London's Pulse: Medical Officer of Health reports 1848-1972

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London County Council 1900

[Report of the Medical Officer of Health for London County Council]

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Condon County Council.
Report by the Medical Officer of Health presenting a report by Dr. C. W. F. Young,
Assistant Medical Officer of Health, as to the condition of the Cemeteries and
Burial Grounds chiefly used by the population of the County of London, as to
whether further provision for burial is required, and whether further regulation
is necessary in the interest of public health and decency.
(Printed by order of the Public Health Committee, 22nd Jane, 1899.)
Public Health Department,
8, St. Martin's-place, W.C.
(1.) With a view to obtaining information necessary for a report to the Council, Dr. Young has
visited the burial grounds in use in London and the burial grounds situated beyond the limits of the
county, but in which the London dead are largety buried. Letters of inquiry have, moreover, been
addressed to cemetery companies and burial boards, and every effort made to ascertain the circumstances
of all such burial grounds. These efforts have been in great part successful, and a large
amount of information has been obtained which is incorporated in Dr. Young's report.
(2.) It will be well to state briefly the difficulties which attend any effort to form an estimate of the
duration of time in which the existing grounds will be available for burial. Apart from the fact that
the use of the burial grounds visited by Dr. Young is not limited to the London population, further
difficulty results from these burial grounds containing two classes of graves, the one private, the other
common graves. Private graves may each receive only one, or more than one body, the fact whether
a private grave is used for subsequent interments after the first burial depending on family circumstances,
which must differ very greatly. Hence, there are rights of burial in numerous private graves
which may or may not be exercised, and nothing but the lapse of time can determine whether these
rights will be exercised. Again the number of bodies which are interred in common, graves differs
very much in the several burial grounds. There is no regulation which limits the depth of a grave,
and the practice of the owners of burial grounds in this respect varies. In some of the cemeteries
as many as 12 or 15 bodies are interred in the same grave one above the other ; in other cemeteries only
four or five bodies are thus interred. In the Woking Cemetery, with few exceptions, no unpurchased
grave is used for the burial of members of more than one family. In the Jewish Burial Grounds not
more than one body is interred in any grave. And again, the superficial area of a grave in the
several burial grounds is not the same, and thus the number of graves per acre differs. Apart from
these considerations, increase in the adoption of the practice of cremation may possibly affect the
(3.) These circumstances make very hazardous any attempt to estimate the length of time during
which the existing provision will suffice. The following statement may, however, be of interest in
this connection. There are in the burial grounds, as a whole, about 41 burials in common graves to
every burial in a private grave, and if we assume that every common grave will receive on the average
six bodies and every private grave three bodies, it follows that a burial ground will require four private
graves to nine common graves. Now there are in the burial grounds included in Dr. Young's report
about 1,300 acres of land purchased for burial purposes and not yet utilised, and it is possible to
ascertain on such assumption how long this ground will be available for interment of the number
of bodies supplied by the population of the administrative county of London and of Greater London
with death-rates of 16, 18, and 20 per 1,000 living. Thus—

(4.) Table showing the number of years for which 1,300 acres is sufficient provision assuming (a) 1,000 graves per acre, (b)750 graves per acre, (c) 500 graves per acre, and death rates of (1) 16 per 1,000, (2) 18 per 1,000, and (3) 20 per 1,000 per annum, and assuming also that the population of the administrative county of London is uniformly increasing throughout the whole period at the same rate as between 1891 and 1896, and that of Greater London at the same rate as between 1881 and 1891—

Assuming death rates ofAdministrative County of London.Greater London.
1,000 graves per acre.750 graves per acre.500 graves per acre.1,000 graves per acre.750 graves per acre.500 graven per acre.
(1) 16 per 1,00065.452.437.643.234.925.4
(2) 18 „59.847.634.039.631.923.0
(3) 20 „55.143.731.036.729.421.1