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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according to the level of drain; at date of inquiry they were being dug 15 feet. The number of
bodies in each common grave varies, the upper part of the grave being used for the bodies of
children. In all cases one foot of earth is left between coffins. Common graves remain open for
a week or more in consecrated ground; longer in the unconsecrated portion, as the burials are not
so frequent.
The demand for brick graves and vaults is decreasing. A few are generally kept ready for
use if required.
The number of interments in 1897 was 821.
(123.) Highgate cemetery.
This cemetery consists of two portions separated from each other by a roadway. Waterlow-park
adjoins on the north-east. On the south-east there are houses and Highgate Infirmary,
and on the remaining sides there are but few houses at all close to the cemetery.
The cemetery is mostly situated on a considerable slope, but at the south-east and lower
part the surface of the ground tends to become flat. The soil consists of sand extending for a
depth of 35 feet in the higher and middle part of the ground; the lowest part is tenacious clay,
which cracks deeply in dry weather. A fissure has been traced for 8 feet 6 inches. Between the
clay and the sandy portion the soil is a marl.
The ground is deep drained, and brick graves are connected with the drains, which empty
into the metropolitan sewers. Common graves are also connected with the drains.
The total area is 38 acres. It is stated that about 8 acres of ground are still unburied in.
In the older and higher portion no large plot of ground remains unused, and common graves are
being dug wherever there are any available strips of ground. Only a small number of private
graves have as yet been filled. It is not possible to say what area of ground has been used for
common graves, as these are widely dispersed over the cemetery.
The area of private graves is 6 feet 6 inches by 2 feet 6 inches, 6 feet 6 inches by 2 feet
10 inches, 9 feet by 4 feet, or 9 feet by 6 feet (a double grave). Common graves are dug 7 feet
by 3 feet. Private graves are generally required to be 12 feet deep. Common graves are dug 16
to 20 feet deep, and 6 inches of earth are, it is stated, left between each coffin.
There are here mausoleums, catacombs, and brick graves, but none of these are now made
use of to the extent which formerly prevailed.

The total number of interments during 1897 was—


(124.) Jews' cemetery, Islington.
This is a small burial ground of about 2 acres in extent, having houses and a factory in close
The soil is gravel.
The ground is now practically closed, no interments taking place except in spaces which
have already been purchased. There are probably about 70 spaces still available, each of which
is approximately about 9 feet by 4 feet in area.
No more than one body is placed in a grave, and the grave is never again disturbed. The
depth of graves is 6 feet. Brickwork is never used except sometimes at the sides of the graves
to serve as a support to a monument. The coffin rests on the soil, and the interval between the
sides of the grave and the coffin is filled in with earth.
(125.) Jews' cemetery, Mile-end-road.
This cemetery is situated on the north side of Mile-end-road, and close to the workhouse.
The soil consists of river gravel, and the area of ground is 4 acres, which has all been
used except some 500 spaces, which are still available for use. The area for each grave varies
according to the size of the coffin, intervals of one foot being left between rows of graves and halfa-foot
between the graves in each row. There is no distinction of graves. Graves for adults are
dug never less than 5 feet (usually about 6 feet) deep, and for children a foot less. A grave is never
used again, and not more than one body is interred. The coffin must always rest on the soil.
Occasionally brickwork is placed at the sides for the purpose of forming a better support for the
grave stone.
The number of interments at this cemetery is on an average about 60 in each year.
(126.) Kensal-green cemetery—Opened 1833.
This cemetery is situated on the south side of the Harrow-road, in Kensal-green, and
immediately north of the Grand Junction Canal. St. Mary's Roman Catholic cemetery adjoins
on the west.
The surface of the ground has a considerable fall in most parts, but becomes flat at the
western end. The soil is made up of London clay. It is drained at depths varying from 7 to 14
feet from the surface, and brick graves are connected with the drains which discharge into the
metropolitan sewers.
The total area of the cemetery is 70 acres. The area which has not yet been buried in
is as follows—There is a large piece of ground at the west end of the cemetery