The hearse used to carry Winston Churchill to his final resting place is to be used for Bristol funerals after being painstakingly restored.
The Austin Princess, registration number BLE 704B carried Churchill’s body from Festival Pier in London to Waterloo Station through crowds of mourners at the State Funeral in January 1965.
Now the historic vehicle is being put to work once again by Bristol Memorial Woodlands funeral directors making it available for the final journey of Bristol people to its chapel and green burial ground in its nature reserve near Alveston, Bristol.
The hearse played a vital role in the State Funeral of the British Prime Minister, who led the country through the Second World War.
Christopher Baker, founder of the Memorial Woodlands said: “We believe the history of the hearse makes it appropriate for military families or for anyone who has a sense of history.
“Churchill’s funeral was a magnificent event that saw the largest gathering of world leaders during the 1960s. His body was conveyed on a gun carriage, down the Thames on board the MV Havengore and then on to a train named in his honour to Oxfordshire where he was buried.
“The hearse was used for the short part of his final journey between the boat and the train. At every stage of the journey people stood in tribute to the country’s wartime leader.”
Bristol Memorial Woodlands is creating a 100-acre wood that is held in Trust for future generations to visit. Those conveyed to their final resting place in the restored hearse will rest amidst English woodland where only native trees and flowers are planted.
The hearse was restored by Jo Burge of Classic Marine Engineers in Suffolk. He said: “It was a comprehensive overhaul that took us three years as we wanted everything to stay as authentic as possible and source all the correct parts.
“It was an interesting project as the hearse bodywork was by Vanden Plas so we had a vehicle that had steel bolt on wings of the type used on some of the earliest vehicles, aluminium on the front doors and fibreglass at the back.
“We also found that some of the interior that looked like wood was in fact Formica wood effect, and we had never worked on restoring Formica before. Apart from a small change to the fuel delivery system, which weas necessary for safety, it is restored to how it was in the 1960s.”
The historic vehicle is available for funerals through Bristol Memorial Woodlands. For information on use of the hearse please Contact us.