Austin Princess hearse used for Winston Churchill’s 1965 state funeral has been fully restored and returned to service with Bristol Company
- The Austin Princess used for the Prime Minister’s wartime state funeral is back in service
- It has undergone an extensive restoration and has been completely renovated
- The hearse was reduced to its rolling chassis and rebuilt in three years
- Bristol-based undertaker, Bristol Memorial Woodlands, now has it on fleet
The hearse used to take Winston Churchill to his final resting place will be reused for burials after a full restoration.
The Austin Princess transported the body of the wartime prime minister from Festival Pier in London to Waterloo Station by mourners at the state funeral in January 1965.
The vehicle has been returned to its original glory after a three-year refurbishment that saw the car stripped down to a rolling chassis and completely rebuilt – and it is now available for use through a Bristol undertaker.
Churchill hearse back in use: Christopher Baker, founder of the Memorial Woodlands, stands next to the Austin Princess used for the Prime Minister’s wartime state funeral
Bristol Memorial Woodlands makes the 1964 Austin available for services to its chapel and green cemetery in the nature reserve near Alveston, Bristol.
The hearse played a vital role in the state funeral of the British Prime Minister, who led the country through World War II.
Christopher Baker, founder of the Memorial Woodlands said, “We believe the hearse’s history makes it suitable for military families or anyone with a sense of history.
“Churchill’s funeral was a magnificent event, hosting the largest gathering of world leaders in the 1960s.
His body was transported in a gun carriage, down the Thames aboard the MV Havengore and then onto a train named in his honor to Oxfordshire, where he was buried.
“The hearse was used for the short part of his last journey between the boat and the train.
“At every stage of the journey, people stood in honor of the country’s war leader.”
The Austin Princess hearse carried the body of Winston Churchill from Festival Pier in London to Waterloo Station by mourners at the state funeral in January 1965
After an extensive three-year restoration, Mr Baker has made the hearse again available for service through his Bristol-based undertaker
After being used at Churchill’s funeral, the vehicle passed between a number of businesses but had fallen into a state of disrepair
Now completely rebuilt, the vehicle is back in service. “We believe the hearse’s history makes it suitable for military families or anyone with a sense of history,” Baker says.
The hearse was restored by Jo Burge of Classic Marine Engineers in Suffolk.
The renovation from start to finish took about 36 months.
“It was an extensive overhaul that took us three years, because we wanted everything to stay as authentic as possible and buy all the right parts,” Burge said.
“It was an interesting project, as the body of the hearse was by Vanden Plas, so we had a vehicle with steel bolts on the wings of the type used on some of the earliest vehicles, aluminum on the front doors and fiberglass on the rear end.’
The hearse was restored by Jo Burge of Classic Marine Engineers in Suffolk. It took 3 years from start to finish
Burge told the BBC that while stripping, the team found an old pack of cigarettes from the 1960s
The car was stripped back to its rolling chassis and completely rebuilt from the ground up
Mr Burge told the BBC that while stripping completely, the team found an old pack of cigarettes from the 1960s and maps from several undertakers who had used the hearse across the country after it was used for Churchill’s ceremony.
“We also found that some of the interior that looked like wood was in fact Formica wood effect, and we had never worked on restoring Formica before,” he added.
“Except for a minor change to the fuel delivery system, which was necessary for safety, it has been restored to the way it was in the 1960s.”
Bristol Memorial Woodlands creates a 100 acre forest held in Trust for future generations to visit.
Those transported to their final resting place in the restored hearse rest amid English woodland where only native trees and flowers are planted.