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Cople Bier House

bier house on Willington Road February 2008
Bier house on Willington Road February 2008

Cople is unusual in still having a bier house (as opposed to a beerhouse, quite a different thing!). This stands near the church, now in the garden of 1 Willington Road. It was built to house the parish bier, usually a hand cart, on which coffins could be placed to be conveyed from the house of the deceased, or the place of laying out, to the church for burial.

 bier house February 2008
Bier house February 2008

The Bedfordshire Times of 23rd February 1968 reported that it was likely to be demolished:

Death of the Bier House

Cople is to lose a building believed to be the only one of its kind in the country - the parish bier house.

It is somewhat smaller than a one-car garage, built of red bricks with dark wooden beams. It stands on the south east side of All Saints parish church, Cople, facing the Willington-Cople Road.

About 100 years old, it was built to house coffins. In that era, when a village resident died, the body would be placed in a coffin which would rest in the home until the funeral.

Every village had a bier, generally kept in the church at the west end. Cople is believed to be the only place with a specific bier house.

Today coffins rest in private chapels on the undertakers; premises, are taken to the church in a hearse, and carried by bearers.

The Rev.Theodore Hayes, Vicar of Cople, said: "The bier house had ceased to be used even before I came here 17 years ago. I do not know of any othe church with a bier house. A new house has been built on the land near to the church and the bier house stands in front of its windows. The owner of the new house left it to the church - the Parochial Council and the Vicar - to decide the furture of the bier house. Frankly it has neither utility nor beauty and is in a bad state of repair. One does not anticipate any opposition to ts being demolished."

However, the bier house was not demolished, and the former Department of Environment listed the structure in 1975 as Grade II, of special interest. It is a 19th century timber-framed building, with red brick infill. The upper part of the wall is in a herring bone pattern and the structure has a clay tile roof. The gable end has Tudor-style wooden double doors and the rear gable has a three light window with leaded diamond panes. There are plain barge-boards to both gables with wooden crosses in place of finials.