A CHARD and Ilminster business is celebrating after adding a fifth generation of qualified funeral directors to the firm.

AJ Wakely was formed more than 100 years ago in the village of Broadwindsor in Dorset, and has been a staple in the Chard and Ilminster area since opening branches in the towns in the 1980s.

Arthur and Ernie Wakely were originally carpenters and gate makers who expanded their business to include a funeral service.

Arthur’s son Jack came on board before Arthur passed in 1936, and it was Jack that started the firm’s expansion.

In 1972, Jack’s eldest son David joined the firm, and in 1982 Jack’s younger son Clive was hired as well.

The two took over in 1991, David’s son Simon joined in 1995, and the firm continued to grow.

David passed in 2009 and then Jack in 2011.

But now, Simon’s sister Leah is on board, and Clive’s son Richard has joined the firm too.

Leah joined the firm in 1996 before leaving in 2003 to start a family. She returned in 2014, and has now completed her training to be a funeral director. Leah is now based out of the Chard and Ilminster office.

Richard joined in 2014 after a number of years of charity work in the Philippines, and is now directing funerals for Sherborne and Wincanton offices.

Leah said: “I really enjoyed the Diploma in Funeral Arranging and Administration course, learning other aspects of the funeral industry that I had not experienced before.

“I feel so pleased to have gained the diploma qualification on behalf of my family.”

Clive and Simon Wakely, directors of AJ Wakely & Sons, said: “It’s great to see two additional family members with recognized qualifications.

“The directors and our supporting staff are continuing to invest for the future to make sure we offer the best service possible to our clients and the bereaved.

“It is especially great to see Leah as our local funeral director in our Chard and Ilminster office.”