Date: Between 1960s – 1990s
Material: Plastic


This plastic ashes urn was the cheapest option available at Newman Brothers. It was most likely used by funeral directors for people who could not afford funeral costs. Today, it is known as a Public Health Funeral, which was paid for and arranged by the government. This was (and is) done under the following circumstances:

  • There isn’t enough money in the estate to pay for it.
  • There are no relatives or friends available to arrange the funeral.

This is usually a cremation, as it is a cheaper option. There normally is a short service, but extras such as flowers, cars or notices in the local newspaper are not included.

This item is in the following Themes:

Death Commerce


In the post-war years, society’s attitudes to death and funerals changed profoundly. New housing was a higher priority than cemeteries, and cremation slowly began to gain in popularity. The number of coffin furniture manufacturers in Birmingham shrank from twelve in 1944 to just three in 1967, with no new companies entering the market after 1949.

By the 1970s, the market for Newman Brothers’ products continued to shrink, cremation continued to increase in popularity, and there was a failure to modernise. Newman Brothers relied mainly on their reputation and existing customers. By this point, they had become a ‘one-stop shop’ by selling most things that the funeral director required, including ashes caskets.

In regards to cremation, funerary expert and historian, Brian Parsons says:

“The first regulations issued by crematoria can be traced to 1901 with the opening of Hull Crematorium where their instructions stated, ‘There is no smoke and little visible flame before the body is introduced, and if the coffin be made according to instructions (that is, preferably of dry oak boards, half an inch in thickness, without paint or varnish, and with no metal fixings of any kind, save under certain conditions, a thin zinc lining), there is practically no smoke during cremation.

In 1909, formal guidelines were published by the London Cremation Company, who own the famous Golders Green crematoria in London, and Britain’s oldest crematorium in Woking. Even at this stage only a modest number of cremations took place; in 1909 there were 855 at the 13 crematoria in operation in Great Britain.

What could not be consumed by the flame was recovered from the cremation chamber and either buried in the crematorium/cemetery grounds or purchased by/sold to a scrap dealer. Today, many UK crematoria subscribe to the ICCM scheme where metals recovered from crematoria are collected by an organisation and sent for recycling; profits from this are given to nominated charities.”