Coffin carrying is dying out

Coffins are being wheeled into church on trolleys for funerals rather than the traditional method of being carried in by pallbearers due to health and safety fears. The trolleys are known as biers.

coffin.jpgCoffins are being wheeled into church on trolleys for funerals rather than the traditional method of being carried in by pallbearers due to health and safety fears. The trolleys are known as biers.

They are increasingly common in the Midlands to ensure pallbearers do not injure themselves carrying heavy coffins. Jan Cope, funeral administrator at Roy Quinton Funeral Directors in School Road, Wolverhampton, said: “The vast majority of our funerals use this method now.”

“It has to be around 99 per cent and it’s because of health and safety regulations. However, if a family makes a special request for the coffin to be carried in then we will do it. If relatives want to carry the coffin themselves we will give them advice of what to do,” added the administrator.

J Freeman & Son, in St Peters Road, Netherton, also uses biers for funerals. One worker, who asked not to be named, said: “They are all we’ve ever used and every other funeral director uses them too as far as I know. Sometimes coffins have to be carried for quite a distance, which would be quite difficult without the biers”.

Use of the biers has caused upset among a family in Essex after their war hero relative was pushed into church on the trolley.

Colin Blackwell, who is from Kelvedon, in Essex, said his family was disgusted when the coffin bearing the 89-year-old, who weighed about nine stone, was pushed into church rather than carried to save pall bearers any injury.

However in Walsall, funeral directors said coffins were still carried in the majority of cases.

“Coffins are still carried in the traditional manner by pallbearers for the vast majority of funerals we carry out,” explained Oliver Du Croz, who is the spokesman for The Midcounties Co-operative Funeral Service, which has outlets across the Black Country.

“However, in a small number of cases this is not possible for reasons such as access from the hearse to the church. If a wheel bier is required, families are informed at the earliest possible opportunity, while the dignity of the deceased and their family always remains our first priority,” he said.

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Comments for: "Coffin carrying is dying out"


Health and Safety..despite the fact they've been carrying them for years. Oh well, it is the season..what next: coffins being the wrong colour?


health and safety gone mad


I would have some sympathy with those attacking the move to using biers, but perhaps they don't realise just how heavy coffins can be, and how difficult carrying them is as a result.

Dave Philips

This is an insult to the grieving families.

Skinny Wretch

Perhaps the coffins are so heavy because the deceased is so fat.


Having worked as a pallbearer it can be quite a distressing experience. Especially if there is a difference in height among the pallbearers team. Dignity is what matters! Better a safely delivered coffin than a fallen one.


I have only ever witnessed coffins carried by pallbearers for old soldiers and fallen comrades. I wouldn't want my exit out of this world and into the next by being wheeled around like a shopping trolley or wheelie bin. It's disgusting how these do-gooder PC brigade types are turning our once "Great Britain" into a nation of woosies and big-girls-blouses. I will carry any one who has fought and died in battle to secure our shores from the invaders. This message comes from a true patriot. God Save the Queen.


I dont think it really makes any difference. Was at a relatives funeral yesterday and they used the biers I didnt give it a second thought. Most people at funerals are grieving so why would they think about how the person is carried! Come on its not the most important part of the ceremony is it!


i cant believe what i'm hearing, is that a wind up. i really do think its up to the family to decide not anyone else, safer yes respectful no!


I carried a coffin for the first time yesterday as it was the express wishes of the family that a trolley was not used.

Due to differning heights of my fellow pall bearers it made the task very difficult.

I could never of imagined how heavy a coffin was even with the weight spread across 4 grown men. Walking through a crowded church of mourners was an awful experience with the sinking feeling that I was about to drop the coffin. talking to the remaining pallbearers afterwards they had all had the same experience.

It was the families wish but I do not think they would have wished for 4 other close family members to be put through what we did.


I lost my son 15 years ago he only weighed 6lb 2oz but i was told i couldn't carry him for the last time because of the weight, i was really shocked. i would have understood if it was an adult but he was a baby. I have seen these biers used and they are like something from the hospital they could at least drap satin over them to hide the wheels and make them look respectful.


well it is a safer way


I have been at a funeral where due to the height difference one poor fella dislocated his shoulder.

Some of the coffins are so heavy its beyond belief.

It makes no difference to the deceased how they are moved into the service.After all once your dont know anything about it.

One point...youll moan about the bier..yet youll shove a coffin in a furnace! on.


I'm a funeral assistant, bearing coffins every day, so I know what goes on at a funeral. The conductor asks the pall bearers whether they think shouldering the coffin is safe, and if they all agree, then it will be shouldered. It depends on 3 things, firstly if the pall bearers are the correct heights to shoulder, secondly, the weight of the deceased, if too heavy then could be dangerous as the coffin could be dropped or could injure the pall bearers, and thirdly, the coffin, if its a solid wood coffin, that alone is a heavy weight, then putting a deceased person inside that, is a recipe for disaster. If the family want to shoulder the coffin thats up to them, as at the end of the day, if they injure themselves they've only got themselves to blame. If a pall bearer injurers themself shouldering, they can't go and ask the family for compensation. After shouldering coffins day in day out, you learn that not every coffin is shoulderable.

Liam Kennedy

Its an honour to carry a coffin, especially if the person means something to you, its the very last time to get to be with that person and should be treasured. Its not easy buts it worth while