The History & Legacy of James Brown & Sons

From humble beginnings, James Brown & Sons has developed into an established business with a record of supporting the local communities of Belfast and beyond.

1898. James Brown and Elizabeth Harris came from Ballybay, Co. Monaghan to Belfast to work. James worked at the coal quay on the river Lagan and Elizabeth was employed by Beechfield Works as a stitcher. Together they saved money to buy a horse and harness and James then worked his horse for a local coal merchant, William Hinde.
In 1900, they were married in Belmont Presbyterian Church and rented their first house in East Belfast.
1904 – 1935. James Brown bought a cart and became a coal merchant laying the foundation of the business. The cart was replaced by a horse-drawn lorry, James Brown Coal Merchant and Furniture Removers was born.

James Brown built a house and new premises in Bloomfield Avenue. The removal business expanded and over time the company ceased trading in coal.

In 1932, the business arranged its first funeral and from then has continued to serve Belfast and the surrounding area as Funeral Directors.

1936. The business moved to new facilities on Newtownards Road. The Removal Service grew and in conjunction with Evan Cook Depositories Ltd. London provided furniture removals throughout England.

1954. James Brown & Sons celebrates its Golden Jubilee. To commemorate this occasion, an extension to the Newtownards Road premises was opened on 3rd April 1954.

During the succeeding years the business continued to grow and to meet the needs the fleets of lorries, hearses and limousines were added to.

Period of expansion
In 1960 James Brown, grandson of the founder, joined the business.
The funeral business was expanded in 1970 with the opening of a new funeral home on Lisburn Road, and in 1980, another funeral home was opened at Whiteabbey.In 1983, James Brown & Sons purchased the funeral business of John Gray & Co. Bangor.
The Brown family sold the business in 1988 to a long-established London-based funeral directors which owned in excess of one hundred funeral businesses throughout various part of England. Between 1988 and the present, that company evolved into to a much larger organisation through a number of mergers and takeovers. In 2000 the business in Northern Ireland was sold to a Co-operative.
In 1989, the furniture removal business, which traded under the name ‘Browns of Belfast’, was sold.
2004 – Celebrating 100 Years
In 2004 James Brown & Sons celebrated 100 years in business with a service of thanksgiving in Westbourne Presbyterian Church where James and Elizabeth Brown worshipped during their early days in East Belfast. An official dinner was also held in Belfast City Hall which was attended by over one hundred guests.
Community recognition

2011. James Brown was made an MBE for his contribution to the local community.

2017. James Brown receives the Eastside Award for Outstanding Contribution to East Belfast.

“In recognition of the part I played in East Belfast I was presented in 2017 with the Eastside Awards Outstanding Contribution Award which meant more to me than words could have expressed,” said James.

“I was humbled to have been the first person nominated by the Eastside Awards committee for this award on behalf of the community and I shall be forever grateful.”

2019. Co-operative Group sold Browns and its other funeral businesses in N Ireland to the present owners Funeral Partners Ltd., the third largest funeral business in the UK. At that stage the trading names of the Dunmurry and Knockbreda branches were changed to James Brown & Sons.
James Brown & Sons sets up its Community Fund, continuing to support the local area, funding local groups to benefit the youth, elderly, those living with disabilities, and other vulnerable people in the local Belfast community.

The funding focuses on programmes that benefit local communities in the heart of Belfast and the surrounding areas. So far, £45,000 has been pledged to help our local communities.

Today, James Brown & Sons now comprises 7 funeral homes across the wider Belfast area. James Brown, grandson of the founder, is a consultant in the business, and together with his daughter Beverley, carries on the family tradition.

Looking to the future

In 2029, James Brown & Sons will celebrate 125 years in business. We are proud to have served our community for all this time, and look forward to what the future will bring.

Contact us


028 9002 3223
Unit 3 Beverley Shopping Centre
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438 Shore Road
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34 Knockbreda Road
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139 Kingsway
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533/535 Lisburn Road
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719 Upper Newtownards Road
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300 Newtownards Road
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