When Harold Hillier established the company the dust had only just settled after World War 1. He saw service in the Royal Flying Corps, flying De Havilland 9 A Bombers. He was born in Swindon in 1900 the same year as Queen Elizabeth, George VI’ wife. After his war service he worked for the Great Western Railway. Locals called this ‘going inside’.
He was ‘released’ after a short time and established a building company at The Broadway, Rodbourne Cheney, it was in the days when homes fit for heroes had been promised by the government for the brave souls who had survived the horrors of the war. Harold did his bit and the company grew to a workforce of 60 men who built many houses in the area. But a black cloud lay on the horizon. The depression days arrived and contracts dried up.
Needing to develop the funeral service within the growing town an office was set up in a house in Victoria Road. The workshops, garage and chapel of rest stayed at the Broadway. Coffins were prepared by hand from butts of oak and elm that were delivered to the workshop. There they were sawn and planed by hand and made into coffins. Local artists engraved the name plates. The first motor hearse was bought in 1933 before this funerals were conducted with a hand bier.
During World War Two many staff members were called up and they were replaced by pensioners. Some of the work carried out by Hillier’s during the war involved contracts with The American Military Hospitals of which there were several in the area. Embalming and preparation of those who had died in the hospitals was carried out prior to their being transported to the military cemeteries at Brookwood and Cambridge.
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