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  • By John Pateman
    Feb 3, 2012
    The expanding population in the late 19th century put huge pressure on the local graveyards, which had not been designed to cope with such numbers of deaths as were then occurring. St. Mary Cray (usually known as Star Lane Cemetery) was one of the largest, opening in 1884. As well as an attractive chapel, the cemetery was also provided with an ornate lodge (now demolished). Despite extensions, the only long-term solution was the creation of public cemeteries away from the town and village centres. John Hitchcock: ‘The public cemetery, as distinct from the churchyard, as a proper place for burial, originated in the Victorian period. Under common law, every parishioner and inhabitant of a parish had a right to be buried in his or her parish churchyard or burial ground. There were few exceptions to this right of Christian burial. An Act of 1823 put an end to the practice of burying suicides in some public highway with a stake driven through them and directed that they be buried in the... More > usual churchyard, but between the hours of 9 p.m. and midnight, and without rites of the Church. However, the compulsory dissection of murderers' bodies was not abolished until 1832, and hanging in chains lingered on until 1834. The comparatively small number of gravestones in a churchyard can belie the number of bodies buried there. The churchyard of St Martin-in-the-Fields was only 200 feet (60 metres) square yet, in the early 1840's, was estimated to contain the remains of between sixty and seventy thousand persons. Burial Grounds (as distinct from parish churchyards) were started by non-conformists in the 17th century; many more were established in the 18th century. The first public cemetery in London was established in 1827 in Kensal Green, a 79-acre site, which had separate chapels for Anglicans and Dissenters. Other landscaped public cemeteries were soon opened at Norwood (1837), Highgate (1839), Nunhead (1840), Abney Park, Stoke Newington (1840), and Tower Hamlets (1841). Before the middle of the 19th century such cemeteries were generally run as commercial ventures, but after the passing of legislation in the 1850s enforcing the closure of urban churchyards, municipal cemeteries became the rule. By 1850 most London churchyards were so overcrowded that they posed a severe health risk to those people working or living nearby. Thousands of bodies were buried in shallow pits beneath the floorboards of chapels and schools. Congregations and pupils had to breathe the foul-smelling air which resulted. A pressure group, the National Society for the Abolition of Burial in Towns, was established in 1845 and two years later the Cemeteries Clauses Act enacted general powers to establish commercial cemeteries. The Act failed in its purpose and was followed by the Burial Act of 1852, which remained the principal piece of legislation on the subject until largely repealed in 1972. The 1852 Act required the General Board of Health to establish cemeteries to deal with the problem and an immense number of parochial burial-grounds, some open to all, others set apart for the use of special denominations, were opened in various suburban districts all round London. The idea of landscaped public cemeteries came from Italy, France and Sweden. The winding, tomb-lined avenues and well-contrived vistas of the landscaped cemetery at Pere-Lachaise in Paris was widely admired. J.C. Loundon, On the Laying Out, Planting, and Managing of Cemeteries (1843) was widely influential and also led to improvements in the design of churchyards, with the construction of lych-gates and new paths and the planting of yews, cypresses, and junipers, alongside native species like lime and elm. Such ideas also influenced the layout of public crematoria after the practice of cremation was ruled legal in 1884. The public crematorium at Woking (Surrey), opened the following year, was one of the first. Economic status could effect the location of burial. Brookwood Cemetery in Woking (Surrey), opened as a private cemetery by the London Necropolis & National Mausoleum Company in 1854, and others competed to undertake contracts tendered each year by several London boroughs for the burial of their poor. Brookwood probably buried half of East London and to facilitate this Waterloo Station had a special casket-loading platform, and trains containing funeral parties ran daily to a Gothic station built within the cemetery itself. The St Marylebone Cemetery catered for the the affluent middle classes of Marylebone, Highgate and Hampstead, with a high proportion also in the professional and military occupations. Military personnel were also buried in the Royal Hospital Chelsea Burial Ground (Army) and the Royal Hospital Cemetery, East Greenwich (Navy). Certain London parishes bought parcels of newly established cemeteries; St George Hanover Square at Hanwell, and St Ann Soho, St Margaret and St John Westminster at Brookwood. At Norwood an area was reserved for the brotherhood of the Greek community in London. Foremost amongst the burial grounds devoted to dissenters was Bunhill Fields and afterwards Abney Park Cemetery. Cemetery records have sometimes been deposited at local record offices, but others are still kept at the office on the site. They usually give the name of the deceased, age, and occupation, the date of death and of burial, and the position of the grave. These records are arranged chronologically, and are not indexed alphabetically.< Less
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Product Details

First Edition
Pateran Press
October 10, 2011
Perfect-bound Paperback
Interior Ink
Black & white
0.57 lbs.
Dimensions (inches)
8.26 wide x 11.69 tall
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