The National Need for New Cemeteries

By the early 19th century it was becoming very apparent that the provision of burial spaces for the dead in urban areas was quite inadequate both in terms of the number available and their quality.

The agrarian and industrial revolutions had both contributed to a huge shift of population into urban areas so that the limited spaces available in the established burial grounds attached to churches were full . Practices such as re-using plots after a few years and of using increasingly shallow graves were, rightly, considered unhygienic . Cemeteries became associated with 'fetid air' and the outbreak and spread of disease in the equally overcrowded living areas surrounding them. The first Cholera outbreak in England in 1832 claimed over 20000 lives and heightened concern over urban living conditions although the cause of the disease was not understood until much later.

The growth in the population of England from 8.3m in 1801 to 16.8m in 1851 provided further pressure for action to be taken. By 1851 one of five of the population considered themselves to be Non-conformists or Dissenters ( ie. not members of the established Anglican Church). Dissenters wished to be buried in un-consecrated ground and the space available around their recently built places of worship were very limited. 'Public' burial places were needed.

This need was answered by the formation of Cemetery Companies. Groups of business men, often Non-conformists, would purchase land outside the urban areas and establish Cemeteries that were open for all.

In 1804 the Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris was the first 'Public' Cemetery in Europe that was open for all faiths. Its extensive park like layout influenced similar developments in England. In 1832 an Act of Parliament allowed the creation of the seven great 'Garden Cemeteries' around London. It was at this time that the first public parks were being created in urban areas and the Cemeteries were also landscaped to be attractive places to visit and to stroll in.

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