History of H.R. Palmer

The family business of Palmers Funeral Directors in Ramsgate was established in the St. Lawrence area of Ramsgate before 1912 and represents the work of four generations. In the early days the firm, under John Edward Palmer, combined undertaking with building, as was the practice, and served St. Lawrence, Haine and Ramsgate.

In 1912, Mr. Palmer and son John divided the business between St. Lawrence and the centre of Ramsgate. Both enjoyed bellringing at St. Lawrence Church.

The bells ‘Peace’ & ‘Remembrance’ being delivered to St. Laurence, Ramsgate in 1924 by horse drawn from South Eastern Railway. This now gave St. Laurence a ring of 10.  The Wheatsheaf Public House is clearly seen in the background.

John E. Palmer Senior 4th from left, John E. Palmer Junior immediate right.

They are memorial bells, the cost of which was met by public donations following the Great War of 1914 -18. The Treble inscribed with ‘To the Glory of God and thanksgiving for Peace’. The Second with ‘To the Glory of God and in Remembrance of Britain’s Sons who laid down their lives by land and sea’. Both bells were dedicated Armistice Sunday, 9th November 1924.


In a brief update of the business written by Harold (son of John Junior) in 1992, he wrote:

”My father was a volunteer fireman in the old Ramsgate Fire Brigade when horsedrawn vehicles were used for tending both fires and funerals. During the First World War he continued in the Fire Brigade and was awarded the OBE for his service to the town. Chatham House School was a military hospital at the time and Stonar was an embarkation and disembarkment port for the troops and much of his funeral work was connected with the armed services.

Fireman John Palmer Senior

Ramsgate Fire Brigade 1930’s

My father died in 1939, just before the outbreak of the Second World War. I continued with the Business until 1941, when my call-up papers arrived and I served with the Royal Artillery until the end of the war when I returned and later, with my wife Thora and daughter Inez, moved to our current premises.
Over the years, the premises have been greatly extended to incorporate our Private Chapel of Rest, garages and workshops. We are able to arrange for funerals and cremations to take place not only for the immediate locality but in any part of the world. We pride ourselves in retaining the business as a strictly family concern. The personal and caring service and advice which I, and all who so loyally assist me, are able to extend to the bereaved is most rewarding.”

Inez takes up the story from here:
Mum and Dad so enjoyed working extremely hard in the business together and combined with this, made my childhood days exceptionally happy ones.

Dad would often be found working hard either in the office or the workshops into the early hours of the morning, often with staff members in the workshops assisting. Handtools were the order of the day!!

Mum and Dad decided to cease the building side of the business and invited a very loyal member of staff at the time (Ted Borley) to continue with it in his own right but Ted decided that he would not wish to be involved in the constant necessary paperwork.

Mum sustained a spinal injury in 1987, which she fought so bravely and eventually became wheelchair bound but always very cheerful and mindful of all. At this time my Aunt Eva, was asked by Dad if she would like to help part-time and she was delighted to do so, both in the office under Dad’s strict guidance and Mum’s, who would often be on hand from her wheelchair.

Eva’s Brother, George, hand-painted the nameplates for the coffins, with the most beautiful and ornate embelishments, which the bereaved families so appreciated. Eva’s wonderful support enabled me to be on hand both here helping my Father to run the Business and looking after Mum, who sadly died in 1991.

I so loved my job in the law working for a local firm of Solicitors, specialising in Wills and Probate, but eventually decided to take very early retirement from that in 1994, my Father by then being confined to a wheelchair, and wishing to continue running the old family firm.

It was at this time that Glynns Garage in Ramsgate had decided to cease operations, they having so happily and efficiently supplied local Funeral firms with necessary vehicles, drivers and pallbearers. Many times Peter Bradley, so very well-known locally for his support and loyalty, could be seen scrambling under vehicles (all manual in those days) in horrendous weather conditions, ensuring all was well both inside and out, so that the vehicle would be “spot on” for its important function on the day.

We were lucky enough to have Peter guide us at this time advising as to suitable vehicles to purchase. His drivers and pallbearers asked if they could continue to provide us with their services. Accepted wholeheartedly!! We already had a small but efficient team and when once suitable additional garage accommodation was sorted out, all was then complete.
Dad sadly died in 2006 but I have enjoyed the privilege of continuing his good work of helping and advising bereaved families over the years.

Phillip Shale has been a hard-working and loyal team member, starting at the very bottom in March 2000 and gradually and efficiently working his way `up the ladder`. When I felt the time was right, some years ago now, I asked Phillip if he would like to assist me in arranging Funerals and Cremations. We set to and he soon learnt from me the practical side but most importantly, the delicate and sympathetic manner in which to assist bereaved families at what must surely be, one of the most distressing times of their lives.

I have received much heart-warming “feed back” from our bereaved families about both Phillip and our team as a whole and in mid-2021 decided to ask Phill if he would like more involvement in the Business.

He said he would, so in June 2021 I floated a small Company, which consists of us both as the Directors (myself being the Managing Director).

Open day at Thanet Crematorium

Phill deals with day-to-day matters and I am on hand to give guidance and advice where needed, always thinking of the wonderful relationships built up with our loyal families over the years, of which I am most appreciative.

Although I have no intention of giving up working personally in the Business, Phill’s involvement has enabled me to have more free time to enjoy with my husband, Brian, to whom I was married in July 2020.

Brian is most supportive and has, of course, known and worked with the team for many years in his own professional capacity.

Call H. R. Palmer now on
01843 592 720
Based in Ramsgate, we serve throughout the Thanet area and beyond.