Perhaps it was the opening of Britain’s first crematorium in Woking in 1885 that inspired Walter Andrew Truelove and his wife, Annie, in that same year, to move into Alma Cottage in Vernon Road in the Newtown area of Sutton and establish the funeral directing and monumental masonry business now known as W.A. Truelove & Son Ltd.
At that time, Sutton was a small town south of London on the road to Brighton, where travellers would stop only to refresh themselves at the local coaching inn, The Cock Hotel. But the business was successful and Walter soon opened a new branch office in Wallington.
When Walter died in 1921, the business passed to his only son, Harry Alexander. Harry lived at the Wallington branch, which was quite close to Croydon Airport, where Harry had many friends amongst the young airmen he had known during World War One. So it was only natural that he would carry out the funeral of pilot George Powell in March 1925, which was notable for being the first aerial funeral in the UK.
During the 1920s and 1930s, London’s suburbs expanded enormously. The network of commuter railways was developed and extended with even the underground reaching northern Surrey. Housing developments for commuters sprang up all round London. Sutton and its surrounding areas, which had been rural, now became suburban and Harry saw this as his opportunity for expansion.
At that time, the local funeral directors all used horse-drawn vehicles. For a funeral in London, this would mean that it was necessary to travel all day, with a change of horses at Southwark, both on the way up and on the way back. Much to the initial amusement and later regret of his competitors, Harry bought a fleet of Austin motor vehicles and literally left the competition behind.
Harry soon opened another branch in Sutton High Street and moved the Wallington branch to larger premises. A third Sutton branch was opened in Carshalton Road, with a large garage, which soon became the company’s Head Office, which it remains to this day. Another branch was opened in Epsom, closely followed by one in Cheam, together with a block of staff flats.
In 1937, Harry introduced embalming to Truelove’s and many of the UK’s and Europe’s first embalmers were trained on Truelove’s premises.
Further expansion was curtailed by the World War Two. Nearly all of the male staff were called up but, fortunately, only one lost his life. All of the company’s premises were bomb damaged, but nobody died and the premises were quickly repaired.
After the war, most of the staff returned to work to find the business increasing and their talents much in demand. The increase in business necessitated the building of a new chapel and garage block, together with a purpose built embalming theatre at the Carshalton Road premises. This was opened in 1950.
A new branch in Coulsdon followed in the late 1950s, which was expanded in 1964 by the addition of new chapels. A new chapel block was also built at the Wallington branch in 1969.
The 1960s were a time of great innovation and funeral directors were no exception. Trueloves were the first British company to use proper London ambulances as removal vehicles. These have proved to be particularly popular with nursing homes, as they appreciate discretion.
Harry Truelove died in 1971 and was succeeded by his son, Raymond Walter. Ray worked for the company for all of his working life, with the exception of the war years, and never fully retired. He passed away in 2007.
In 1970, Trueloves acquired Donald S. Drewett & Sons in Mitcham.
In 1975, Trueloves were honoured to be invited to join the National Selected Morticians, now renamed Selected Independent Funeral Homes (SIFH), an international organisation for the promotion of high standards in funeral service. It is a particular honour, as there are currently only twenty-two members in the UK.
In the same year, Simon Andrew Truelove joined the company. Simon has worked in all aspects of the funeral business and passed his Diploma in Funeral Directing in 1985, winning the Harold Rivett Award for having the highest marks for a London candidate. He became Managing Director in 1990. He has served on the Executive Committee of the National Association of Funeral Directors, as President of the European Group of SIFH and has been President of the London Association of Funeral Directors (LAFD), as well as the President of the Croydon District of LAFD. He has served on the Executive Committees of both SIFH and LAFD for thirty years. He is a Trustee of both NAFD and LAFD and is Chairman of NAFD Services Ltd., the not for profit company established by the NAFD to hold and manage funds for pre-paid funeral plans.
In 1979, the Epsom branch moved to larger premises in Church Road.
Simon was joined by his brother, David Alexander, in 1990. David had had a career in accountancy in London and joined the firm as Finance Director.
The brothers have opened branches in Caterham in 1991, Mulgrave Road in Sutton in 1994, Banstead in 1996 and Morden in 2003. A new branch opened at 26, Church Street, in Reigate in November 2010 and was shortly followed by another at 49, Station Road East in Oxted in March 2011, another at 215, High Street, Dorking in June 2011, another at 55, Church Street, Leatherhead in May 2012 and another at 350-352, Malden Road, Worcester Park in June 2015. Their latest branch at 357, West Barnes Lane, Motspur Park, New Malden was opened on 3rd January 2017.
Truelove’s offer a wide variety of services and products. We can carry out any funeral required, providing it is legal. As well as our own extensive fleet of Daimler and Jaguar hearses and limousines, we can provide horse-drawn, motorcycle, vintage, VW campervan and lorry hearses. We have a huge range of coffins, caskets and ashes caskets available, from the traditional solid wood and veneered coffins to cardboard, wicker, bamboo or even those woven from banana leaves, water hyacinth or seagrass Some of the range can be printed with almost any design or picture, from a football team’s colours to motor vehicles and fantasy scenes, subject to copyright. We also offer a full range of American caskets in wood or metal. As well as burial and cremation, we can also offer “Green” burials. We are experts in repatriation to anywhere in the world. We also have a wide range of guaranteed pre-paid funeral plans. We even have our own white doves, which can be released on funerals.
We are proud to remain an independent, family business and hope to be able to meet any requirement of the families we serve.