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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which, it is estimated, is approximately about 20 acres, in which there are as yet only a few
graves dotted about here and there, and some common graves at the boundary margin. In
addition there is a good deal of ground consisting of small plots, and single spaces amongst the
existing graves which would probably be equal to 15 acres in all. There has not, however, been
any recent survey of the ground. The ground already buried in is said to be chiefly occupied by
private graves, and the majority of these are still available for further interment.
The area of private graves is usually one of the following, namely, 6 feet 6 inches, by
2 feet 6 inches, 8 feet by 3 feet, or 9 feet by 4 feet, with lateral intervals of one foot and intervals
between rows of 2 feet. Common graves are 6 feet 6 inches by 2 feet 6 inches, an intervening
space being left in between, this ground being sold for use as cheap purchase graves. When the
intervening ground is so used, there would be an interval of 6 or 7 inches between each grave.
The depth most frequently required in the case of private graves is 10 or 11 feet; this is
sufficient for four bodies.
Common graves are now mostly dug to a depth of 16 feet. In these six to seven adults and
two to three children in the upper part are interred. A grave takes about eight or nine days to
There are many mausoleums here, also brick graves, but the demand for them has much
decreased of late vears.

The total burials in 1897 was—


(127.) Lambeth cemetery—Opened, 1854.
The cemetery is situated at Lower Tooting, near Garratt-lane. At present on two sides
there is open land, that on one side being land belonging to the Yestry of Lambeth, and on the
other land used for agricultural purposes. On the third side a railway forms the boundary, while
on the fourth is a public road. Houses are now being built on the land on the opposite side of
this road, and will, eventually, extend close up to the cemetery.
The ground is low-lying and flat, and the soil consists of a dense clay, with layers of clay
stone in places, necessitating the use of a pick-axe when excavating graves. A quantity of water is
generally found in the neighbourhood of these bands of stone. In some parts of the cemetery
there is a superficial layer of river sand and gravel.
The cemetery is drained at a depth of 11 feet, the drain pipes being laid in all parts
underneath the footpaths. Vaults and brick graves are, where possible, connected with the
drains. "Where this is not possible a pipe is brought up near to the surface, so that when necessary—e.g.,
after heavy rain, or just before the grave is to be re-opened—it may be pumped dry.
The total area of the cemetery is 41½ acres. Of this about 10 acres have not yet been
buried in, while some 13 acres already used are possibly still available for other interments. It
is estimated that the virgin ground will provide for 40,000 bodies.
The area of grave space is, for private graves 8x5 feet (brick graves, 9 x 4).
„ „ for common ,, 8 x 4 „
The depth of graves is, for private graves various.
,, „ common ,, 12 feet.
As a rule four or five bodies are interred in each common grave.
Children are buried in separate graves.
There are but few brick graves in the cemetery, and they are seldom required now in the
case of new graves.
The total number of burials in 1897 was 3,750.
(128.) Lee cemetery.
This cemetery, situated on the east side of Hither-green-lane, is at present at a considerable
distance from houses.
The surface of the ground has a considerable declivity. The soil consists for the most
part of London clay, but a small portion on the higher ground is gravelly and very hard in
The cemetery is drained by a main brick drain 12 feet deep, which was constructed when
the ground was originally laid out for burial purposes; lateral drains were put in in 1874 at the
same depth. Only brick graves are connected with the drains.
The total area is 10 acres (4 in reserve), of which 7½ acres about are still unburied in.
All grave spaces are 9 feet by 4 feet in area. Private graves are usually 8 feet in depth.
Common graves vary from 15 to 18 feet, and in them are interred four or five adults, and
children in the upper part of the grave. They remain open for periods of two or three weeks.
The number of brick graves required each year is small.
The total number interred in 1897 was 183.
(121).) Lewisham cemetery—Opened 1858.
Situated on high ground at Ladywell, adjoining Deptford cemetery on the west. To the
south there is open land, but on the north-east boundary houses are in close proximity to the
The soil is loamy clay and sand, part of the Woolwich and Reading geological beds