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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feet by 3 feet for children under 12 years. The proportion of deaths of children under 12 years
is somewhat more than a third of the total number, but for the purpose of this computation it
may be taken as one-third.
(68.) The deaths in 1897 therefore would be made up of 52,806 adults and 26,403 children
under 12 years, and allowing the above spaces to each of these they would require the following
amount of ground, namely—
Adults 211,224 square yards.
Children 52,806 „ „
Total 264,030 square yards.

In other words 55 acres per annum would be required tor the dead of the bounty of London, increase of population, with a larger number of deaths, would necessitate a yearly provision of space greater than this, but in connection with this the following figures as to the yearly number of deaths in the administrative County of London are of interest—

189189,0174,232,188 (census)
189681,9634,433,018 (census)

(69.) the area given above does not include provision tor paths, or tor a belt of unused ground
around the boundary of the cemetery. For these purposes it is computed, in a memorandum of
the Local Government Board in regard to cemeteries, that 1/6th of the total area should be allowed
for paths and buildings, and ¼th to 1/3th according to the configuration of the site, for a neutral
belt separating the actual burial ground from adjoining property.
(70.) From this estimate as to the area required for one year, it would be possible, with a
knowledge of the period which must elapse before ground can again be used a second time for
purposes of burial, to give an estimate as to the area which would serve for all time.
(71.) There are three factors which to some extent qualify an estimate formed as above, and it
would be necessary to make allowance for the influence which they would have upon the rate of use of
the available ground. Two of these factors tend to increase, while the other tends to lessen the
amount of ground which would be required in the future. So that in practice they would probably
more or less cancel each other. The factors referred to are—
(i.) The increase in the adoption of cremation of the dead body.
(ii.) The persistence of the skeleton in the grave.
(iii.) The custom of allotting graves for private or family use in perpetuity.
(72.) (i.) The influence of cremation—In a speech recently delivered before the Cremation
Society, Sir Henry Thompson, the chairman, reviewed the progress of cremation since the
society was established in 1874. Prior to 1883 the society had given an assurance
to the Home Secretary that no cremation would be carried out without previous
leave from him, and cremation cannot be said to have come into recognised use
before this year. In 1883 Sir James Stephens gave judgment in regard to a case
of cremation which occurred in Wales, and which was the subject of legal proceedings, that cremation
was a legal proceeding if no nuisance were caused. In 1885 the first cremation of a human
body at the society's premises at St. John's, Woking, took place. Since that date the numbers in
each year have shown a slow increase. Thus in
1885 the number of bodies cremated was 3
1895 „ „ „ 150
1898 „ „ „ 240
(73.) Further, during this interval crematoria have been erected in other parts of the country
as follows—
At Manchester, opened in 1892.
At Glasgow, opened in 1894.
At Liverpool, opened in 1896.
At Hull, in course of erection.
(74.) The Vestry of Camberwell in 1897 appointed a sub-committee to consider and report on
the subject of cremation as a possible alternative to burial. This sub-committee recommended
in favour of powers being obtained to enable a crematorium to be erected by the local authority,
and this was adopted by the vestry. The City of London has also decided to seek for power to
erect a crematorium at its cemetery at Ilford.
(75.) Other metropolitan authorities have also considered the question, and have adopted a
similar recommendation, and it appears from information obtained by the sub-committee of the
Camberwell Vestry that a large number of local authorities throughout the country have expressed
approval of such amendments in the Acts relating to the disposal of the dead as may enable them
to provide and maintain crematoria.
(76.) The Council also has had under consideration the question of obtaining powers for the
erection and maintenance of a crematorium.
(77.) In a recent number of the Medical News, published in New York, the following figures
are given as to cremation on the Continent of Europe during 1898—
Gotha 179 bodies.
Heidelberg 105 „
Hamburg 98 „
Jena 21 „