A FUNERAL directors is toasting its rapid rise after being recognised at a national awards ceremony just three years since it began trading.

Peter Smith & Son, based in Witney, received a silver award in the South Midlands region at the 2018 Funeral Planner of the Year Awards, run by funeral plan provider Golden Charter.

The prize is given to businesses that plan up to 250 funerals per year, with the West Oxfordshire company managing 207 - an average of almost four a week.

The achievement reflects the hard work of the three directors who set up the business in 2015: father and son team Peter and Sean Smith and colleague Ian Fifield.

Despite the accolade, Peter Smith insisted the directors would continue to put the people of Witney before personal gain.

He said: “It’s a bit surreal that we’ve got so far in just three years.

“We all know a business has to make money but it’s about looking after people.

“If we can help people in their hour of need then that’s the main thing.

“When we first got going I wanted ‘compassion above profit’ to be our slogan as that’s what we’re about.

“I’m a head-behind-the-door sort of person but it was nice to be there.”

Mr Smith, 55, previously worked at another funeral planner in West Oxfordshire, but when he decided to set up his own business his son joined him.

Sean, now 28, worked for a small independent company after leaving school and leapt at the chance to enter a trade his father had worked in for years.

The company, based on Burwell Drive, built up a positive reputation and has delivered 180 pre-paid funerals in the last two years.

This alerted Golden Charter, who nominated Peter Smith & Son for the Funeral Planner of the Year Awards, which celebrate independent funeral directors who are excelling in promoting pre-paid funeral plans.

Hosted by radio DJ Ken Bruce, the ceremony took place at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh earlier this month, featuring a performance by world-famous band the Red Hot Chilli Pipers.

Sean Smith said: “The moment we found out we’d won was very overwhelming as we were up against funeral directors trading for much longer than us.

“It’s been a big confidence boost that people wanted to follow us and put their funerals in our hands.”

In addition to the silver award, the Woodland Trust has dedicated trees on behalf of Peter Smith and Son, which are to be planted locally at Stratfield Brake near Kidlington in recognition of the company’s achievement.

Golden Charter CEO Suzanne Grahame said: “The respected and caring work of independent funeral directors within their local communities often goes unrecognised and so it gives me great pleasure to congratulate the team at Peter Smith and Son for their tremendous achievement in winning this award.

“The award recognises the excellent service the team has delivered to their local community, by helping individuals through the funeral plan process and supporting families when they need it the most.”