Funerals in the 1800's and 1900's
When Allison Monkhouse began here in Victoria in the 1860s, most funeral directors were cabinet makers who became involved in funerals as a result of their expertise and ability to provide transport for the coffin.
Most deaths at this time occurred in the home and the funeral director delivered the coffin to the residence of the deceased. There, the family members prepared the body, placed it in the coffin in the main room of the home (sometimes on the dining room table), and friends and family could view the person prior to the funeral.
Most often, funerals were held at the local church or graveside. The funeral was a community occasion with people walking to attend the service and the coffin conveyed to the funeral site in a hearse. Although women attended the church, it was less common for them to be present at the burial.
By the 1890s, Allison Monkhouse was offering embalming as a service to the public. Embalming preserved the body, of particular importance during the hot summer months as houses did not have air-conditioning and the odour from the body could become offensive.
Embalming was performed in the funeral parlour and the deceased was then returned to the home until the time of the funeral.
In 1927, Allison Monkhouse opened the first state-of-the-art mortuary facility in Victoria. Thus, embalming was able to be performed in a hygienic environment. At this time there were very few funeral chapels. Most funeral premises had a large room, known as the "parlour", where people could gather for the viewing.
It was not until after the Second World War and the increase in secular influence that funeral directors built chapels where funeral ceremonies could be held.