99 - Bristol Co-operative
Funeral Services

Although not exactly a shop, this branch of the Co-op has given an essential service to numerous families in East Bristol over many years.


At the turn of the 20th Century records show that 101/99 Church Road was the site of Fred Underhill's timber yard and perambulator depot. By the outbreak of World War Two, No.99 had become a Bristol Co-operative Society Ltd. undertakers and monumental department. Meanwhile Nos.97/91 were used as the Co-op works department.

This scene in the 1930s is looking across Church Road to the Co-op Funeral premises.
The large Co-op garage is on the left. The photo was taken from Cowper Street by the corner
of St. Matthew's Church. The Church is now called Stockwood Chambers having been
converted into flats in 2003.

In the late 1950s there was a major expansion of this Co-op site. The old, rather motley collection of buildings were removed and a funeral parlour plus Chapel of Rest was constructed. In February 1960 a licence was granted by the Lord Bishop of Bristol to allow funeral services to be held in the new Chapel.

This new structure was built in front of a large garage where the funeral vehicles were kept. The new parlour and chapel building was strikingly distinctive. Firstly it was notably recessed from the alignment of the adjacent buildings. Secondly it was faced with 'gleaming white stone', quite unlike any surrounding buildings. In front of this long, low structure was a curious pattern of low stonewalling. This curved around to the reception/administration block. This section was immediately next to the Masons Arms.

In the late 1960s the Co-op began using Nos.107, 109 and 111 Church Road. These were properties on the 'other side' of the Masons Arms towards Brook Street. It is understood that these were used for 'funeral furnishing'. In the mid 1970s these properties were pulled down (together with the Masons Arms) and a new extension was built. Although this extension was lined up with the 1950s building it was not built in the same style and it didn't really blend in with the earlier structure. At the same time a car park was created behind the new extension, on the site of former houses in Brook Street. Trees were also planted on the Church Road pavement along the frontage. Around 2008 the low walling in front of the 1950s building was removed so creating a very flat, wide pavement area in front of the whole of the Co-op site.


Related memory: In 1941 the vicar of St Matthew's Church, was Mervyn Stockwood. On Good Friday 1941 Bristol suffered its worst aerial bombing raid. Mervyn Stockwood later related the story that he received a message saying that the Church and the Co-op funeral department opposite was on fire. The vicar approaching the church was told that the Co-op had been the first to catch fire. The Co-op staff had seized as many coffins as possible and stood them on their feet around the walls of the church. It was a macabre sight!

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