A procession of prodigious length passed through Mitcham, consisting of a hearse and feathers, drawn by four plumed horses, the corpse and coffin being borne on men’s shoulders immediately behind, with flowers plentifully strewn on the coffin lid. Behind were two mourning coaches, followed by a long string of vehicles of every conceivable description, from double chaises to donkey-barrows, and every kind of truck and cart in use among the costermongers’ fraternity. Some of the women were passionately weeping, and all the motley crew of this singular funeral cortege were apparently in sincere mourning for the deceased.
The funeral was that of a poor old woman named Hilliard, who kept a small fruit stall in “Buck’s Head” Yard, Mitcham. The deceased had at one time been in a respectable station, and had hit upon the fancy of having a grand funeral. In order to carry out her notion she joined a number of burial clubs, and with the money due to her at death, the whole of the expense of the procession was defrayed.
A singular precaution was taken by this old lady. A quantity of rare old china, which she was afraid her relations would quarrel over, she directed by her will to be buried with her.
And the funeral ended with a peculiar custom, probably dating from remote antiquity, and reminding us of the articles found in ancient graves. After the body had been lowered into the grave, the mourners proceeded to throw in after it apples, walnuts, and other kinds of fruit sold by the deceased during her lifetime.
Source: Pearson’s Weekly – Saturday 21 March 1891 from the British Newspaper Archive (subscription required)