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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hospitals of the Metropolitan Asylums Board. On the remaining three sides there are houses in
close proximity to the cemetery.
The ground is flat, and the soil consists of river sand and gravel, which extends to a
greater depth than it is ever necessary to excavate for a grave. The cemetery is not deep
drained. Sub-soil water is reached at a depth of 7 or 8 feet at the northern part, but at
other parts the ground is dry to a depth of 17 feet.
The total area is 40 acres, and all this, except 1 to 2 acres of ground comprising the
margins at either side of the central avenue, and plots of small extent between graves, has
been buried in. Allowing an average of 4 bodies to a grave the virgin ground will, it is estimated,
avail for the interment of some 7,200 bodies. As regards the area already used for
graves, about 12 acres is entirely filled up. In the remaining 25 acres the graves are still available
for re-opening. No grave is re-opened unless a depth of 5 feet can be dug after allowing one
foot of soil over the last interred coffin.
The area of grave space is mostly 7 feet by 3 feet; a few are 8 feet by 3 feet or 9 feet by
4 feet. There arc no common graves in use now. The depth varies from 7 feet to 17 feet.
At this cemetery there are many mausoleums, one was in course of erection at date of
visit. There are also catacombs and brick graves and vaults. The use of the former is not now
allowed, and demand for the latter has much diminished of late years. About six brick graves
were sold during 1897.
The total number of interments in 1897 was 738.
All these, except 98, were burials in graves already used.
(115.) Camberwell cemetery—Opened 1850.
Situated at East Dulwich, near Honor Oak station on the London, Chatham, and Dover
Railway, which bounds the cemetery on the east. On the south and south-east there
are houses close to the cemetery.
The ground is for the most part on a slope, and the soil consists of stiff London clay,
barely needing timbers to stage up the sides of graves as they are dug. Clay stone is occasionally
met with. The cemetery is deep-drained.
The total area is 32 acres, of which it is stated 16 acres are still unburied in. It is
estimated that about 100,000 bodies can be buried in the cemetery if all private graves are used
for the number of bodies for which they were originally dug. In a report to the Vestry of
Camberwell by the superintendent of the cemetery, dated November, 1897, an estimate is given
that if burial be continued as at present the ground will last between 30 and 40 years.
The area of grave space is, for private graves 6 ft. 6 in. by 2 ft. 6 in.
„ ,, ,, common graves 6 ft. 6 in. by 2 ft. 6 in.
The depth usually required for private graves is 12 feet. Common graves are 12 to 15
feet deep, mostly 12 feet. On an average 8 bodies are interred in each common grave, the upper
part being used for children's bodies, two or even three coffins being placed on the same level.
This allows the grave to be filled to within 3 feet of the surface. Brick graves are occasionally

The interments in 1897 were—


(116.) Charlton cemetery—Opened 1855.
The situation of this cemetery is on high ground to the south-east of Old Cbarlton.
The soil consists of a dry sand or gravel in the older portion, and of
gravel in a recent extension of the cemetery. The soil forms part of the Woolwich and Reading
and Thanet geological beds which come to the surface in the south-east of London. Drainage is
not needed except for carrying away surface water.
The total area is 8 acres, and of this quite 4 acres, it is estimated, are yet unburied in.
Most of the ground already used is occupied by purchased graves which are still available for
The area of all grave spaces is 9 feet by 4 feet, except as regards graves in one portion
which was originally plotted out in spaces of 7 feet by 3 feet. Private graves vary in depth from
6 to 12 feet, the greater number being 12 feet deep, and a few are 15 feet deep. Common graves
were formerly only dug 6 feet, and only two bodies were interred in each; now it is the custom
to dig to a depth of 12 feet for the larger and 9 feet for the smaller size grave spaces. Children
are always buried in separate graves, 7 feet by 3 feet in area and 12 feet in depth. Common
graves remain open for a period of 1 to 2 weeks before being filled; if longer than this they are
temporarily filled in during the interval. Three to four bodies are interred in each common
grave. Very few brick graves are required.

The number of interments during 1897 was—