The Necropolis Bus Company began in the 19th century as a private funeral bus service. The Necropolis vehicles or ‘Carcass Coaches’ as they were known to Londoners were able to convey the deceased, pall bearers and up to 50 mourners (no standing) to the final resting place. Each bus had an onboard conductor/chief mourner and a special siren or ‘mourning whistle’ to warn pedestrians of the bus’s approach. The sound of the whistle prompted gentlemen to remove their hats and bow their heads as a mark of passing respect.
Regular service ran until 1967 when a tragic fire at the company depot in South Dulstead razed the building to the ground and destroyed almost the entire fleet of buses. Only one vehicle was salvaged from the ashes and was locked in a storage facility for 40 years. It has now been restored to its original design and is operated by NECROBUS as a sightseeing service in central London.
The bus is painted in the company’s traditional colour of midnight black. The interior seating is arranged in ‘railway style’ for comfort and so that passengers can grieve openly and offer condolences to each other. Decorative features include lamps and window curtains, which were always drawn if a coffin was stored in the vehicle overnight. This is based on the superstition that a departed spirit might be trapped by its own reflection in the glass and would be unable to pass on to the other world. It also helped to keep the bodies cool in the summer months.