Leading British textile manufacturer Hainsworth reports it has seen a 700% increase in sales of its woollen coffins.
Around 120 Natural Legacy coffins, manufactured by the Yorkshire-based company, are being sold each month compared to just 15 a month the same time last year. The company is forecasting demand – both within the UK and internationally – will see sales increase further still to around 200 a month by the end of 2013.
Hainsworth, a seventh generation family business dating back 229 years, only started manufacturing its woollen coffins in 2009 after a work experience student stumbled across the 1668 Burial in Woollen Act, which decreed that people had to be buried in a woollen shroud.
Rachel Hainsworth, quality director for Natural Legacy woollen coffins, said: “We have taken a 17th century concept and brought it into the 21st century.
“We get a lot of repeat business from funeral directors who have given us some wonderful feedback. They like the fact our coffins are very visual, tactile products which look particularly beautiful when decorated with flowers. They have a softer look than more traditional coffins which can make a real difference at a funeral.
“The rapid growth in sales indicates people like the idea of having a stylish, aesthetically pleasing woollen coffin for their loved ones. Funeral directors tell us they like being able to offer a wider range of choices for bereaved families when they are planning this important and emotional day. The fact our coffins are also eco-friendly is an additional benefit.”
The Co-operative Funeralcare, the UK’s largest funeral director, is among those to have chosen to stock Natural Legacy woollen coffins, which are distributed by JC Atkinson, the UK’s leading independent coffin manufacturer.
Among supporters of woollen coffins is Prince Charles, who asked Hainsworth to exhibit at his Garden Party to Make a Difference, which was held at Clarence House in 2010 to encourage people to lead a more sustainable life.
Prince Charles commented, “I have discovered a company that makes a woollen coffin – coffins, ladies and gentlemen, to die for”.
Hainsworth said: “While the majority of our sales are currently in the UK, we are also seeing a lot of interest overseas. In Australia, alone, we have sold more than 200 coffins in the last six months and our third container has also just been delivered to New Zealand.
“We were delighted to receive Prince Charles’ encouragement. He liked the fact the coffins are environmentally friendly but also the fact by using British wool we are supporting Britain’s farmers.”
Staff at the Hainsworth mill in Pudsey, near Leeds, carry out every process in the manufacturing of the woollen coffins from the selection of raw wool to finished cloth. The resulting woollen coffins are made from 100% pure new British wool, recycled cardboard and organic cotton and are light in weight and easy to carry.
They are also extremely strong – independently tested for up to 42 stone in weight – and use only carefully selected materials ensuring low emission levels when used in cremation.