'Fake mourners' were more popular in Victorian England (abfabulous.co.uk)
'Fake mourners' were more popular in Victorian England (abfabulous.co.uk)

A business in Essex is offering a service where actors attend funerals as 'professional grievers' to those worried the service could be low in numbers.

Ian Robertson, the founder of Rent-a-Mourner in Braintree, Essex, hires out people to attend a funeral and behave as if they knew the deceased in front of their family and friends.

The service has 20 workers on their books who can be hired for £45 to attend the funeral, wake, or both.

While the service may seem unusual in Britain, the idea of hiring out grievers to attend a funeral has been popular in China for a number of years.

Describing their service, the website says: "Whether you need to introduce new faces, increase perceived popularity or simply increase numbers, we are here to help. We can arrange personal meetings or telephone conferences with you to establish exactly what you require and exactly how to deliver it to you.

"We will take your guidance on how you would like us to integrate and mix with your other guests. We will remain discreet and professional at all times. We will also strongly adhere to dress codes and are always prompt and on time."

Robertson told the Daily Telegraph: "We were actually inspired by the market growth in China. The Middle Eastern way is to provide wailers - crying women - as opposed to the quiet, dignified methods we use.

"Our staff will meet the client beforehand and agree 'the story', so our staff will either have known the deceased professionally or socially.

"They will be informed of the deceased's background, achievements, failures etc. so they can converse with other mourners with confidence."

Having set up the company in January 2012, Robertson says he has now taken more than 50 bookings for the service.

He added he hoped to expand the business, as 60 requests had to be turned down as the location of the funeral was too far for his hired mourners to attend.

While there are certainly unusual elements about this service, it does highlight the number of people who are buried with little or no mourners to pay their respects after they die.

In February, hundreds of complete strangers attended the funeral of former marine James McConnell following a Facebook appeal from a vicar who feared he would be buried without mourners.

There were fears the only people who would attend 70-year-old's funeral would be people from the care home in Hampshire here he died as he had no close family.