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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(105.) That, if in any special case there be no reason to the contrary, permission should be given, in
regard to existing burial places, to utilise the upper layer of ground which has been already
used for common interments, and which is no longer, under existing conditions, of further use;
provided that the body be buried in a coffin of perishable material.
(106.) That perishable coffins be used in the case of all paupers or the bodies of hospital cases buried
at the expense of the guardians.
(107.) The adoption of burial under the altered conditions would do away with the present
undesirable method of common interments, and each body of adult and of child would have its
separate grave.
(108.) Secondly, it would to a large extent, if not entirely, overcome the difficulty which
exists under present conditions of having at periodical intervals to extend existing, or to provide
new cemeteries, by enabling the ground to be utilised over again after a sufficient interval has been
allowed to elapse since previous interments. It is this difficulty which, with a view to the economy of
space, has led to the present undesirable mode of interment in common graves. The persistence
of desire to erect monuments over the actual site of interment would possibly necessitate the reservation
of part of the ground for graves to be held in perpetuity, and to this extent would restrict the use of
the whole area of ground over again.
Details as to each Cemetery.
(109.) The information contained in the following account has been obtained by inspection of
the cemeteries and by personal inquiry of clerks to burial boards, superintendents of cemeteries, and
secretaries to cemetery companies. The statements made as to the amount of ground still available
for use should be regarded as approximate estimates based upon the intimate knowledge
possessed by those who have had, for the most part, to do with these places of burial for a
number of years.
(110.) In the case of Paddington, the clerk of the burial committee of the vestry has been good
enough to obtain, by going through the registers since the date of opening of the cemetery, the
number of graves already used which are still available for further burial, and the total number
of interments which can still be made in them.
(111.) In the following account the cemeteries have been arranged in alphabetical order, and
are given in two classes, namely, those situated—
(a) Within the administrative County of London.
(b) Without the administrative County of London.
(112.) The administrative county differs from the metropolis as defined in the Burials Act,
1852, in that the latter includes the parish of Willesden, but excludes the parishes of Lee, El'.ham,
Kidbrook, Lewisham, and the hamlet of Penge.
A.—Cemeteries situated within the County of London.
(113.) Abney-park cemetery—Opened 1839.
Situated at Stoke Newington, the cemetery is surrounded on all sides by houses in proximity
to its boundaries.
The soil for the greater part consists of London clay, but over a small extent sandy soil,
varying in depth from 2 feet to 2½ feet lies over the clay. In some parts a running sand is met
with at a depth of about 12 feet.
The cemetery is drained at depths of 8 to 15 feet by brick drains, which discharge into
the metropolitan sewers. All these drains are laid underneath pathways; they drain the ground
and surface water.
The total area is between 32 and 33 acres. Of this there are, it is stated, about 10 acres
not yet buried in, consisting of small plots and single spaces, the largest plot being about 3/4 acre
in area. This distribution of what is regarded as virgin soil is owing to the fact that in the past
it has been customary to sell only every alternate space. This ground will, it is estimated, probably
avail for 50,000 interments. As regards the ground already used, about 15 acres of
private graves can still be buried in, and will, it is expected, provide for 25,000 burials, if all is
The area of space generally purchased in the case of private graves is 8 feet 6 inches by
3 feet, 9 feet by 4 feet, or 10 feet by 4 feet. Common graves are all 25½ square feet.
The usual depth required by purchasers of private graves is 12 feet. A greater depth than
14 to 15 feet is discouraged by prohibitive charge for excavation. Common graves are from 14
to 20 feet deep, and usually 8 to 10 bodies are interred. It takes from a week to ten days to fill
a common grave, but during the summer time they are not kept open so long, so as to prevent
any risk of nuisance.
The catacombs at this cemetery are never used now. The use of brick graves has alfo
much diminished.

The total number of interments in 1897 was—


(114.) Brompton cemetery—Opened 1840.
Situated at West Brompton, the cemetery is bounded on the south-west by the West
London Junction Railway, immediately beyond which are two athletic grounds, and one of the