Group News

WN Group Intervention Helps to Save Scarborough Jobs!

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On 14/07/2014, the Woodall Nicholson Group, based in Westhoughton, Bolton UK, acquired the intellectual property and manufacturing assets of the former Bluebird Vehicles Limited.

The deal will witness the Orion and Tucana low floor buses being brought into Woodall Nicholson’s Mellor bus business which manufactures a range of accessible bus and van conversions in its Rochdale factory.

It is understood that the deal will assist in saving jobs in Scarborough as it enables Bluebird Engineering Solutions to concentrate its resources upon its growing subcontract bus manufacturing facility.

Woodall Nicholson Managing Director Geoff Hudson commented;

“We are very proud to add the Bluebird range of buses to our automotive portfolio. The acquisition will generate more jobs in the North West and further strengthen the Mellor range of market leading accessible vehicles”.


Staff from Mellor Coachcraft will be in contact with Bluebird suppliers and customers in due course to provide them with further information and key contacts to enable a smooth transition and minimum impact on production.

This deal will underpin the growth and success of the Mellor business which has gone from strength to strength since the financially strong Woodall Nicholson was acquired by new investors in July 2013.

Coleman Milne moves customer-care forward with brand new reception facilities

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With an enviable heritage as one of the UK’s premier suppliers of funeral vehicles, Coleman Milne has built its reputation on the foundation of excellent customer care. Not content to rest on its laurels, Coleman Milne has constantly sought ways to improve its relationships with customers.

As part of this ongoing campaign, the company has recently begun a programme of improvements to the facilities at the Westhoughton headquarters. The first phase of this development has been the refurbishment of the public areas of the factory and offices. A complete refit of the reception and other areas accessible to visitors has been completed in contemporary styling to Coleman Milne’s exacting standards to give customers an inspirational experience upon their arrival.

To celebrate the completion of this first stage, the company held an open evening in the new reception area which was attended by various friends and colleagues. The guest of honour on this celebratory occasion was Simon Fisher, President of the NAFD at the time, who performed the opening ceremony and later said, “it is a pleasure to be invited to open these outstanding new facilities. Coleman Milne have, for many years, delivered excellent customer service to NAFD members. This new facility not only reinforces that reputation, but actively demonstrates their intentions to build stronger, more valued relationships with customers.”

Coleman Milne Managing Director, Geoff Hudson said, “This enjoyable event was a fantastic opportunity to welcome our industry friends and guests to join us in celebrating the first stage of our ongoing campaign to offer Coleman Milne customers the very best service. We are proud of our new reception and look forward to welcoming more of our guests to our new customer-friendly environment.”

Joseph Edwards & Sons continue with Coleman Milne

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Joseph Edwards & Sons have been operating as a family business for over 125 years making them one of the most established names in the Cheshire and Stoke on Trent area. Times have changed since 1882 when they were established, and now have modern offices with lounge areas, peaceful chapels of rest, modern mortuary facilities and a garage which houses their brand new fleet of funeral vehicles including a private ambulance, hearse and limousines. The vehicles are a very important part of the service they provide and reliability was a key factor when they chose to continue with Coleman Milne and renewed their fleet with a Cardinal Hearse and two Dorchester Limousines, all with an EcoBoost Engine.

Joseph Edwards_Sir Stanley Matthews

Joseph Edwards & Sons are famous for taking care of the funeral arrangements for Sir Stanley Matthews’ Funeral. Picture shows their Coleman Milne Hearse in the funeral procession 14 years ago.

George Brooke Ltd. continue to increase their fleet


George Brooke Funeral Directors is a family run business that has served the local community since 1952. The first privately owned Chapel of Rest in Dewsbury was built by George Brooke more than half a century ago. The business has grown to be the largest independent family run organisation in the area with one of the most modern fleet of ceremonial vehicles. Photo shows Neil Brooke taking delivery of the latest Ford Dorchester MK11 Limousine in a stunning Garnet colour, from Coleman Milne’s Operations Manager, Mick Barlow.

Mercedes Hearse for Beckfords Funeral Services



Beckford’s is a family run business based in Guernsey, and is the oldest funeral company on the island. They have been serving the local community for over 135 years by providing a complete and tailored funeral service while maintaining an independent status thus offering an unbiased choice to their valued clients.

Photo shows managing director Jane Duquemin and chairman Philip Duquemin with Peter Potter of Coleman Milne who personally delivered the new Mercedes Hearse to Guernsey. Mr Potter also stayed to carry out driver training and also to help register the hearse.

Philip believes that the new hearse is the first of the latest generation of Mercedes vehicles on the Channel Islands. It is also the latest new investment for the company having recently had very smart new premises built to complement the service that they have offered for 135 years so far.

Pendle Funeral Services in Cornwall

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Tony and Dee Richards of Pendle Funeral Services in Cornwall, taking delivery of the Ford Cardinal Mk 11 Hearse, with their son Jamie who has recently joined the family business. 

Pendle Funeral Services is a well-established independent family business owned and run by Tony and Dee Richards, serving Helston, the Lizard Peninsula and surrounding areas in Cornwall.  The extreme weather conditions in February this year had a significant impact upon the Firs Funeral Home, as windy conditions lead to 15 mature fir trees falling like dominoes in a single night.

“After securing everyone’s safety by closing the main road, the first thought was to move the recently purchased Ford Cardinal Mk 11 Hearse which was located perilously in the garages below the falling trees.  Fortunately, nobody was injured and no property was damaged, although the incident caused quite a stir in local and social media.  We were overwhelmed by the local community’s response and their contribution to the clean up operation.  We’re now debating a new name for “The Firs”; perhaps “The Tree Stumps” would be appropriate for the time being!”

Pendle’s have built a strong and growing reputation for their caring and dignified service to families for over 20 years. Over time, they have acquired an elegant and high-quality fleet of vehicles from Coleman Milne: Tony and his team have always been delighted with the service and the quality of vehicles and they will be looking to add to their fleet in the coming months.

Tony and Dee’s son, Jamie, joins Pendle’s after 5 years working in retail management following a degree obtained from the University of the West of England in Bristol.  He is looking forward to working and learning alongside the experienced team at Pendle’s.


Cowburn Funeral Service



Cowburn Funeral Service was started in Westhoughton in 1905 by John Cowburn.  Like many funeral directors John was a joiner and builder who made coffins in his workshop alongside window frames, staircases and doors.  Handwritten records show he arranged his first funeral in November 1905.  In 1906, in his first full year as a Funeral Director, he arranged 16 funerals and in December 1910 he helped to arrange the funerals of 15 men who lost their lives in the Pretoria pit disaster, one of the UK’s worst mining tragedy’s.


In the 1920’s Albert Worthington started as an apprentice joiner.  Albert showed he had an aptitude for funeral directing as well as joinery work and he became John’s business partner, taking over sole control when John retired in the 1940’s.  In the 1950’s Albert was joined in the business by his son John.  Cowburn Funeral Service is a long standing member of the NAFD and is still an independent business, owned and run by the Worthington family with Albert’s grandson Ian now the main Funeral Director.


Ian Worthington, Funeral Director said ‘Coleman Milne is only a mile down the road from us and we have purchased a number of vehicles from them over the years.  We decided about 6 months ago it was time to upgrade our fleet so I spoke to Eddie to brief him on our requirements.  We are really pleased with the results.  They are a matching pair in immaculate condition and they will help us to continue to supply an excellent service to our clients.  We have been running the vehicles for 2 weeks now and we have noticed how much more fuel efficient they are.  They have been well designed and are practical and easy to use’.

Thomas Bragg Independent Funeral Directors

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Thomas Bragg Independent Funeral Directors have been serving the families of the bereaved since 1869. Now run and owned by fourth generation of the Bragg family, brothers Malcom, Gordon and Richard Bragg operate two sites in Shirley and Knowle in the Midlands.

The family have recently taken delivery of the very first Surelift removal vehicle based on the contemporary Ford Transit Custom. The new, mid-size option from the Ford Transit family is the most recent addition to the Coleman Milne range of removal ambulances. The fresh faced Transit Custom and the Surelift deck from Coleman Milne provides the perfect marriage of style and functionality to offer a robust and discreet removal solution.

The Transit Custom is their fifth removal vehicle from and with their twenty-second Coleman Milne ceremonial vehicle in build at the factory, Richard Bragg said ‘We have been a Coleman Milne customer for over 15 years. We always go to Kevin Heath for our fleet purchases and are always thrilled with the results’.

The Surelift system is designed with ease of operation and safety of equal importance to eliminate the risks associated with manual handling. With a quiet and efficient linear actuator in each corner, the Surelift is capable of lifting 300kg on its top deck which makes it a hugely popular option for funeral operators. The Surelift is an advanced removal vehicle that embodies both the quality and endurance of Coleman Milne products.

‘Friends Reunited’ as Woodall Nicholson Group attracts new Investors



Woodall Nicholson Group – one of the UK’s longest established coachbuilding businesses – has been acquired by new investors.

Mosaic Private Equity, RooGreen Ventures LLP and Enterprise Ventures have each made a significant investment in the business, which has a turnover of £24m and employs 180 people at factories in Westhoughton and Rochdale.

Woodall Nicholson, which incorporates Coleman Milne, Mellor Coachcraft and Mellor Vancraft manufactures and sells funeral vehicles, buses and specialist vehicles for the emergency services.  Its history dates back to the 1820’s when its major activity was building horse-drawn hansom cabs and carriages.

The deal brings with it a re-union of ‘old friends’, given that the principals and investors – Brian Davidson, Paul Newton, Mike Rogan, Jonathan Diggines and Warwick Ley all worked together on the very successful acquisition of Scarborough based Plaxton Coachbuilders in 2004.

As part of the deal, Geoff Hudson, who has been with the business for over 30 years and is currently Group Sales Director, becomes Managing Director, while his two colleagues and co-shareholders will retire from the business.

Paul Newton, who along with Mike Rogan led the deal on behalf of Mosaic Private Equity said of the investment: “We have been tracking this business for some time now and as soon as the opportunity opened up we contacted Brian, given our friendship and positive experience with him in the sector.  We are delighted to have brought together an innovative funding model and a high calibre team of managers and investors to complete the deal.  This speaks volumes for the quality of the Woodall Nicholson business and reinforces our mantra that it’s not just the money, but the people that make the difference”.

Brian Davidson of RooGreen Ventures LLP will become Chairman of the group, while Paul Newton and Mike Rogan of Mosaic Private Equity and Warwick Ley of RooGreen Ventures will join the Board as Non-Executive Directors.  When asked to comment on the deal Brian said: “This is a bit of a departure from my normal transactions in that we have invested in a business which is already performing extremely well and has been well managed.  I am hopeful that we can make the business even better and use it as a launch pad to grow a larger scale automotive business”.

Investment Director Wayne Thomas led the deal on behalf of Enterprise Ventures.  Jonathan Diggines, Managing Director of Enterprise Ventures, said: “Enterprise Ventures is all about supporting business growth.  We are delighted to be financing such an important North West manufacturing business, with a heritage dating back for almost two centuries and strong growth potential”.

Also joining the management team, as Group Finance Director, is Dan Jackson, formerly Corporate Finance Partner at Langtons Chartered Accountants.

The deal was supported by a finance package including senior debt and working capital facilities arranged by Paul Thomas and Steve Alcock at the company’s incumbent bankers, NatWest.

John Daly of RSM Tenon advised the vendors, while his colleague Stephen Green provided Vendor Due Diligence.  Jonathan Robinson of DWF provided legal advice to the investors, while Chris Moss of JMW Solicitors advised the vendors, Tim Fearn and Andy Phillips of Pinsents advised Enterprise Ventures and Rob Fawke of Pannone advised the Bank.  Tax advice for Newco was provided by Steve Talbot of Langtons.

Forty years of family heritage connects Liveseys and Coleman Milne

Livesey Funeral Services of Horwich, near Bolton has recently invested in a pre-owned hearse from trusted local specialists Coleman Milne Ltd. Their new Mercedes E Class Hearse is the latest in a series of funeral vehicles supplied by Coleman Milne to the family business, fostering a relationship which extends over many years.Tradition lies at the very heart of Livesey Funeral Services, located in Horwich near Bolton. Founded in 1848, the family owned and managed business has been nurtured by six generations and has long been a well-respected establishment serving the local community. The decision to choose Coleman Milne as the supplier stems from the consistently high quality customer service experienced by Liveseys over many years. Martyn Finch, of Liveseys Funeral Services said, “We are proud of the long tradition we share working with Coleman Milne. We choose their vehicles because we believe they are the very best and the fact that Coleman Milne are another, long-established local company means we share the same values. We particularly like the way they look after us in the same way we look after our own customers. Long may this association continue.”

Martyn is pictured outside his premises taking delivery of the new hearse from Graham Clow, Area Sales Manager of Coleman Milne, echoing the scene forty years earlier when his father-in-law, Mr. Eric Livesey was pictured accepting the keys for his new Ford Zephyr Zodiac hearse outside the same premises in 1972. It just goes to show that while fashions may fade and technology relentlessly marches on, traditions such as brand loyalty and customer service not only continue but, reassuringly, endure.