Ceramic Artist, Ann Bates, visits Mid-England Barrow

A beautiful example of Ann’s work . . . .

A beautiful example of Ann’s work . . . .

On a beautiful sunny day, Derbyshire artist , Ann Bates, visited Mid-England Barrow, to see her fourth modern barrow. Ann, of Ann Bates Ceramics, specialises in making completely individual urns, tailormade to suit the families wishes.

The following, taken from Ann’s website, tells her story:

“My interest in making my own pottery began in 1989 at a local evening class and the sheer joy of working with clay was immediate.

I soon realised that Ceramics is a vast subject and wanting to find out more about techniques, glazing and firings embarked on a course at Chesterfield College. The experience proved invaluable and led me to apply for a place on the Applied Art degree course at Derby University; I graduated in 2000 with a First Class (Hons) degree.

After I graduated my partner and I decided to become self-employed and share a building in Cromford, Derbyshire.  He ran a quantity surveying practice and I had my own pottery workshop and showroom.  This worked well until unfortunately my partner died.  I was unable to carry on renting the building on my own and decided to move my pottery business and work from home.

Working with clay helped me through bereavement and I wanted to make something to acknowledge this. Through research I found that commercially produced funerary urns, of a permanent nature, often left me feeling cold and empty. There seemed to be nothing uplifting about them. They were simply a container for ashes, often smooth or shiny and without character.

I thought I could improve on this and set about designing and making my own one-off, hand built contemporary funerary urns and memory boxes, that I hoped, in a discreet way, might celebrate life and be of some comfort to those who remain.

An interest in ancient standing stones with their carved decoration and symbols gave me a starting point. This led to research into burial mounds of the Neolithic period and consequently to investigate the newly built barrows that have chambers with niches to hold funerary urns containing cremated remains. The Long Barrow in Wiltshire is constructed in a similar way to those built in Neolithic times and is the first to be built in Britain for 5000 years. Some of my urns now rest in this barrow, a place for contemplation where people come together to remember their loved ones, spend time and share memories.

More of these structures are being built as people search for meaningful and alternative ways to commemorate the dead. Sacred Stones have built a round barrow Willow Row in Cambridgeshire and Soulton Hall Long Barrow in Shropshire is under construction.

Each funerary urn is made using the slow and considered technique of hand building. This method is the earliest form of pottery-making and it feels natural for me to work in this way. Through it I feel a deep connection to the material and, by adopting markings used in the Neolithic period, to our ancestors. The spiral, the natural form of growth and symbol of everlasting life has captivated me and I use the symbol as my maker’s mark.”

Association of Green Funeral Directors

Mid-England Barrow becomes the first Barrow to become a member of the Association of Green Funeral Directors.

After visiting their stand at the Funeral Show at Stoneleigh Park in June, Mid-England Barrow are delighted to announce that they have been accepted as members of the Association of Green Funeral Directors. This means that we have agreed to comply with a list of pledges making the services we provide fit with their ethos: ‘the association expects its members to always aim for the highest level of service possible, both personal and practical. This includes providing clear pricing information, empowering each bereaved family to arrange a funeral which meets their individual needs, and allowing them to have as much involvement as they want.’ The pledges cover areas such as embalming, literature , coffins, natural burial and flowers.


Local celebrant visits barrow with an unusual gift ....

Lucky shoe !

Lucky shoe !

An unusual gift arrived at the barrow today with local celebrant Ruth Jewell, in the form of an old shoe. A strange gesture, you may think, however, but after doing some research, it seems that Ruth has contributed with our barrow’s ties to the past, albeit not 5000 years in the past.

As early as the 1300’s people concealed shoes within the structures of buildings. Superstition says that the footware warded off evil spirits, perhaps because the shoe took on the shape of the owners foot, and was thought, therefore, to contain some of the owners spirit. Typically, the hidden shoe belonged to a child, and was usuually hidden in a chimney, wall or roof.

Ruth placed the shoe in the wall on a rainy day, just as the sun began to peep through the clouds…….maybe its working already !

Barrow owners meet at Mid-England Barrow

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From left to right, Richard Beeby ( Mid-England Barrow ), Tim Daw ( The Long Barrow at All Cannings ), Tim Ashton ( Soulton Hall Long Barrow ), Richard Squire ( Willow Row Round Barrow ) & Sarah Smart ( Mid-England Barrow ).

Last week Tim, Tim & Richard joined us for a look around the build, and a spot of lunch. Tim Daw resurected the idea of building the barrows for the storage of ashes, and then the torch was taken over by Richard Squire followed by Tim Ashton and then Sarah & myself. All four barrows have been built by the same team, headed up by Joby Wheatley of Sacred Stones.

Sharing stones ...

We visited Tim Daw, who started this “barrow revolution” back in 2014 with the creation of The Long Barrow at All Cannings, and took him a facing stone from our facasde at Mid-England Barrow as a gesture . Tim kindly reciprocated by giving us a stone from his barrow, which we intend to have built into ours this week, once site foreman Joby Wheatley has finished “talking” to it and deciding its place within our build .

Richard giving Tim Daw of The Long Barrow at All Cannings a stone from the Mid-England Barrow build.

Richard giving Tim Daw of The Long Barrow at All Cannings a stone from the Mid-England Barrow build.

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Tim giving Richard one of his barrow stones…

What better way to spend a beautiful , sunny spring afternoon !


This afternoon, Una, Wilfred and James from year 5 at The Dassett C of E Primary School in Fenny Compton came along to visit Mid-England Barrow.

The children had been invited to name the three chambers of the barrow, and from a selection of names put forward, Wilfred’s suggestions were chosed : Oak, Willow and Yew.

The children brought along with them Wilfed’s Mum, and head teacher Miss Corry, and we all walked together in the glorious sunshine, along the path to the barrow, where all the guests were shown around the barrow by builder Joby - who has been involved with all four of the barrows built recently.

The children were very interested, and asked all sorts of fitting questions.

The school were also charged with filling a “time capsule” which is being incorperated into the build, and James placed the canister, which contained lego, a picture of an Iphone, some football cards, and a newspaper, among other things. We had an interesting conversation about which item would be the most curious in 100 years time !

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But I’m too young / too busy / too healthy to think about writing a will!

That may be the case, and we’ve all used those reasons at some time or another to avoid thinking about writing a will.

However another alternative, but by no means a replacement for a will, is to make a funeral plan . Not to be confused with pre-paying for your funeral, a funeral plan clearly states your wishes as to exactly how you would like the time after your death to be. Making such a plan can take pressure and stress away from family, and possibly prevent differences of opinions as to what you would have liked !

If you do have a will, it is wise to refer to your funeral plan in it, and store them together. If the funeral plan is a stand alone document, all you need to do is make sure your close family are aware of its existence.

You are welcome to use the form found on the Mid-England Barrow website to help you to make your funeral plan. You may even decide to choose Mid-England Barrow as your final resting place in the heart of the English countryside.

Please remember, it’s your final time, and anything is possible with a bit of forward planning ! The more information you can put on this form, the more useful it will be to those planning for you, and the more likely you areto have things done the way you would like.

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Have you ever thought how your nearest and dearest will know what you really want when you die?

Have you ever thought how your nearest and dearest will know what you really want when you die? 

Like most, you may have had a casual chat with friends and family when the subject came up in conversation, or you may have expressed opinions on what other people have done, but do they really know when the time comes?

One family nearly experienced this the hard way. A relative in his late 80s lost his first wife, and mother of his children, at a young age, and she was interred in the local churchyard. After a number of years, he remarried, and remained so for many years until his second wife sadly passed away. This lady was interred in a churchyard in a neighbouring village. He had been a farmer all his life, enjoying rural life and always spoke of a favorite field where he would like his ashes scattered. So when he passed away, it seemed there were three places, where anyone could argue, that his ashes could be placed. Thankfully he had made his wishes clear in his will, but had he not, I can imagine there may have been some difficult decisions to be made between a number of family members.

Everyone knows it’s a good idea to write a will, whether it’s to ensure the best financial plans are made, provisions made for children, or to make sure your wishes are followed, but how many of us actually do it ?

Research states that around 60% of people don’t have a will, and of those that do, a quarter have not been reviewed, so may be out of date, and after all, we do sometimes change our minds !

If your time were to end tomorrow, you are relying upon your family to make decisions for you, and you may just miss the opportunity to have your ashes stored somewhere remarkable like Mid-England Barrow.