London, Volume 4

Knight, Charles

1843

LXXXVI--London Burials.

LXXXVI--London Burials.

 

 

Whatever the evils that have gradually grown up around the burial customs we have inherited from our forefathers, let it not be forgotten that the essential remains to this hour peculiarly appropriate, beautiful, and elevating. In burying our friends and relatives in the precincts of their accustomed church, we seem but--in death--to set the seal to that spiritual union which in life they have there so often and so reverently sought; whilst, at the same time, they are placed where we, the objects of their love, and the sharers in their faith, may be the most frequently and regularly reminded of them ;--not to add to the anguish of the loss, but, on the contrary, to confirm and to stimulate the hope of the recovery. There is another point of view from which our church burial-grounds present an aspect of impressive interest. We hear complaints sometimes made of the indiscriminate character of the burials in them; we hear regrets expressed that men of erring, or violent, or criminal lives, should at their last need enjoy the shelter, the neighbourhood, the communion they have done so little previously to deserve. Are we wrong in thinking this very circumstance of their most touching features? Such places are to the heart and mind what the old sanctuaries were to the body, only divested of all their evils, and a

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times more numerous: they are places of refuge for the

heavily laden,

whose very flight hither should satisfy at least of their right to

rest.

With these views, the imperative divorce of our places of worship and of burial from each other, that seems likely to take place at a very early period in our great cities, can only appear justifiable on grounds of the strongest necessity: that there are such grounds it is our painful but necessary duty to show in the present paper on London Burials.

The custom of burying in and around churches arose gradually, and from a peculiar concurrence of causes. The early Christians had before them the example of the Jews, who were accustomed to build synagogues for prayer and worship near the remains of those who had been eminently distinguished for their goodness and piety; of the Greeks, who offered sacrifices near their sepulchres; and of the Romans, who had their chapels and altars erected over their deceased relatives, to propitiate their manes. But it was the persecutions to which the Christians were exposed that appear to have determined their funeral customs. Not only the living but the dead were subjected to the insults of the Pagan population around; and, in consequence, a secure place of deposit for the dead became highly desirable. Those extensive subterranean excavations, without the walls of Rome, known as the Catacombs, seemed to be such a spot. The entrance into the Catacombs is on the Via Appia, only a short distance from the city; but the place itself is so extensive, that travellers have estimated their entire length, including all the ramifications, at not less than miles, whilst the guides say . The long winding galleries of which they are chiefly composed are, in general, about feet high and wide; along the sides are ranged the cells or graves, in tiers, generally in number; at intervals large vaulted chambers are found, of a very church-like aspect; in different parts altars, paintings, and inscriptions, of Christian origin, meet the eye. It is in these catacombs, thus full of interesting memorials, that we believe we must look for the true commencement of our present burial system. When the Christians, under circumstances of the greatest secrecy, had brought their dead hither, among which, of course, would be some of their most distinguished martyrs, they would not only desire to pray near to them, in accordance with all previous feelings or customs, but the privacy of the place would appear no less favourable to their own meetings for mutual advice, comfort, and for the performance of their religious rites. Hence the erection of the altars and the formation of the churches in the catacombs. After the complete establishment of the Christian religion, by the conversion of Constantine, and the consequent removal of the difficulties which had attended the burial and worship of the disciples of the faith, we learn from St. Jerome in what affectionate reverence the place was still held, in spite of its natural horrors. He tells us that he visited them every Sunday; and observes,

When I found myself in that profound obscurity, I thought the expression of the Psalmist verified,

Descendit in infernum vivens

.

The churches being thus at erected over the place of the dead, the next step was to reverse the process, and to bury the dead where convenience and growing prosperity caused the erection of the churches. Constantine's burial seems to have been an innovation of this kind. He was interred in the vestibule of the Temple

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of the Holy Apostles (which he had built), at Constantinople, as the highest mark of gratitude the church could bestow. From this time progress in the same path was easy. Princes who, like Constantine, had peculiarly distinguished themselves as patrons of Christianity, great benefactors, men illustrious for their piety among the bishops, began to obtain similar privileges. In England St. Austin (or Augustine), Bede tells us, was thus buried under the portico of Canterbury Cathedral, and the history of the same edifice shows us the farther advance of the dead into the church itself. The succeeding prelates to Augustine were all buried in the same spot (the north porch) till the space was occupied, when they were removed into the interior. Such practices once commenced in the cases of the few, were sure to extend to the burials of the many; to all those at least whose wealth or rank, or intellectual, moral, or religious qualifications, would enable them to exercise influence for such objects. For even when the superstitious belief held by the early Christians, that the emanations from the bodies of saints exercised a peculiar virtue upon all those who lay near them, had died away, there still remained the more permanent influences that we have alluded to in the commencement of these remarks, and which, there is no doubt, have perpetuated the existence of the custom down to the present time, in spite of the heaviest and most manifold disadvantages.

It was on the , that the Committee of the was appointed, to which we are indebted for the discovery of a state of things in London which is truly described by witness as

sickening

and

horrible,

and which exhibits England, through its capital (in the words of the Committee's Report), as an

instance of the most wealthy, moral, and civilised community in the world, tolerating a practice and an abuse which has been corrected for years by nearly all other civilised nations in every part of the globe.

And, casting our eyes casually over the large amount of evidence collected, we cannot but be convinced that these words convey an unexaggerated statement. We read of burial-ground in the Dover Road, still used for numerous interments, although, years ago, a witness (a clergyman) thought it scandalous to go on burying there; of another (, ), which was reported, by the Commissioners for the improvement of , to Parliament, in , as unfit to be used much longer, but which is still in active operation; and of a (Spa Fields), that there is

no more space, but that you can always get a grave there,

--nay, graves for not less than or persons weekly, that being frequently the number of interments. The age of miracles seems to have revived with regard to many of these burial-grounds. Martin's, in the Borough, measuring about feet by , is supposed to have received within years bodies; in , Vinegar Yard, belonging to the parish of ,

better than half an acre

in size, bodies are computed to have been interred within the last half-century; whilst in a vault below a Methodist chapel, built as a speculation by Messrs. Hoole and Martin, in the , from to bodies are to be found, not buried, but heaped up in coffins, nearly all of wood, in a space yards long, wide, and high. But all the marvels of the churchyard must give place to those performed in connexion with Enon Chapel. This building

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is in , in , and was built by the minister himself (a Dissenter) as a speculation. The upper part, opened for public worship in , is separated from the lower by a boarded floor merely; and in this space (about feet by , and deep) bodies are estimated to have been interred! The expanding pavilion of the Fairy Tales was nothing to this; and it must be admitted that such a chapel formed a very necessary provision for a neighbourhood where a witness has no doubt that times as many persons die immediately around the building in question as in any other part of the parish. But the means!- naturally feels anxious to know how these things were accomplished, seeing that the simplest process of reckoning shows them, to ordinary senses of apprehension, as impossible. We must premise, then, that there is no doubt that the late minister was of whom it might be said, as it was of the illustrious sexton of St. Anne's, Soho, Fox, by of his satellite gravediggers, in words that show how the admiration of the daring genius of the master overpowered, for the moment, all other considerations:--

the man that is dead has done most wonderful things in the vaults!

As with many other of Nature's greatest marvels, however, these

wonderful things

are apt to lose something of their romance and grandeur in the light of common day. It appears, then, that up to a certain period a drain ran obliquely across the place, and that the Commissioners of Sewers suddenly took it into their heads to compel the minister to arch it over. This was no doubt awkward; but, adapting himself admirably to circumstances, the opportunity was taken of conveying away some loads of mingled earth and human remains, which were shot the other side of , where a pathway was then forming. It may suffice to illustrate the nature of the soil removed, to observe that a few baskets-full having been thoughtlessly given away by the men employed to some labourers executing a slight street repair, a crowd were presently found round a human hand. After the stoppage of the conveniences already indicated, a new method would be required at Enon Chapel. There is little or no doubt as to what that was. Many inquiries were made of the witnesses who appeared before the Committee, as to what would be the feelings of the people regarding the use of quick-lime. The minister of Enon Chapel managed matters very differently.

I know,

says Mr. Walker, speaking of this place,

that lime has been inserted in enormous quantities, and that the bodies have been consumed in less than a twelvemonth:

but then the minister made no fuss about it. But what was done with the coffins?-the economy of such systems could not certainly afford to wait till good sound elm should decay. Here is the explanation:

I understood it was a regular thing for them to burn them in their own house, which was adjoining the chapel.

[n.164.1]  And, although this witness speaks from hearsay, we find sufficient corroborative testimony. Mr. Whittaker, an undertaker, speaking of Spa Fields, says,

They have got a small bricked place, I observed the last time I was there, in the ground, similar to a washhouse or an outhouse of that description, and I saw a fire and smoke coming out of it. I cannot tell what was burning.

Being asked

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if he suspects it was coffins, he replies,

I cannot say, because the window was

blocked

up and the door

fastened

, and I could not see.

If there still be any doubt, Thomas Munn's evidence will remove it. He, a resident in , opposite the burial-ground there, states expressly,

I have seen the man and his wife burn them; it is quite a common thing.

The removal of decayed bodies seems to be a generally recognised mode of making room, even in what would suppose were the most respectable London burial-places. Thus during the repair of , Ludgate, Mr. Anderton, member of the Common Council of the City, saw numerous cart-loads of matter, consisting of decayed coffins, bones, and ashes, taken away, the labourers mixing the whole up with rubbish to prevent the passengers from perceiving their occupation. In St. Anne's, Soho, , , in the Fields, &c., &c., similar removals have taken place. Lastly, we may add to this general explanation of the remarkable capacity of our metropolitan burial-grounds, the facts. that the greater part of them are materially elevated above their original level; thus St. Andrew's is feet higher, St. Mary-le- Strand feet, and the ground belonging to in the Fields, in , no less than feet ;--and, that in numerous cases they bury to within a foot or of the surface. With regard to the last-mentioned custom, it seems sextons are particularly jealous of any interference, for, when a witness who appeared before the Committee took the trouble day to probe the ground in , the sexton told his assistant, if he ever came into the ground again, to

run the man through with the searcher.

But we must now look a little closer into the details of the

wonderful

proceedings of the guardians of our grave-yards; even though, in so doing, we meet with much that is disgusting, much truly appalling, for, alas! all is but too true; and too important in its truth, to the health, morals, and character of our countrymen, to be passed lightly over, whilst we can say such things still are. Foremost in horror are the proceedings thus described in the evidence of W. Chamberlain, who says,

In the year

1831

I was

first

employed by Mr. Watkins, the flead gravedigger of

St. Clement's

churchyard; from that time till the year

1838

I never opened a grave without coming into other coffins of children, grown persons, and what we term odd sizes, which we have been obliged to cut away, the ground being so excessively full that we could not make a grave without doing it. It was done by the order of Mr. Watkins and Mr. Fitch, the sexton of the parish, that these coffins should be chopped up, and the wood placed against the walls and the palings of the ground. We have come to bodies quite perfect, and we have cut part away with choppers and pickaxes. We have opened the lids of the coffins, and the bodies have been so perfect that we could distinguish males from females; and all those have been chopped and cut up. . During the time I was at this work the flesh has been cut up in pieces and thrown up behind the boards which are placed to keep the ground up where the mourners are standing, . .... and when the mourners are gone this flesh has been thrown in and jammed down, and the coffins have been taken away and burnt.

Further questions elicit further explanation as to the mode of cutting up such bodies, but the details are too horrible for us to recapitulate. We must,

166

however, add the background to the picture here shown. Chamberlain continues-

The sound of cutting away the wood was so terrible that mobs used to be round the railings and looking; we could not throw a piece of wood or a piece of a body up without being seen; the people actually cried

shame

out of the windows at the backs of the houses on account of it.

The men who give this evidence state over and over again that they were reluctant to do such things, but that the sextons have made them by threats of depriving them of their employment if they did not. of these men, whilst engaged day with others, saw his companions chopping off the head of a coffin, and happening to look at it, saw that it was his own father's!

I told them to stop, and they laughed,

he says. However, as he was firm, they yielded to what no doubt they thought his absurd scruples. These almost incredible practices, it appears, have taken place at Enon Chapel, the Globe Fields, St. Andrew's , St. Anne's, Soho (where the wonderful man Fox did not mind cutting through a body buried but weeks), churchyard, St. Clement Danes, in the Fields (), , Vinegar Yard--in short, at so many places that it is far from improbable that the greater part of London grave-yards have witnessed similar scenes. Among the minor practices of the grave-yard gentry, may be mentioned the interring bodies at insufficient depth when they happened to be in an idle mood, and then, when it became necessary to turn the spot to the best advantage, of digging the coffins up, and re-burying them at the suitable depth. From a similar motive, when a deep grave has been dug, it appears that it is sometimes allowed to remain open till it is filled, boards and earth being merely placed over the top. At the grave-yard in they gradually waxed so confident in this habit, that even when the unhappy relatives said they did not like to go away without seeing the grave filled up, they pertinaciously refused. Men who could do the things we have described, were scarcely likely to leave undone any petty crime that lay in their path. Fox stripped the lead off the coffins in the vaults of St. Anne's, Soho, also the handles and nails of the commoner coffins in the burial-ground, and sold them,--and his is evidently by no means a solitary case.

Apart from that fearful kind of interest we naturally feel in such an occupation as grave-digging,--that ransacking among the awful secrets of the grave, from which humanity generally so instinctively shrinks,--the audacity of the metropolitan portion of the fraternity, and the circumstances under which they carry on their calling, give new and startling features to their lives. Their climate, sports, the incidents that disturb the even tenor of their way, their drunkenness, dangers, and premature deaths, are all in keeping, are all peculiarly their own. Our summer, it seems, is often their winter; our winter, their summer.

The deeper I go, it gets so warm that it is enough to melt

one

; it is just the same as if you were in a fire when you go down so far; in the coldest day it will be warmer there than on a fine summer's day; even if you go down to the water, the water will be as warm as possible in cold weather, and in warm weather it will be quite as cold; in a frosty morning you can see the steam come up, just as you would out of a dung-hole.

[n.166.1]  Then for their sports. Is the

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gravedigger inclined to unbend among his assistants and be merry?-the materials of sport are always at hand; a few tall bones are collected and set up, these are their skittles; a round goodly-looking skull forms the ball, and, now all prepared, they begin, and merrily goes the game. There wants but a Mephistophiles to make the sexton's reality rival the poet's wildest fictions. As to the incidents which occasionally add a new horror even to those who have supped full of horrors their lives through, we need but example. Lyons says,

I was trying the length of a grave to see if it was long enough and wide enough, so that I should not have to go down again; and while I was there the ground gave way, and a body turned right over, and the

two

arms came and clasped me round the neck.

The drunkenness, dangers, and premature deaths to which these men are exposed, belong to another department of our subject--the consequences to the living of the state of things described, in connexion with the dead. To this we now address ourselves.

Passing over rapidly the less important phenomena of their calling, the smell, frequently

dreadful beyond all smells

--to which that of a cesspool, it seems, is as rosewater in comparison, and which leaves in the mouth a coppery taste as if you had been

chewing a penny-piece

--let us pause for a moment upon the narration of Valentine Haycock, which has a certain simple pathos in it, that should find the way to all hearts, and strengthen the determination of those who have influence, to get rid of such unnatural as well as intolerable sufferings. He is asked,

When you have been digging yourself, have you felt yourself affected immediately?-Yes; I have been obliged to get up in the best way I could, and I have been in such a tremble that I did not know whether I was going to die myself or not; I have gone in-doors, and have sat a little time to recover myself; I have had something from the doctor to bring me round again.

Again:--

With regard to the sensations you have experienced when you were opening a grave, did you feel a taste in your mouth or a sensation in your throat? --In my throat; it was completely dried up with the stench, it is so sharp upon you; so that I have got up and heaved, and actually brought blood up.

We need not wonder that he adds,

I have been obliged to go in-doors and get a little brandy,

or that he should have to acknowledge that gravediggers are not generally a sober set of men: we should wonder if they were. As another of the class expresses it, they are made drunkards

by force.

It will be hardly necessary to say that these sensations cannot be often felt without incurring serious dangers; but as dangers they are among the slightest of the vocation. poor fellow happened to cut his finger morning at breakfast, but so superficially that he did not think it worth while to bind up the wound. He had a child's grave to dig that day in , . During his work some of the soil got to the cut, presently the finger swelled, his arm began to ache, he went home, never again to quit it alive. Another, Chamberlain, not only lost the use of his limbs, but his wife caught the infection, and was similarly diseased. That this man's statement to the Committee was true enough, we may judge from the corroborative testimony of Dr. Copland, who mentions the cases of a gentleman and his wife; the died of a malignant fever through inhaling the vapours of a vault, and the from the infection. Chamberlain's case is but a fair

168

commentary on the lives of the whole fraternity. It is certain that the gravediggers of London are generally unhealthy, and that their lives are prematurely shortened. But it would be some relief to them if they could be sure that even this doom were the worst; but, by a kind of retributive vengeance, from the very graves they so unnaturally disturb, Death will sometimes suddenly appear, and re-assert, with his own terrible power, the sanctity of his violated domains. A step down into a newly-opened vault, a single blow of a pickaxe into an uncovered coffin, and the intruder has fallen, as if shot, beneath the breath of the dread king of terrors. The cases of the men at in , and of the at , , in (the last marked by the additional feature that the surgeon who attended him, and the surgeon's domestic servant, both died of infection), are here in point. An incident of a similar nature, but less known, is mentioned in Mr. Walker's book.[n.168.1]  At a burial in the church of Notre Dame, at Montpelier, in France, Peter Balsalgette, a street porter, was employed as gravedigger. He had scarcely descended into the grave when he became convulsed, and fell. Joseph Sarrau immediately stepped forth, and descended, holding a rope, to save him. Just as he reached the bottom he became insensible, and was drawn up half dead. But there were noble hearts congregated round that grave. John Molinier next descended, but feeling himself suffocating, could do no more than give the signal to be drawn up again; when his brother, Robert Molinier, a strong and robust man, took his place, and fell dead at the bottom. Lastly, the brother of the victim, Charles Balsalgette, ventured into the fatal pit, succeeded in partially arranging the body of Robert Molinier, before he was forced to get out; then a time descended with a handkerchief dipped in Hungary water between his teeth, but finding himself unable to stay, was about to ascend, when he too dropped back lifeless, and thus terminated the tragical scene. Of the men, John Molinier and Sarrau only recovered; and the latter was for a long time afterwards so pale and emaciated as to give peculiar significance to the appellation he received, the . We cannot but append to this melancholy and interesting case Mr. Walker's note, with its ingenious hypothesis.

In the effect of these exhalations,

he says,

we may obtain an explanation of certain phenomena which some authors have considered as miraculous. Gregory of Tours relates that a robber, having dared to enter the tomb of St. Helius, this prelate retained him and prevented him from getting out. The same author informs us that a poor man, not having a stone to cover the place in which

one

of his children had been buried, took away

one

which closed the opening of an old tomb, in which rested without doubt, says Gregory of Tours, the remains of some holy personage. The unhappy father was immediately and simultaneously struck dumb, blind, and deaf. These facts may be attributed to mephitic vapours.

[n.168.2] 

We now reach the last and most important department of our subject-the effects of our metropolitan system of burial on the public health. Of the sulphuretted hydrogen gas, which Sir Benjamin Brodie says is evolved from bodies

169

in a state of decomposition, it appears that . Yet that such gases are constantly issuing from the crowded burial-grounds of London we have an overwhelming amount of evidence to prove, derived both from the unerring warnings of the senses, and the illnesses and deaths which follow where such warnings are unheeded. Persons attending divine service have been taken ill, no doubt frequently without knowing the cause, for of course matters do not generally proceed to such a very decisive point as in Enon Chapel, where, we learn, members of the congregation were taken out fainting nearly every Sunday. Relatives following the dead to the grave have been smitten by the insidious poison, leaving the undertaker to record the brief history,

Dear me, the poor creature followed a friend here last Sunday, and I am come to bury him this.

Clergymen have resigned their office, as at St. Andrew's , in order to take a much less valuable living in the country, where they could at least breathe the pure air of heaven; whilst others have been obliged to stay a certain distance from the grave in open grounds, or to stand at the top of the stairs of a vault to read the burial service, as at , ; where for many years the clergyman dared not venture into the vault, and where the undertakers were compelled to use the most indecent haste in taking the mourners down and bringing them up again to prevent danger. Medical men have found--it necessary to advise patients to remove from the neighbourhood of such places, who were rich enough to be able to do so, or have had the pain of seeing them sink gradually when they were too poor; cholera and fever have been found most violent, as at Leeds, in the attacks on the living, where the congregation of the dead has been the most dense. To what extent the effluvia ascending from so many graves into the air may injure the general health of London, is not easy to determine. That it must be very serious is evident from all the foregoing evidence. Sir Benjamin Brodie says he has always considered this cause of fever and disease in the metropolis; and Dr. Copland, the censor of the , states his belief that of the or particular circumstances which influence the health of large towns,

the

first

, and probably the most important, is the burial of the dead. We have to consider not only the exhalations of the gases and the emanations of the dead into the air, but the effect that it has on the subsoil or the water drunk by the inhabitants.

We may form some notion of the latter effect from a single but most significant fat; they had some years ago to shut up a pump close to churchyard, the water being found unfit for use.

With an interesting story, illustrating in a forcible manner the evils attending the gratification of the desire to which we alluded in the commencement of our paper, we pass on to the more agreeable subject of the remedies. At a certain place in Germany a very corpulent lady died during the last century, and was buried according to her desire in the parochial church.

The weather at the time was very hot, and a great drought prevailed. The succeeding Sunday, a week after the body had been buried, the Protestant clergyman had a very full congregation, upwards of

nine hundred

persons attending, that being the day for administering the Holy Sacrament. It is the custom in Germany that when people wish to receive the Sacrament, they neither eat nor drink until the

ceremony is over. The clergyman consecrates the bread and wine,--which is uncovered during the ceremony. There were about

one hundred and eighty

communicants. A quarter of an hour after the ceremony, before they had quitted the church, more than

sixty

of the communicants were taken ill: several died in the most violent agonies, others of a more vigorous constitution survived by the help of medical assistance; a most violent consternation prevailed among the whole congregation, and throughout the town, and it was concluded that the wine had been poisoned. The Sacristan, and several others belonging to the vestry, were put in irons. The persons arrested underwent very great hardships: during the space of a week they were confined in a dungeon, and some of them were put to the torture; but they persisted in their innocence. On the Sunday following the magistrate ordered that a chalice of wine, uncovered, should be placed for the space of an hour upon the altar: the hour had scarcely elapsed when they beheld the wine filled with myriads of insects. By tracing whence they came, it was perceived by the rays of the sun that they issued from the grave of the lady who had been buried the preceding fortnight. The people not belonging to the vestry were dismissed, and

four

men were employed to open the vault and the coffin; in doing this

two

of them dropped down and expired on the spot, the other

two

were only saved by the utmost exertions of medical talent.

[n.170.1] 

We have before quoted the words of the Report, in which our practice with regard to burials is contrasted with that of

nearly all other civilized nations ;

and remarked, that however startling the statement, it is perfectly true. Seek the abodes of the dead in France, Spain, Germany, or in the principal States of America, and in place of the hideous burial-grounds described in these pages, we find open and airy places, always decent, frequently beautiful. Instead of sending away in disgust the few whom sad necessity has made their visitors, they often form the favourite places of resort to the neighbouring population. France has honourably distinguished herself in this matter. Not content with stopping the old custom, and prescribing the strictest sanitory laws for the future, she purified her metropolis of the evils already in existence, by the Herculean task of removing the enormous masses of human remains which had been congregated there: hence the famous Catacombs, where now lie the bones of at least millions of people. But our practices have been put to shame even by our own provincial towns; Liverpool and Manchester have had their cemeteries years before London seems to have paid the slightest attention to them. In the we find the credit of originating the movement here, attributed to Mr. G. F. Garden, who, it appears, unceasingly agitated the question for several years. In his exertions were crowned with success, by the passing of the act for the formation of the cemetery since known as that of Kensal Green. Though less picturesquely situated than some of the other and more recent cemeteries, it has a peculiar interest, from being the . Let us, therefore, take a short walk through it, if it be only to enjoy the contrast with the burial-grounds we have left behind in the city.

After a pleasant walk of between and miles along the ,

171

the handsome, substantial-looking Doric gateway meets the eye on the left, standing a little back; we pass through, and the grounds of Kensal Green Cemetery are before us. These are extensive, comprising about acres, and are surrounded with a lofty wall on either side of the gateway, now almost covered by a rich belt of young forest-trees, evergreens, and shrubs; whilst the opposite boundary is left partially open to the eye, so as to admit of fine prospects, from different parts, over the country round Shepherd's Bush, Hammersmith, Netting Hill, and Bayswater. In the interior the grounds are divided by broad winding and straight walks, the rest being laid out in grassy lawns, relieved by parterres of flowers, clumps of trees and shrubs, and, above all, by the glitteringly white monuments of every possible outline, style, and size, from the simple flat stone, up to places large enough for their owners to reside in whilst living. The chief buildings are the chapels and the colonnade. The chapel for the Dissenters on the left, in the unconsecrated ground (divided from the consecrated by a clearly marked boundary), is, with the exception of its front, where the Doric pillars give something like dignity of expression, markedly plain; the chapel for the use of members of the Church of England, on the right, is, on the contrary, both noble and handsome, and the interior, with its solemn gloom, and single painted-glass window, rich though simple. The only furniture of the place are the seats at the sides for the mourners, and that dark-looking table in the centre where lies the being mourned. This, by means of machinery, at the proper period descends down to the very floor of the catacombs below; which consist of a main passage extending in the direction of the length of the chapel, and crossed by others. The walls of the latter are formed into a series of deep and broad arches, each of them divided off so as to suit the convenience of purchasers. There is in these vaults alone room for persons. We need hardly add that all bodies received in the catacombs must be placed in lead. The memorials of those buried here are placed in the colonnade above; which, with the chapel, forms sides of a square. A monument by Sievier in of the corners deserves notice. A female figure reclines on the base, or table, entirely covered with a shroud, whilst above are other figures representing an angel bearing off the soul of the deceased. There is something peculiarly beautiful, it seems to us, in the novel part of this idea, the shroud. Not only is the awkwardness of the old arrangement thus got rid of, where, instead of understanding the sculptor's refinements of the figure representing the body, and the other the soul, you only wondered how the deceased managed to be in effigy in places at once; but the idea itself now becomes fine. You not only see from whence the joyful spirit has departed, but are impressed with a keener sense of the glorious immortality it has put on, from the apprehension of the veiled mortality it has put off. Before quitting the chapel and the catacombs, we must not omit to notice that a true benefactor of his kind rests here, Dr. Birkbeck. The colonnade shown in a previous page is distinct from the chapel colonnade; like that, it is erected over catacombs, and has its walls pretty well covered with the memorials of those who have been interred in them. Sir William Knighton's is distinguished by its admirable bust in relief. A scroll, with several names inscribed on the unrolled part, whilst in the rolled remainder you see how much room yet remains, is

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something more than a pleasant conceit; for it accomplishes, though in a quaint way, what should be the end and aim of all funeral sculpture--it suggests what we often manage to forget, even in cemeteries, that we too are mortal. Memorials like this and the before mentioned, with some others scattered about the grounds, make us hope that such burial-places will do with us what they are said to have done in foreign countries,--improve the public taste.

The funeral monuments,

says Dr. Bowring, in his evidence before the Committee,

which have been erected in many parts of Europe, and which are very superior in character to those which had existed before the present generation, are evidence of this.

But then, both the sculptors and their patrons must get rid of the ideas which have placed so many melancholy mistakes in these same grounds. They must not think that largeness of structure is synonymous with grandeur, or that a style of architecture unlike anything the world ever saw, necessarily meets our views of originality, or that a really good idea cannot be sufficiently appreciated without endless repetitions of it. The stately Corinthian column, broken midway in its height, is a noble type of man cut down in his prime; but, what if, instead of imitating the work, the artists of the cemetery would imitate him who designed it, that is, think for themselves?

The tombs of the greatest pretension at Kensal Green are mostly ranged at the sides of the central walk leading to and from the chapel. Here are, Dr. Valpy's, in the form of a Roman temple; the Rashleigh family's, of Mendabilly, consisting merely of flat and head stones, but of such gigantic size and rude structure, that involuntarily thinks of primeval ages, and men like gods; whilst, opposite each other, at the junction of principal walks, the most conspicuous objects in the most conspicuous part of the cemetery, stand St. John Long's, with a figure of the goddess of health raised on high within an open Grecian temple, and the prince of horsemen's, Ducrow's, in the shape of a large --Egyptian building, with bronze sphynxes each side of the door, and surrounded by a garden with flowering evergreens, standard roses, and sweet-smelling stocks, with gravelled walks and bronze railings. Scattered about in other parts are many objects of interest or curiosity. Among the former may be included the memorials of the daughter of Sir Walter Scott; of Boaden,

a gentleman distinguished for his literary attainments ;

and of the late Editor of the

Times :

among the latter those of Julia S. Lamb, which has a lamb lying bound and helpless on the top (where the pun by no means enhances the pathos); and the gigantic monument of the Hygeist, as he delighted to be called, Morison, the alchemist of the pill-box, who found there what the elder simpletons looked for in the crucible; but, strange to say, did not find, what might have been more reasonably looked for from him; alas for posterity, the Hygeist does not live for ever. There are some touching inscriptions and incidents, if we may so call them, to be found here. The words

I shall go to her, but she shall not return unto me,

inscribed on the upper part of a stone, and, in more recent characters,

Lord Jesus, receive my spirit,

on the lower, describe a common but moving history better than more laboured attempts; and the inscription on an infant, who died at the age of months, commences with a fine line-

Twixt two inviting worlds he stood

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The best of the incidents to which we alluded is the care exhibited in the monument of Elizabeth Filipowitz, the celebrated violinist, and certain children of Polish refugees, where the fresh wreaths of everlasting flowers show the dead: are not forgotten. Our space will only allow us to mention other memorial, the lofty and elegant sarcophagus in the Gothic style, on the left of the walk leading to the Dissenters' Chapel, which is built in memory of a sculptor, and is as truly beautiful as artist's monument should be. Altogether the effect of the grounds is highly pleasing and satisfactory; feels that they form what the word cemetery in the Greek implies--a place of or

Upwards of persons have been interred here since the opening a circumstance that in itself shows how great was the want of such a place. Not of its least advantages is, that every private grave is secured from disturbance, forming indeed a freehold which may be bequeathed by its owner. The system of mapping out the ground is ingenious and satisfactory. The whole is divided into squares of feet by , for each of which a leaf of a very large massive-looking and iron-bound volume is set apart; here every grave in the square is numbered, and the occupied ones marked. This book, and printed plans of the squares, are always accessible to the parties concerned, so that mistakes and deceptions are alike guarded against. There are some points in which improvement may be made. When the cemetery companies obtained their respective acts of parliament, the dangers of burying near the surface, and of burying several bodies in the same .grave, above another, were not so well known as they have been since the publication of the Report of the Committee. Now, however, it appears many of the best informed men consider there should be no grave within feet of the surface, whilst at Kensal Green, and no doubt at the other cemeteries, they bury within feet.

Since the formation of Kensal Green, other cemeteries have rapidly followed;

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until they are to be found in pretty nearly all directions. Thus we have at Norwood, another near , a at Brompton, a at Stoke , a at Highgate, and a at Mile End, each having its own peculiar advantages and claims to public support. Among these, Highgate is peculiarly fortunate in its position--the slope of a picturesque hill, with the beautiful parish church just above, appearing to form a part of it, and below, at a little distance, the mighty metropolis outspread. The cemetery at Stoke , known as Abney Park, has some peculiarities which demand a brief notice. It is (using the words of the proprietors)

a General Cemetery for the City of London, and its eastern and north-eastern suburbs, which shall be open to all classes of the community, and to all denominations of Christians, without restraint in forms.

There is no separating line, in this cemetery, between the parts appropriated to members of the Church of England and to Dissenters. Abney Park is associated with the memory of Dr. Watts. Here he lived many years in the mansion of his friend Sir Thomas Abney; and here he died. There is a tradition that the remains of Oliver Cromwell are buried in this spot; that he was not interred in , nor torn from his royal resting-place by impotent revenge; that Fleetwood, who lived here, secretly gave the body of the mighty man a resting-place in his own grounds. As a cemetery, this place has some natural features of great beauty and interest. It is remarkable for its fine old trees, amongst which there is a splendid cedar of Lebanon, of centuries' growth. It has also a beautiful Arboretum, formed with great taste. The buildings are bold and effective, though of limited extent; and what is wanting in costliness has been more than compensated by the skill of the architect, Mr. W. Hosking, who has here shown how much may be effected by

that true simplicity which results from a few carefully-studied and wellfinished features.

Since, then, all these places have sprung up at the bidding of private enterprise and intelligence, whence the necessity for the sitting of the Committee or the anticipated interference of the Legislature? Who, it may be asked, will much longer continue to bury in such places as Enon Chapel, or the grounds of or ? The answer must be--the poor. Not that their sensibilities are more blunted than those of any other class, but that they are unable to do justice to them. Whilst the bad places are cheap and the good dear, it is idle to expect them to change. Even at present, it is painful in sense, but most gratifying in another, to read of the difficulties and the anxieties they are constantly subjected to in their desire to commit their kindred decently to the earth. What, then, must be the case if the expenses were doubled or trebled, as they would be by burial in the present cemeteries? At Enon Chapel, for instance, from to included every expense, whilst at Kensal Green the cheapest grave costs (with use of chapel) ;[n.174.1]  and then there is the additional expense attending the distance, which is alone calculated at

175

Hence a sufficient necessity for public cemeteries, were there no other. The rich may defend themselves from monopolies; the poor cannot. The mere promulgation of an abstractedly just and necessary law, prohibiting burials within our great towns, will not suffice. Better than that were it to adopt the Neapolitan system, and have a vault for each day in the year, to be opened in regular rotation for the bodies presented for burial, and consumed by the use of quicklime before the revolving year brings the same vault again into use. This method would at least secure the public health; and although somewhat revolting to our English notions, could hardly be more so than the appeal to the parish, which the other would too often necessitate. But it is pleasant to see what care has been taken of this in the Act at present before Parliament. We may not have much of that sentiment among us which gives rise to the touching and beautiful customs of Tuscany, where there are fraternities, numbering among their members people of the highest rank, who make it their express business to bury the poor, and where the Grand Duke himself has been known to attend in the usual garb, which entirely conceals the features of the wearer,--we may not, we repeat, have much of this sentiment, but it will be at least something to show that now the wealthier classes have escaped from the disgusting scenes of our London burial-grounds, they are anxious to enable the:poor todo the same. The Act brought in by Mr. Mackinnon last session, and which now stands over to the next for consideration, provides that, after a period to be fixed, no future interments shall take place in churches, or within cities of a certain size. Committees of health are to be appointed in every parish, or : union of parishes, who are to purchase land and build cemeteries, properly enclosed. Part only of each cemetery is to be consecrated, and the remainder carefully marked by boundary lines: in both divisions chapels are to be erected. :With regard to the pauper poor, a portion of the ground is to be set apart, and for all other persons a table of fees is to be formed, in which, of course, the class we have especially spoken of (the independent poor) will be cared for by the most moderate possible charges. With regard to the other regulations, a valuable provision is embodied, to prevent the dead being kept too long unburied, and it is enjoined that graves are not to be opened twice within years. The question of compensation seems to be skilfully got rid of, or made trifling; chiefly by the proviso that the rectors or incumbents, with the clerks and sextons, of parishes may elect to perform the duties of the cemetery in connexion with them, and receive the same fees as before, or such lower ones as they may find it advisable to fix. Lastly, we may notice a very agreeable portion of the Act, which promises in time to make the old burial-grounds as great an ornament, and of as great value to the metropolis, as they are at present the reverse. The churchwardens of the different parishes are empowered, after a certain time, to plant them with shrubs and trees, or to turn them to such other purpose as they may determine, providing the ground be not disturbed above a foot in depth for years. Let us hope the builders are not then to come in. The places where so many generations of our forefathers have been buried ought not to be disturbed on any pretence short of the most absolute necessity, whilst here the necessities are all on the opposite side. We want more open spaces-let us not lose the few we have. And what

176

men are there lying in same of these grave-yards? Who would lightly break up such places as , where Massinger lies buried, or Bunhill Fields, with its John Bunyan? Let us rather, as regards their aspect, transform those places too into cemeteries. Let green leaves and sweet-smelling flowers, fresh and beautiful as their own imaginations, wave around them; let us feel how sweetly they must

sleep,

how serenely

rest!

 
 
 
Footnotes:

[n.164.1] Pitt's Evidence, Question 165.

[n.166.1] B. Lyons' Examination, Question 1130.

[n.168.1] Gatherings from Grave-Yards ; a work to which the public are directly and indirectly much indebted for the present state of opinion on the subject it discusses.

[n.168.2] Page 95.

[n.170.1] New York Gazette of Health, as transcribed by Mr. Walker.

[n.174.1] This is not the case at all the cemeteries now established. We learn that the charge for a common interment at Abney Park (Stoke Newington) and at Mile End cemeteries is but ten shillings, including every expense; and it may be remarked that a commodious one-horse carriage adapted as a hearse and mourning-coach is coming into use, induced probably by the suburban cemeteries.