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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Common graves are dug to the available depth, having regard to the nature of the soil—
that is to say, they vary between 10 and 24 feet. The number of bodies buried in each differs in
almost every case, being dependent on whether a grave is used principally for adults or children.
The latter are usually buried in adult common graves which are nearly full. A large number
of common graves is kept open at the same time, and it takes from 3 to 5 weeks as a rule to
fill a grave.
One of the conditions of approval in this cemetery is that in all graves each coffin
shall be entombed in concrete. This is made by mixing gravel and Portland cement with water,
which is then poured into the grave so as to secure a layer of concrete four inches thick between
each coffin.
Brick graves are but little used.

The total number of interments in 1897 was—


(145.) Great Northern cemetery—Opened 1861, under special Act of Parliament.
Situated at New Southgate on land adjoining a sewage farm. There are no houses in
proximity to the cemetery.
The ground is elevated, and the surface has a considerable fall. The soil consists of gravel
for a distance of some fifty yards on all sides of the chapel. The remainder of the ground is
either loam, clay, sand or stoney. The cemetery is drained at a depth of 16 feet by pipe drains
perforated on the upper part, and surrounded by ballast. They are laid underneath the pathways,
and discharge to Pymm's brook, which flows at the line of the boundary of lower part
of the ground. No graves are connected with the drains, except brick graves when the owners
desire it.
The total area of the cemetery is 70 acres, and of this about 56 acres are yet unburied in.
It is estimated, that on an average of four bodies to a grave, there is space sufficient for 500,000
interments. The 14 acres already used are largely occupied by private graves, most of which are
available for re-opening. The number of common interments at this cemetery is decreasing,
while interments in purchased graves are increasing.
The area of all graves is 9 feet by 4 feet, and private graves are usually required of a depth
of 11 feet. Common graves are 12 to 14 feet deep. It takes, on an average, three days to fill a
common grave. One foot of earth is left between each coffin. Children are usually buried in
.the upper part of adult common graves.
The number of brick graves required is small.

The total interments in 1897 was—

Common (including paupers from Shoreditch)1,009

(146.) Islington cemetery—Opened 1854.
This cemetery adjoins, and was opened at the same date as, the St. Pancras cemetery, the
' St. Pancras Burial Board having sold part of the property which was purchased for a burial
place for the district of St. Pancras to the parish of St. Mary, Islington.
The character of the ground and of the soil is similar to that of the St. Pancras cemetery.
A portion of the ground is drained (the chapel portion) at a depth of 18 feet, the drains joining
the main drain common to the two cemeteries.
The total area is 79 acres. This includes about 39 acres in reserve. The ground which
has not yet been buried in, together with that in reserve, amounts approximately to 49 acres.
The former consists mostly of areas small in extent, varying from 4 acres downwards. The above
total does not include single grave spaces or small plots of ground of two or more grave spaces
between graves which have been buried in. These probably would make up 5 acres. In the
ground already used there are, it is estimated, some 6,000 private graves of which probably not
more than 600 have been filled. At the present rate of interment is is estimated by the superintendent
that the cemetery will last for 50 years.
The area of private graves is 9 feet by 4 feet, 7 feet 6 inches by 3 feet, or 6 feet 6 inches
by 2 feet 6 inches, with intervals of 1 foot between rows of graves and 3 inches latterly between
graves. Common grave spaces are 9 feet by 4 feet.
The depth of most private graves is 11 feet. Common graves are dug between 15 to 18
feet. A layer of three inches of earth is placed between each coffin, and children are buried
in the upper portion of adult graves. This allows burial within 3 feet of the surface.
Brick graves are only infrequently required.

The number of interments in 1897 was—

Private336 (graves sold)