required. The work bench would be cleared ready to make a coffin.

First Independent Funeral

1964

Cliff’s first funeral as village undertaker was Lilian Thompson of 87 High Street, Blyton. She was 84 years of age. On being notified of the death, Cliff’s mother accompanied him to the home where she had died, washing her and laying her out. She remained in her nightclothes. Measurements were taken for the size of the coffin, which Cliff would take back to his workshop and begin to make. The body was left at home. A doctor would then be called, and would come straight away, day or night (those were the days) to issue the death certificate. Cliff would return with a coffin, usually taking a day to make. The body would then placed inside and either left upstairs, or if preferred, carried downstairs and placed on the dining table. Lilian’s funeral took place on 28th May 1964. Conducting the service was the Parish Vicar, Reverend Calthrop. Photos below show a view of the street towards Lilian’s house, and a death record from the Parish Register.

Laying the Foundations

1974

The first funerals would all be village led, and therefore no cars would be needed. As the years progressed, Cliff expanded to the Scunthorpe area as he had moved to live at Northorpe. His area covered Scotter and Messingham, but after purchasing the property on the edge of the North Street car park, his work slowly brought him back into Gainsborough. Scunthorpe and Lincoln crematoriums were built in the sixties and as more people got used to the idea of cremation, a larger scale operation would be put underway which involved hiring in hearses and limousines to cover the distance. Cliff’s next property brought him back to where he learnt his trade with Wildbores, on an alleyway later named after the man himself, Bradley's Walk.

Purchase at Bradleys Walk

1983

Now established in the village areas, with a growing reputation, work slowly began to bring Cliff back into Gainsborough. This led to the purchase of a property on the edge of the North Street car park, later named Bradley's Walk. A snicket connecting busy North Street with the car park behind, this alleyway has barely changed in the last century, even to this day. Presence in the town led to more and more families using Cliff for his services, and business continued to grow. Below, photos show Cliff proudly outside the property during these years, pipe in mouth, and making repairs to a window during renovation of the new premises.

First Fleet Vehicles

1994

By the nineties, more than seventy percent of funerals being undertaken were cremations. They saw a rise in popularity in the sixties and seventies, with cremations exceeding burials first back in the late sixties. A major change came in 1963, when the Pope lifted a ban on Roman Catholics seeking cremations, with priests allowed to conduct services in crematoria just a few years later. The requirement for travelling to Scunthorpe or Lincoln led to Cliff purchasing his first limousine, starting the trend of now iconic company plates. His first registration was D133 CLF, which is still used to this very day alongside a number of other acquisitions as the fleet has grown. The photos below show some of Cliff’s first fleet vehicles.

Purchase at Heaton Street

1995

Sadness struck in 1995, when Cliff’s wife passed away and his plans for expanding the business were put temporarily on hold. He had just purchased his first limousine and was in the market for his first hearse. When the opportunity came up a few months later, he travelled to Liverpool with his young son Carlton, to collect a hearse sent over from Ireland, photos of which can be seen above. Owning a fleet of vehicles of his own had begun! Also around this time, the opportunity to purchase the former BT property on Heaton Street came up, and this is when things started to progress. Space at Bradleys Walk was becoming limiting, especially with a fleet vehicles of his own now to store. The plot near the centre of town seemed ideal.

Heaton Street Premises

1995

Now our base for nearly three decades, our Heaton Street premises was once a tin-clad telecoms engineering centre. Cliff saw opportunity in the mid nineties, whilst still based at Bradley's Walk, to expand into more convenient and larger location. When the property came up for auction as part of a sell off by telecoms giant BT, it was deemed perfect for Cliff’s future plans and a price was negotiated to buy outside of auction. Many months of hard work lay ahead in order to convert the premises to be suitable for the flower shop and funeral home, and subsequently, the living accommodation at the side. This meant knocking down walls, building studs, bricking up doorways, plastering, painting, all while running two businesses.

2000

Mannie Bradley

Mannie is one of Cliff's two sons working for the family business, officially joining the company over two decades ago in 2020. After leaving education he trained as a mechanic, but changed his career path to help support the family and those in our community. Mannie currently facilitates a lot of the care aspects of funeral arrangements, often from behind the scenes. You are most likely to see him driving fleet vehicles and pallbearing at funeral services. In his spare time, Mannie is a keen boat enthusiast and enjoys spending his time sailing around Britain’s shores with friends and acquaintances.

Carlton and Samantha

2004

Carlton was practically born into the profession, supporting his dad for as long as he can remember. Officially joining the company in 2004, he became an accredited member of the British Institute of Funeral Directors and is now Senior Director of the company. In present times, he manages all aspects of the running of the business. Samantha had been a friend of the Bradley family since childhood, growing up locally to Cliff, Julie and Carlton. Her role in the company has evolved multiple times since she began working in the florists as a Saturday girl at the age of thirteen. Nowadays, Samantha has a pivotal role in the company as the Senior Funeral Director, supporting the Bradleys to provide the very best service.

Gainsborough Heritage Centre

2006

Many years ago, Cliff became involved with the Gainsborough and District Voluntary Services for the Elderly, based at the Old Post Office in Gainsborough. He joined a committee, became a trustee and helped in any way he could. It became a popular drop in centre, providing local residents with free meals and aid. Cliff purchased the property in support, but sadly the service later came to an end, leaving the building empty. By chance, the Gainsborough Heritage Centre was homeless during this time, after the development of Marshalls Yard. The Old Post Office would lend itself perfectly to a museum of Gainsborough. Opening in 2016 after extensive refurbishment, the Heritage Centre is now a popular tourist attraction, important for preserving the history of Gainsborough, which Cliff and the family are proud to support rent free.

Heaton Street Expansion

2009

From gaining possession of the property, it was always Cliff’s ambition to rid the building of the tin structure. Slowly, each project undertaken enabled us to change the tin pieces into brickwork. A major refurbishment began in 2009, when it was decided to take things to another level, literally. It meant, of course, building upwards. A huge operation involving major calculations from a very clever structural engineer, two pillars had to be constructed to form a platform, one situated in the middle of the flower shop and one in the chapel of rest, to take the weight of the huge extension. At peak development, fifteen workmen were on site at one time. We were very proud on 14th April 2010 to unveil the new extension. The Chairman of WLDC (Jessie Milne) officially opened the building alongside Reverend Philip Wain.

2015

Linda Smith

Linda has been working for Cliff Bradley & Sons since 2015, beginning her career with the company by supporting at funerals taking names of mourners. When we acquired and opened Saxilby branch in 2020, Linda’s role developed considerably, becoming our first staff member assigned to support with Saxilby office as a funeral administration assistant. Linda currently works part-time and spends some of her days as doting grandmother, supporting her family with childcare. Incidentally, Linda’s husband Trevor is an integral part of our bearing team, having worked with the company for a number of years also, you are very likely to see him supporting families on funerals.

2016

Website and Branding

Evolving with the times and technology, a refined logo was created for the company and a new website was launched in 2016. Many funeral professionals at this time had moved online, and with a reduction in people buying printed newspapers, the ability to notify locals about upcoming funerals had become increasingly important. Social media profiles followed, along with regular blogs and videos, which have become a comforting aspect of our presence in the town. To date, our website has had millions of page views, with thousands of people visiting and viewing funeral notices per week, also becoming an invaluable resource to families when arranging a funeral. If you don’t already, please follow us on social media, like our pages and engage with our content.

Stuart and Serena

2017

A family friend from a very young age, Stuart grew up helping the Bradley family when they acquired the Heaton Street premises in 1995. He left his role working for local schools to join the Cliff Bradley team as a Facilities Manager. Since then, Stuart’s role has evolved into Business Development which he enjoys enormously. In his spare time, Stuart has two horses which he enjoys taking care of. Serena has been an integral part of the family for over a decade, during which time her roles and responsibilities have evolved. Now employed as a Facilities Assistant, Serena’s caring personality and can-do approach are a credit to her and our company. She enjoys spending time with her family and caring for her grandchildren.

Saxilby Branch Purchase

2019

A second funeral home was always something Cliff and Carlton aspired towards, to be able to support another small community with an independent, caring and personalised service. The opportunity arose in 2019 to purchase the Old Post Office in the centre of Saxilby, a small village six miles north west of the historic city of Lincoln. Several months in the planning, the works would see the ground floor converted in to office space, funeral arranging rooms, a chapel of rest and mortuary facilities; the upstairs of the property would be rearranged into a three bedroomed apartment. This investment built on our firm foundations, creating employment opportunities, and providing local residents and the surrounding villages with a well trusted, long established family funeral directors.

Lea Fields Crematorim

2020

After years of planning and development, this crematorium opened in early part of 2020. Just a few short miles from our chapel of rest in Gainsborough and close proximity to the village of Saxilby, the facility has made a real difference to local residents at a difficult time in their lives. Set in parkland near the village of Lea on the outskirts of Gainsborough, the geometric building of the crematorium was specifically designed to enhance the overall feeling of tranquillity and peace, both inside and out. The beautiful double height chapel gives a sense of occasion and celebration, seating over one hundred people, with additional standing room available in the chapel and foyer. As well as a large canopy providing a focal point for visitors on arrival, the crematorium also has a walkway on exit leading to a covered area for viewing floral tributes, essential in inclement weather.

Saxilby Branch Opening

2020

Previously serving the village as a post and sorting office for over fifty years, we were proud to have the opportunity to open our second funeral home in Saxilby. Unfortunately, this came at a time when the world was dealing with the covid pandemic and came with a host of challenges when it came to renovating the property. In some ways, we were very fortunate as restrictions were lifted, allowing construction work to take place. Due to the scale of the building and the stage of development, our contractors were able to work socially distanced at a time when they were not able to complete other jobs. However, we did have some major challenges sourcing the materials we needed to complete the project!

2021

Online Donation Facility

Provided in partnership with MuchLoved, this donation facility transformed the way in which those in our community interact with our website. For the first time, mourners, extended family and friends could leave their messages of condolence, light a candle, pay their respects and make a donation in their loved one's honour, direct from our website. Since launch, we have continued to develop this facility, striving to further support and provide comfort to families in their time of need, our family caring for yours. To date, we have received and passed on thousands of donations for charities, which we summarise each year in an annual round up.

2021

Sam Allsop

Having joined the company in 2021 as funeral administration assistant, Sam has been an integral part of our team for a few years now. Working alongside Linda, she is based mostly at our Saxilby branch, supporting the team of funeral directors and ensuring that all our families and the people we care for are well looked after at all times. Sam and the rest of the Saxilby team are paramount in the management of the MuchLoved platform, working with families to create personalised tribute pages that are suitably characteristic of their loved one. When she isn’t working, Sam loves spending time caring for two horses in the local area.

New Fleet Delivery

2022

We were incredibly proud in this year to take delivery of our new fleet of Mercedes funeral vehicles. Brand new, custom designed and based on the E Class AMG model, it was the first time in our history that we’ve had a matching fleet of hearses and limousines. Exquisitely tailored and finished, with full length panoramic windows and ambient lighting in the limousines, we purchased these vehicles to provide better comfort to family members on an emotional day, and as part of a beautiful tribute in a loved one’s final journey. As hybrid vehicles with the ability to complete shorter journeys under full electric power, the new fleet offers limousine occupants reduced noise, entirely silent funeral processions, a more peaceful setting in which to mourn, and solemn arrivals at crematoriums, committals and burials.

First Memorial Service

2022

The first event of its kind for us, we held our inaugural memorial service at Lea Fields Crematorium on a mild Friday evening at the start of December. In excess of two hundred people attended the event, with many lighting candles or leaving a personal message on our tree. We were overwhelmed and extremely humbled to be joined by so many members of our community, coming together to remember and reflect on the lives of their loved ones. Now held annually, we extended the event over two days in 2023, making it more convenient for those who can only attend a daytime service. Full video coverage of our most recent service can be found on our blog, along with photos captured over the two days.

Louis, Morgan and Chris

2022

Refining roles and responsibilities, we were pleased to welcome three new staff members to the team in 2022. Louis joined in the summer, appointed as the company Office Manager. Previously working in the education sector as a Primary Teacher with an IT specialism, he brings a wealth of transferable skills which are applied across different areas of the business, improving the service provided to local families. Morgan has been a friend of the Bradley family since birth, joining the company after education as Funeral Service Operative. He has an excellent knowledge of music that spans far beyond his years. Chris has been working with the team as a bearer for some time after a distinguished 40-year career in the RAF as a Group Captain, but recently joined the company on a more permanent basis as a funeral service operative.

Operations Hub Purchase

2023

Formerly a car dealership based on Trinity Street, this property was acquired in 2023 to form our new operations hub. With limited space for the storage of fleet vehicles at our Heaton Street base, now seven across both branches including off road vehicles, the decision was made to move some business operations to an alternate location. Allowing for larger stocks of funeral supplies, fleet vehicles are now maintained, prepared and stored at the operations hub, a secure location in short walking distance of our Gainsborough funeral home. Further details of developments at this location will be released in due course.

Ben and Diane

2023

Introducing Ben and Diane who both joined the team in this year. Ben is our most recently appointed funeral director, retraining after a career in the East Midlands Ambulance Service. His passion for the funeral industry and thirst for knowledge are already shining through. Ben is a keen tractor enthusiast, owning his own Massey Ferguson which he enjoys maintaining and entering in shows and ploughing competitions. Diane recently joined the family as a part time facilities assistant. Based in Gainsborough, she ensures our premises are kept spotlessly clean, and uniforms freshly pressed and ready for funerals. Diane loves holidays, relishing the opportunity to hop onto a plane, and enjoys the occasional cruise.

Into the Future

2024

We are incredibly proud of our history, and the seeds which Cliff has sown to make our company, and our team, what it is today. Now 82 years young, he is loved, cherished and well respected by all who know him. The lives of many have been touched Cliff’s kindness through the years, his generosity, caring nature and professionalism now forming the backbone of our company as we lead into the next generation. Since establishing the business back in 1964, Cliff has served and cared for thousands of families with selfless dedication and heartfelt compassion. He still takes an active role in the team to this very day, with his wisdom, unique wit and a proud sense of duty to our community. Sixty years of history, our family caring for yours.

With a proud sixty year history of caring for local families through times of bereavement, our qualified funeral directors will always be here for you, treating your loved one as if they were our own.

Gainsborough Funeral Home
  • Cliff Bradley & Sons
    41 Heaton Street
    Gainsborough
    Lincolnshire
    DN21 2EA
Saxilby Funeral Home
  • Cliff Bradley & Sons
    39 High Street
    Saxilby
    Lincolnshire
    LN1 2HA

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