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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stated that "the regulations have no general application per se. They are brought into force in
"individual cases by the following process: Whenever the Secretary of State is asked to approve
"a new burial ground, he gives his approval conditionally on the observance of the regulations
"—in London all new burial grounds require his approval, and it may therefore be taken for
"granted that most, if not all, the burial grounds opened in the metropolis, as defined by
"schedule B of the Act, are subject to some regulations of the Secretary of State—which of the
"six different sets of regulations they are subject to would depend on which of them was the one
"in use at the date when the particular burial ground was opened."

(88.) The following is an abstract in a tabular form of the regulations as revised at different dates since 1853. One or other of these indicate the conditions of approval of the cemeteries established since that date—

Year when regulations were made.Area of grave space required.Least depth of coffin from surface.Interval which shall elapse between interments.1Is foot of earth to be left between coffins?Is there a regulation prohibiting more than one burial in a grave at one time?*
1. 1853If 17 yrs. of age or over. ft. ft. 9 x 4If between 7—17 yrs. of age. ft. ft. 7 x 3If between 0—7 yrs. of age. ft. in. ft. in. 59 x 293ft.—4ft.If 16 yrs. of age or over. 14 yrs.If between 7—16 yrs. of age. 10 yrs.If between 0—7 yrs. of age. 7 yrs.No. If corpse be undecayed, remains not to be disturbed, and grave not to be used. Eighteen inches of soil to be left over last coffin in private graves.Whenever a burial has taken place grave to be forthwith filled up with earth.
2. 1857-1863If 12 yrs. of age or over. ft. ft. 9 x 4If between 0—12 yrs. of age. ft. ft. 6 x 33ft.—4ft.If 12 yrs. of age or over. 14 yrs.If between 0—12 yrs. of age. 8 yrs.One foot to be left undisturbed, and, if offensive, soil not to be touched. No remains to be removed.One body only shall be buried in a grave at one time.
3. 1863If 12 yrs. of age or over. ft. ft. 9 x 4If between 0—12 yrs. of age. ft. ft. 6 x 3 or 4½ X 4Ditto.Ditto.DittoOne body only to be buried in a common earth grave at one time.
4.-1882-1893DittoDittoDittoDittoOne body only to be buried in a grave at one time.
5.—1893DittoDittoDittoDittoOne body only shall be buried in an unwalled grave at one time.
6.—Present date. Form B—For general use.DittoDittoDittoDittoOne body only shall be buried in any common earthen grave at one time.
Form A—For use in special cases.No earthen grave to be dug within 1 foot of any otherDittoDittoDittoOne body only shall be buried in any common earthen grave on same day unless every coffin be forthwith covered with earth at least 1 foot thick, closely rammed and never to be disturbed.

All the regulations require cemeteries to be kept drained, so as to prevent any water remaining in any
grave or vault.
Since the first framing of regulations in 1853 the requirements have been the same as regards (excluding
consideration of requirements as to family graves) spare of grave, least depth of coffin from surface, and interval of
time which is to elapse before a grave can be used a second time, except that between 1853 and 1863 a slight and not
important revision was made as to space required for graves of children.
As regards private or family graves the only difference in the regulations is that those of 1853 required in
the case of wall-graves or vaults an air-tight metallic coffin, whereas the subsequent regulations require that
each body be entombed separately in an air-tight manner, i.e., properly cemented stone or brickwork, which
shall never be disturbed. In each earth grave burial can take place at any time on request of relatives.
Since 1857 the regulations have required that one foot of earth shall be left undisturbed over last buried
coffin when a second interment takes place. This evidently applies either to a private earth grave or to one
which has not been purchased. In the set of regulations previous to this date, viz., 1853, the requirement was
18 inches in the case of private graves, and if in any grave the body was found to be undecayed the grave was
not to be used.
Since 1857 there has been a regulation prohibiting more than one burial at a time in a grave, but the
wording is not always the same, thus, in the regulations of 1857 and 1882 the requirement refers to "a grave";
in those of 1863, to"a common earthen grave"; in those of 1893, to " an unwalled grave" ; and in those of the
present date, to "any common earthen grave."
* Excluding private graves.