Sowman’s - a proud history Established in 1869 by Alfred Sowman, and trading as Sowman and Sons, Geoffrey T Sowman Funeral Directors has been part of the Marlborough community for over 145 years.
There are few businesses in Marlborough still in existence after such a period of time, but this one is at the forefront of the industry. Geoffrey T Sowman Funeral Directors pride themselves on their professional, consistent standards and high level of service, empathy and attention to detail.
Originally operating from a large two-story workshop, the caskets were made by hand. In 1983, monumental masons Hoar and Sons was purchased and moved next door. The old building was demolished in 1983 to enable extra parking space, and The Mayfield Chapel was then built.
Sowman’s, being the pioneers in modern cremation facilities, provided the first cremation service in Marlborough. Adding to the on-site facilities, the original Sowman family home was extensively refurbished and aptly-named ‘The Sowman Lounge’, for after-service refreshments and gatherings where many memories have been, and will continue to be, shared. This venue is also utilised by local groups/clubs for meetings, as a community donation. The business is located close to the CBD and has ample on-site parking.
Also on site is Sowman Monumental, meaning they are able to provide all monumental work locally onsite, and all Marlborough cemeteries are able to be serviced, along with arranging out-of-town memorials and refurbishments. The reputation of this longstanding Marlborough firm comes from experienced funeral directors and support staff who are passionate, dedicated, friendly, and above all, professional. They ensure families can have peace of mind at a very difficult time. Nothing is too much, they will make sure it happens and ‘create lasting memories’.
Sowman’s are the only registered monumental masons in Marlborough. Having their monumental division onsite also is invaluable, and families can see the progress being made to their loved one’s memorial. Any shape of memorial stone can be sourced from their supplier, and the design and engraving are completed onsite by competent, experienced staff.
You can depend on our professionalism and long experience to assist you with all of the arrangements to ensure a service flows smoothly – which can include as much or as little as a family wants.
Does your family know your wishes? Are you able to set aside some funds to assist in payment of your funeral? A funeral prearrangement takes stress away from families at a time they can be focussing on a fitting farewell for their loved one. Vital genealogical information required for a death certificate is often unknown by families, so having the details pre-recorded is helpful.
If possible, setting aside funds in an FDANZ Funeral Trust is another way of relieving families from possible financial stress. We can assist in applying for funeral grants from WINZ and ACC. Returning to the Sowman family-named business Alistair Sowman worked for the family business over 30 years ago. Now he is back, joined by his wife Thelma. Alistair started working at Geoffrey T Sowman’s for his parents at age 18. “It’s sort of turning back the clock, as it were”. Thelma describes it as “like coming home”.
After retiring in 2016 having served as Mayor of Marlborough since 2004, Alistair decided to return to the funeral industry. “I’ve always had a passion for it”.
Like many of the staff (several who were born here), they have a long association with the Marlborough community. “There have been changes” he says. “Cremations are now predominant. In the early days, the majority of funerals were in churches, now they’re in chapels or other venues. There is a greater use of celebrants now. Funerals used to be very traditional, run by the book; now they’re a lot more diverse”.
Thelma says services are more relaxed, with people’s memories coming to the fore. “They are much more a celebration of the person’s life now”.
Alistair says the funeral business is all about people and empathy. “I certainly got good lessons from my parents when I started. It’s about listening and understanding people’s needs”.
The tastefully-redecorated Mayfield Chapel has the facilities of webcasting, multimedia and a full sound system. Also available is a ‘hearing loop’ which assists those with loss of hearing. The Chapel and family room and arrangement offices offer a “really warm, inviting and calm environment” manager Barry Holmwood says.
“The community is welcome to visit us, have a chat and a look around. We have coffee and tea facilities if people wish to call in – we are a friendly team here”.
The facilities are surrounded by established gardens. The adjacent catering facility, The Sowman Lounge, is accessed via a peaceful and tranquil walk via a planted pathway including roses, ferneries and a magnificent Elm tree, where birds flitter about in and their dulcet chirping heard. Sowman’s staff have suffered personal loss also and endured the same emotions.
They walk the journey with families to create a farewell service that will befit the departed loved one and will work towards leaving only good memories of a sad time. Community Sponsorship ‘Serving the community’ has long been a focus of Geoffrey T Sowman Funeral Directors. Sowman’s generosity to the Marlborough community continues with some past donations being: restoration of various Marlborough war memorials in the lead-up to ANZAC Day’s historic 100 year centenary – the first of these was at Torea Bay where the plaques were removed, resurfaced, and all the names reinscribed under the guidance of veteran and Sounds resident, Alastair MacKenzie.
The same work was carried out on the Renwick war memorial which too was missing names. Also restored were the war monuments at Grovetown and Seddon, with the latter receiving a new plaque. Of significance is the ‘Marlborough Memorial Wall’ outside the Clubs of Marlborough which was revealed in November 2016. This is another example of the generosity of Sowman’s to the Marlborough community.
Aside from the war memorials, also donated are the plaques for the ongoing and evolving Taylor River Writers’ Walk, the soldier at Fairhall Cemetery, sponsorship for the water fountain in the Taylor River by the riverside amphitheatre, the bird bath at Wairau Hospital and the glass backdrop at the main entrance foyer, restoration work on the Band Rotunda in Market Place, to name a few. All of the materials (including substantial amounts of granite) and labour were donated by Geoffrey T Sowman Funeral Directors. Another ongoing and generous donation is the provision of a photocopier for the use of Greypower Marlborough. For those who are financial members of Greypower, Sowman’s offer a discount on both funeral and memorial costs. A professional and trusted business takes time … Sowman’s has been here since 1869