When William Dodgson founded a funeral directors in a one-up-one-down cottage and joiner’s workshop in east Leeds in 1842, he would never have imagined that the Lord Mayor would be among those gathering to mark its role in city life 175 years on.
But that is just what happened this weekend when Wm Dodgson & Son hosted a memorial service at Leeds Minster to reflect on its history and give local families the chance to remember loved ones lost in recent years.
The business has passed through five generations of the family since its humble beginnings in Shannon Street and William’s great, great grandson, Martin, continues to conduct funerals today.
Martin, who served as one of the youngest Lord Mayors of Leeds in 1983, said: “I am proud to recall the progress of Dodgsons from the early days of my great, great grandfather to the present day.”
Wm Dodgson continued to serve the local community when William’s son, John, took over the business.
The firm moved into new premises in Harehills in the mid-1930s and it was there that Martin’s grandfather, also William, and his brother, Lindley, established one of the first Chapels of Rest in the city.
They also purchased a motor hearse and limousine, which was a novel departure from the traditional horse and carriages at the time.
Both William Snr and Martin’s father, William, served as presidents of the National Association of Funeral Directors.
Martin joined the family firm after finishing school in 1957 and, with his father, moved the business to its current premises in Harehills. They later opened branches in Halton, Kippax, Middleton Park and Moortown.
Martin was also National President of The British Institute of Embalmers in 1978.
Although the firm is now part of national business Funeral Partners, Martin keeps an active interest and continues to conduct funerals.
Julian Hodgkinson, regional development director at Funeral Partners, said: “We are proud to be associated with the Dodgson family, together with the firm’s long and pioneering history.
“After 175 years, the funeral homes remain at the forefront of supporting the families of Leeds. The staff are very proud of the Dodgson name and what it stands for.
“Martin is the fifth generation Dodgson and, if not at Headingley watching the cricket, he can be found at our main branch in Lupton Avenue on a regular basis.
“He ensures his forefathers’ legacy is maintained, and we continue to offer the highest levels of service which have been passed down from father to son.”
Saturday’s service was conducted by the Rev Canon Sam Corley and attended by the Rev Robert Creamer, the Rev Andy Myers and the current Lord Mayor of Leeds, Coun Jane Dowson.
Music was provided by the Carlton Main Frickley Colliery Band, which is sponsored by Funeral Partners.
The congregation were also given the chance to view displays and old photographs of the city compiled by Peter Kelly from Dodgsons.