Records for the first funeral carried out by Arthur Jary start in 1899. Arthur Jary carried out funerals earlier as part of his business as a carpenter, but 1899 was the year that he decided to formally make undertaking as part of his business.
In the first year, the business carried out 18 funerals, half of which were for children, illustrating the high child mortality rate of the time. The total turnover for funerals in 1899 was 63 pounds and 16 shillings compared to today’s funeral costs.
Arthur was born in 1868, one of several children born to William and Sarah. Three of his brothers and sisters, aged between one and eight years old, died within four days of each other in December 1873. Two other siblings died in infancy and only one sister survived to adulthood.
According to the Census of 1881, we know that Arthur became a labourer before training as a carpenter. We have his original apprenticeship papers for when he was aged 14 and 16.
The 1891 census shows Arthur at 23 being married to Edith (nee Durrant). They had two children, Lillian and Sidney, but it appears that Edith died giving birth to Sidney.
Arthur quickly re-married and he and his second wife, Henrietta Kate (nee Blake), had several children, including Leonard (Lenny).
By 1901, Arthur and Henrietta and their four children were living on Rampart Road, off Northgate Street, where Arthur is described as a ‘carpenter, undertaker and employer’.
It was usual in those days for building firms to ‘undertake’ funerals, as they had all the equipment necessary for making coffins and digging graves. The name ‘Undertaker’ originates from.
Officially Becoming Funeral Directors
The business operated from 217, Northgate Street, between 1899 and 1917 before moving a few doors down to 214 where its Head Office still operates from.
Arthur’s father, William, had been a Methodist Town Missionary and his Father-in-law, Ephriam Blake, was also a Methodist preacher. Arthur was a staunch Methodist and choirmaster at the Temple Methodist Church, where Sainsbury’s is currently situated, for many years. He died in 1956, a much-respected member of the community.
Leonard (Lenny) Jary (1903 – 1986)
Born in 1903, Lenny was one of Arthur’s youngest children. He helped his father run of the company with his two older brothers, Sidney and Walter. Sidney contracted sleeping sickness during World War 1 and never recovered, dying at just 36 years old in 1929. Lenny gradually took over the reins from his father with Walter working with him.
Because the funeral profession was a reserved occupation, Lenny never joined the military. Like other undertakers who remained in their hometowns bombed heavily throughout the war, he suffered much loss and trauma. He had to retrieve numerous bodies of friends and neighbours after bombings.
On one evening, he was drinking with friends in a pub that suffered a direct hit two hours after he left. Lenny had to remove the bodies of friends he had been drinking with.
The war years saw great changes for the firm. Motor hearses were introduced during the 1920s, gradually replacing horsedrawn hearses.
In 1939, Arthur Jary & Sons opened its Gorleston office at 43 High Street. The building dates from 1716, built by William Killett, the local Brewer. Later it became the Earl Grey Public House, which closed in 1934. The floor joists in the original part of the building were made from old masts from fishing boats and many of the walls were constructed from ballast brought in by the same boats. The building fronts on to the High Street, but the gardens at the back go down to Riverside Road and have steps leading all the way down. In days gone by the fishermen used to climb these steps to collect their wages from the property.
Kitty Wilson (nee Jary), one of Arthur’s children was the first member of the Jary family to live in the property and run the office.
After her, her brother Lenny lived there with his second wife Olive (Olly). Lenny’s second son David then moved in with his wife and children for about seven years before Lenny and Olly moved back in until their deaths in the 1980s.
Since then, the ground floor was taken over by the increasingly busy office and the living accommodation was restricted to the upper floor only.
Today, Jary’s serve their community from 7 offices across the East Coast. We have a fleet of modern motor vehicle hearses and limousines, but with all the contacts for alternative modes of transport that may be required.
The Company is now being lead by the 5th Generation of the Jary family. Sean joined aged 17 and worked during the school holidays, before working full time after graduation from University. Aged 22, Sean left Jary’s and took a placement year with another funeral directors, learning a vast amount and bring back lots of transferable skills, as well as qualifying with the Diploma in Funeral Directing.
Susan joined the company in June 1975, shortly after leaving school. She started work in a secretarial capacity and gradually became more and more involved with the firm, before becoming the Company Secretary and a Director alongside her Grandfather, Father and Uncle. Once Brian and David retired, she became Managing Director - a rare position to be held by a female in the funeral profession.