Hints from the Health Department. Leaflet from the archive of the Society of Medical Officers of Health. Credit: Wellcome Collection, London
[Report of the Medical Officer of Health for London County Council]
(117.) City and Tower Hamlets cemetery—Opened 1841.
Situated a little to the south of Bow-road, the cemetery is surrounded by houses in close
proximity on all sides, except for a short extent at the south-east corner where a railway forms
the boundary. The houses are separated from the cemetery boundary by public roadways except
at the eastern limit, where houses on one side of Wellington-street have small yard spaces extending
to the margin of the cemetery.
The surface of the ground is level, and the soil consists of gravel and sand, except near the
railway, where clay is met with in parts.
The ground is drained at a minimum depth of 20 feet, the drains discharging into the
local sewers. The ground is said to be very dry. No graves are connected with the drains.
The total area of the cemetery is 40 acres. There appears to be no knowledge as to what
amount of ground has not yet been buried in, but it is stated that at the present rate of burial
the ground is estimated to last for about 14 years. There is no plot of ground of large extent
unburied in. Such vacant ground as is available is made up of small plots in different
parts judging from the appearance of the cemetery. In the ground already used a large number
of private graves are, it is stated, still available for re-opening.
The area of ground usually purchased in the case of private graves is 6 feet 6 inches by
2 feet 6 inches, intervals of 1 foot laterally and 2 feet between rows being allowed between graves.
Common graves are of the same area, with lateral intervals of 1 foot and 2 to 3 feet alternately,
and intervals of 9 inches to 1 foot between rows.
The most usual depth in the case of private graves is 10 to 12 feet. Common graves are
dug 18 to 20 feet deep, and 7 or 8 adults are interred in each. Children are buried in separate
graves, each grave containing about 14 coffins. The use of brick graves has much decreased.
The number of interments in 1897 was—
(118.) Deptford cemetery—Opened 1852.
Situated at Brockley, adjoining Lewisham parochial cemetery, which forms the western
boundary of Deptford cemetery. On the north and north-east Ivy-lane and Brockley-road,
having houses on the opposite side, form the boundary, while on the south-east and south there
are houses and some open land.
The sub-soil, made up of the Woolwich and Reading beds, consists of fine sand capped,
over the greater part of the cemetery, by loamy clay, varying in thickness from 8 feet to 16 feet.
The ground is drained at a depth of 20 feet, the drains discharging into the local sewer in
Ivy-lane. When the cemetery was laid out, the ground, which was very damp in character, was
drained at a depth of 9 feet. This only allowed graves to be dug to a little over 8 feet—that is
within the limits of the clay portion of the soil. In 1875 the cemetery was redrained at 20 feet,
thus allowing use to be made of the sandy soil underlying the clay. It is found that on reopening
private graves in the clay the soil is generally offensive, even after a number of years,
whereas those which have been dug into the sand are not so. In the latter case also it has been
found that destruction of the coffin takes place much more readily than in the more superficial
The total area is 20 acres (including 4 in reserve, which have been acquired since the
cemetery was opened). Of the total it is estimated that there are about 12 acres of virgin soil
available for burial. This ground—apart from the 4 acres in reserve—is made up mostly of small
plots, and spaces between graves, owing to the fact that it has been the custom to bury in all
parts of the ground since the cemetery was opened. As regards private graves, most of them
are still unfilled.
The area of grave spaces in the case of both private and common graves is 9 feet by
4 feet for adults, and 9 feet by 3 feet for children. A frequent depth for private graves is 12 feet.
Common graves are mostly 20 feet deep.
The length of time which it takes to fill a common grave varies; it may be two cr three
weeks if it is a deep grave. When the cemetery was first opened it was the custom to give a
"churchyard" grave in the case of common interments—that is, each body had a separate grave,
which was filled in forthwith. The use of brick graves now is quite infrequent. With a view to
using up some which were formerly built, a small commission is given to undertakers when one
of them is used for burial.
The number of interments in 1897 (March, 1897-1898) was—
(119.) Fulham cemetery—Opened 1865.
The cemtery is situated on the east side of Fulham Palace-road. Houses are gradually
being built on the land surrounding the cemetery. The cemetery has been enlarged twice since
it was first opened.
The ground is flat, and the soil consists of fine river sand and gravel extending to a greater