Monday, 3 November 2014

The occupation of Upholder: Dunn and Company Funeral accounts

The Bromley parish registers contain many ancient crafts or trades and it becomes clear to the transcriber of the complete series of registers that some trades found in the early history of the town persist to the twentieth century.
As I transcribe marriages in 1895-1905 marriage register I am reminded of one of these by the entry of Upholder.
In each century I have transcribed entries relating to this ancient trade. The Worshipful Company of Upholders of the City of London can trace its origins back to earlier days of Craft Guilds which concentrated on the high quality of  workmanship and of English manufactured goods. The Worshipful Company elected wardens from 1360 onwards who had a duty to inspect the quality of goods and from 1474 had power to seize goods in the City of London which were of inferior quality.
The Bromley references in early records to Uphouldesterr and Uphelderr and later as Upholder are applied to Upholstery in the town and one of the most influential businesses Dunn and Company (later H G Dunn and Sons Limited) of Market Square was founded on such trade. It later expanded from drapery and Furniture sales and delivery to removals and storage as well as Funeral Directors in the nineteenth century. The craft of Funeral upholstery was well established within the Guild memberhip and Dunn'sis  a good example of both crafts maintained side by side.The business included cabinet making,funeral directors,drapery soft furnishing auctioneer and valuers; all part and parcel of the Upholder.
The Worshipful Company of Upholders website includes much of the craft history.
Kent Online Parish Clerks have an agreement with Bromley Archive to transcribe the Dunn and Company Funeral Directors Account ledgers in 2015. These records from the nineteenth century until the Second World War are detailed accounts of funeral arrangements and include details of who paid the funeral account. The first account book dates from 1803-1807; the final surviving ledger is for 1934. The accounts include many funeral societies from the City of London to benefit a wide variety of occupations. The first 11 books will cover the period to 1918. It was only in 1914 that Herbert George Dunn registered the company as H G Dunn and Sons Limited.
The pilot transcription sampled the card index compiled by Jean Rawlings for the period 1803-1839. The arrangement of cards and references to account pages was found to be problematic and the aim is therefore to compile a complete index for each volume of accounts. This will avoid the problems of one card containing seperate burial accounts and account names which lead the searcher to incorrect volume and pages.