The Old Mortuary is in many ways an accidental project. The old Co-op mortuary had housed nothing more exciting than headstones for many years. Rarely visited by Co Op staff it was in a decaying and damp state of repair . The ingress of water through its leaking roof had caused Hannah an immense amount of damp problems in her adjoining cottage. Vast amounts of money were spent trying to remedy the situation from within the cottage . Communication with the Co-op Undertakers Department asking them to fix their building was difficult and always fruitless because buildings were the responsibility of the Co-op Headquarters in Manchester. Locally negotiations were thwarted by what seemed like constant boundary reorganisation moving the responsibility for Saltash around various bigger branches in the area.
An unexpected breakthrough came when we once again started the process of asking them to fix the roof. After hours on the phone listening to soothing undertaker music I was put through to a man who didn’t particularly want to fix the roof but who did want to sell us the building. If only it had been that simple , but two years later after curious transactions with an organisation that buries all its usual clients we were the proud owners of a locked up and unseen, inside, building.
I must admit that buying something you have only ever seen from outside is a risk but we were desperate to banish the damp in the existing cottage so we really didn’t care. Buying and negotiating something you’ve not ever seen over a two year period also creates a certain level of fantasy. By the time the keys were in our possession and our cash was in the hands of the Co-op I had convinced myself we had bought a gothic masterpiece. Nothing could be further from the truth. We had bought a between the wars utilitarian mash up with fake panelling and an old chest of drawers topped by an old door , draped in faded velvet, that served as the viewing platform for the ‘Loved One’. Beyond that was about a ton of rat poo and very little else. The showroom for the Monumental Masonry was monumentally fake. White fibreboard and white grave gravel created the illusion of heavenly calm. In truth the whole thing was so soaked in rat urine it smelled a lot closer to purgatory.
to be continued