Early in the 1800s, my grandfather, the late William Bell, a joiner by trade, started manufacturing coffins in Banbridge calling himself 'The Bann Coffin Manufacturing Company'. A few years later he purchased premises in Banbridge which consisted of 2 public houses, a grocers shop and a funeral business. After a few years the Government of Northern Ireland brought in a ruling that only 1 license could be held by a person. He gave up what was known as 'The Echo Bar' and retained 'The Ulster Bar'.
He then dispersed of the grocers shop as well and held the license of one bar and a funeral undertaking business. In 1886 he purchased his first horse hearse from Birmingham and bought two black Belgian horses from a local dealer. He also had two morning coaches, two Irish jaunting cars, a school trap and an open side Dodge motor hearse. After his death the business was carried on by his sons, James John and Ernest Bell. They carried on the business and then in the late 1940s when the motor hearses were doing funerals, the horses were no longer needed. The firm then had a Humber Pullman hearse and several Austin cars. Then, as the years progressed, the Austin Princess' were used extensively for hearses, with William Bell and Co owning two Austin Princess Limousines.
After Ernest's death the firm was carried on by James John Bell who had two sons associated with him in the running of the funeral business and 'The Ulster Bar'. The firm went from strength to strength, extending the bar to a public bar, lounge bar and cabaret lounge. After James John's passing, his two sons carried on the business for many years. In 1997 William decided to retire and James Stevenson Bell, who had one son, James Maurice Bell, took over the premises in Banbridge, and purchased an automobile garage for the repairing of cars.
They built a reception area to the front, and converted the garage into a modern building which consists of a funeral chapel which seats 100 people, two private rest rooms, a coffin room, a body preparation theatre and a garage to hold six vehicles, all under one roof. With this modern fleet the company is known for its service and dedication. In 2011 James Stevenson Bell received a lifetime achievement award from the Banbridge business community. Don't hesitate to get in touch with us to see how we can help you.