Wednesday 10 September 2014

The Cemetery that Never Was

George Carden, who laid claim to being the found of the General Cemetery Company, and originator of Kensal Green Cemetery, fell out with the company directors not long after the cemetery had opened. A little known fact is that he decided to open a rival venture, in what is now Holland Park - still semi-rural in the 1840s - just that little bit nearer to fashionable West London, to trump his former associates. The scheme never got off the ground, but this is the prospectus ... this is, broadly speaking, how the joint stock cemeteries of the 1830s and 1840s were touted. Note also that Carden even suggests he will attempt to build the (quite mad) scheme for a pyramid mausoleum that was still doing the rounds (Carden and its originator were in talks at one point). West London would have looked very different.


Public Meeting in Favour of the Scheme of The Great Western Cemetery, After the Plan of Pere La Chaise

Shares, £21 - Half Shares, 10 Guineas each.

An Exposé of the Scheme of ex-urban Burial will be made by the Found in the appropriated Ground,

Notting Hill, Bayswater, At the Two-mile Stone from Oxford Street

On Saturday, June 21, at Three o'Clock, And the Modelled Design will be again exhibited.

This scheme embraces a great public benefit, and, under proper management, offers expectations of a very profitable investment without risk. The site is nearly equi-distant from Piccadilly, up Church-street, Kensington, thus embracing on its upper and lower ranges, the extremely populous and most respectable neighbourhoods of Belgrave Square, Sloane Street, Brompton, Knightsbridge, and Kensington - also of the continuation of Oxford Street, Bayswater and Notting Hill. From the Bayswater-gate of Kensington Gardens, the distance is about ten minutes walk; and from London, through Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens, it is within the limits of a moderate ramble through the most delightful  part of the environs of the metropolis. The SITE COMPRISES 52 ACRES in extent in one ownership, available for such a purpose, which must surprise even those persons most intimately acquainted with the outskirts of London. One portion of the estate, "Norland Farm", is let to a farmer at a considerable rental. Another, comprising twelve acres and a half, is walled in; these were the grounds of Norland House, occupied, ten years ago, by H. Drummond Esq., until destroyed by fire. All around are lofty trees, many of which are of great beauty and size. There are also numerous woody plantations, gravel walks and shrubs. At the further extremities are two ancient mounds, most beautifully embellished by towering trees, forming arches groves of peculiar magnificence. At some future day, these spots may offer attractions of more than ordinary interest. On the right of the enclosure is, at present, an extensive enclosed garden; on the left, a wilderness of brushwood, and a long hedged-in footpath, bordered by an extensive range of various trees. The centre of the ground exhibits a lawn most beautiful to look upon, without any trees, and at the extremity is a double range of lofty poplars, through which, at the side entrance, the chapel will be visible in a most picturesque manner, when erected in nearly the centre of the ground. The celebrated Norland Well, within the grounds, must not be forgotten, so great was the depth required to be dug to gain the spring. It is concealed by a thicket near the entrance to the grounds, and is surrounded by five trees of very large girth. About the year 1756 its waters were in great celebrity. There are many other things of interest within the grounds. The spot is known by the name of Norlands. At either extremity along the Uxbridge Road, are in large letters on boards, "The Great Western Cemetery Company." The extent which already is enclosed is set forth in the Prospectus. In fine, it may be truly said of this site, that near the metropolis no fitter spot could be found for a mansion of rest, and that this cemetery will ere long become equal in appearance to THE FAR FAMED CEMETERY OF PERE LA CHAISE, NEAR PARIS.

The Mechanics Magazine Saturday April 12 says "we can hardly imagine a spot better fitted for an establishment of this kind than the ground selected for this new cemetery - indeed, we had no idea there was any thing so suitable WITHIN SO SHORT A DISTANCE OF TOWN."

Capital £31,500 in 1,500 shares of £21 each; Half shares 10 Guineas each


Charles Forbes Calland, Esq., 83 Upper Norton-st; The Rev. M'Donald Caunter, 13, Regent Street; Geo. F. Carden, Esq., 1 Mitre Court Building, Temple; Tipping Thomas Rigby, Esq., 12 Paper Buildings, Temple; Captain Geo. Webb Derenzy, Robert Street, Adelphi; Geo. Thoas. Williams, Esq., 51 Montague Square.
(Additional Names to be added from among Subscribers)

AUDITORS - Three (to be chosen at General Meeting from among the Subscribers)
SOLICITOR - John Hare Webb, Esq., 9, Gray's Inn Square
BANKERS - Messrs. Wright, Robinson and Co., Henrietta Street, Covent Garden

The price and conditions upon which the Company become entitled to the lad, declared to parties interested.

A portion of the ground intended to be consecrated, a part not, that the Cemetery may be used generally by the members of EVERY religious community.*

[*A Dissenter cannot by law officiate in consecrated, neither a Member of the Church of England in unconsecrated ground.
Speech of Lord ALTHORP, March 18, 1834 - "These (naming them), he believed, were all the grounds of complaint (no - no - burial in churchyards) he begged pardon, he had forgotten that, yes, the last point was that of burial in churchyards, without the ceremony of the Church of England. Now, he needed not to remind the House of the strong feeling which existed on this last point throughout the country. He hoped, therefore, that some plan, other than by legislative enactment, might be adopted which would have the MERIT of not interfering with that feeling."]

An Act of the Legislature is to be applied for.

The capital of the Company to be raised by shares of £21, and half shares of Ten Guineas each.

Holders of five shares, qualified to be Directors, Trustees or Auditors. Joint Holders of 100 shares qualified, at once, to nominate on their own behalf, one qualified Subscriber as a Director.

The Treasurer not to hold fewer than 50 shares.

Subscribers entitled to one vote for every share; at general or ordinary meetings, or among the Directors. Voting allowed by proxy given to a shareholder.

To guard against that grasping system of fraudulent mismanagement embraced in the terms, expensive extravagance to serve private interests, the prompter of this scheme has the advantage of 400 votes, so that with a moderate concurrence on the part of those who, bona fide, wish to see the plan executed, he can almost  venture to put forth a pledge that there is scarcely a hazard of the purpose being defeated; and this scheme is intended to be conducted as if it were the property of an individual.

The number of Directors, all honorary, 24; three to go out annually.

Three Directors a quorum; proceedings to be confirmed at a subsequent meeting.

The Treasurer, for the time being, by virtue of his office, to be a Director.

The following are the periods at which it is now requisite that subscriptions should be paid;-
At the time of subscribing - £5 per share, £2 10s per half share.
First Instalment on the 8th of August - £5 per share, £2 10s per half share.
Second Instalment on the 15th of January, 1835 - £5 per share, £2 10s per half share.
Third Instalment on the 15th of July - £3 per share, £1 10s per half share
Fourth Instalment (if needed) on the 15th of January, 1836 - £3 per share, £1 10s per half share.

But interest at the rate of £5 per cent. per annum will be added to each share paid up in full - and also upon deposits or instalments, from the time the monies are paid, until the whole of the shares are taken and the whole amounts due thereon equally paid up by each subscriber.


Persons desirous of procuring freehold sites for future use without being subscribers, or subjecting themselves to an expense, may treat for the same.

Persons desirous of promoting this scheme, whether individuals or corporations, by a present advance of capital, may have the right of granting free burial for such persons as the donors may please to select to the full extent of such donation.

Within a limited period, original subscribers may transfer a share in value £21, and become in lieu thereof entitled to a double grave, in perpetuity, to hold not fewer than ten coffins; and for half shares of 10 guineas each, in perpetuity, a single grave to hold not less than five coffins, without being at a limited time required to make a monumental structure. - The public will be at liberty to employ their own architects.

This NATIONAL work is intended to be further beautified by means of loans without interest, and, should it merit it, by PUBLIC DONATIONS. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre at Jerusalem has been selected as an appropriate design for the exhibition of monumental sculpture, and will probably be a model for one of the funeral chapels. The distant boundaries (as exhibited in the model) afford very appropriate sites for alms-houses. Religious societies or charitable institutions desirous of erecting memorials or alms-houses will be readily and beneficially treated with.

The number of burials annually in London, exclusive of the burials in the extensive out-parishes of St. Pancras, Paddington and Marylebone, is upwards of FORTY THOUSAND, and the most casual observer can perceive how much new places of sepulture are required, in the visibly over-crowded state of all the Metropolitan Burial Grounds. IN London, sites for burial cannot be obtained. His Majesty's Commissioners for building New Churches, &c., found this to be the case. Armed with power and the resources of a government, they could not obtain sites whereon to build the new churches, until they had pledged themselves not to appropriate contiguous open spaces for burial. There seemed, indeed, to be GENERAL determination on the part of the landed proprietors TO RESIST THE CREATION OF NEW METROPOLITAN churchyards. During twelve years, up to the year 1824 inclusive, it was found that 333,000 bodies had been interred in London, exclusive of the burials in the parishes above named.

Shocked by the frequent excavation of burial-grounds, the time is not far distant when the thinking public will wholly discontinue to bury in London. The expense is enormous, the tenure precarious; and the consecrated sanctuaries of the dead cease to afford security for permanent repose. Within the last ten years seven or eight churchyards in this metropolis have been WHOLLY EXCAVATED, and as much churches demolished and the remains carted out without rite, or ceremony.

Some parishes have no burial-ground belonging to them, other parishes have only vaults for interment. The dead, when buried in vaults, should be secured in coffins of lead. This creates great additional expense. In upwards of fifty vaults of the metropolis, the dead were found to have been deposited in coffins of wood only!!! and many of the vaults were in immediate connexion with the church. A system more destructive of the public health can scarcely be imagined, and this owing to the want of new, approximate, and economical places of burial. It is not within the means of every one to use church vaults. Persons anxious to inter in another parish are subjected to pay as non-residents, TRIBLE the amount of fees payable by a parishioner; sometimes it is only double. For strangers, and even lodges, double or TREBLE fees are required, although the burial take place in the parish in which the party dies.

The friends, then, of every stranger, of every lodger, and also the Parishioners of parishes not having burial-ground of their own, would eagerly avail themselves of this ex-urban Cemetery.

SECURITY.  - In consequence of Mr. Warburton's Anatomy bill, the remains of the dead are not likely to be disturbed. None but medical practitioners licensed by Government can possess a corpse for dissection, and an account must be duly rendered to the Secretary of State, whence and how the body was obtained, and that the remains after dissection, have been properly interred. This project, then, has nothing to fear from the resurrectionist: his horrid trade is wisely destroyed, and this site will afford convenient opportunity for economical interment. Some practitioners pay hundreds of pounds yearly for burials!

EXPEDITION WITH ECONOMY - The shape of the ground is peculiarly advantageous for Economical Walling. Along the line of the Uxbridge Road, the frontage is about 2,500ft.; of which 1,750 ft. are already enclosed. The breadth in th rear of this is 1,450ft.; on the right 1,750ft. whereof 1,100ft. are also enclosed, and on the left 2,000 ft.

The contemplated arrangements can be so accomplished as to obtain the freehold of the Premises and complete Cemetery, at a cost not exceeding the fixed capital. The public will therefore be accommodated on a plan uniting utility and economy, with great profit to Subscribers.  Of the almost numberless wealthy families of this great metropolis, it is beyond a merely speculative statement that thus enabled, at hardly any cost, at a mere trifle, indeed, compared with existing charges for family vaults, that 1,500 families will, without delay, purchase freehold sites, each sufficient for ten burials, at the very small sum of £21. This alone wold be £31,500,* the whole amount of the capital necessary to purchase the estate, &c. &c. &c. and complete the Cemetery.

[* In consequece of the frequent excavation of burial grounds, and the crowded state of the public vaults, remains contained in lead will almost of necessity be removed into this new Cemetery. Taking the number upon a very moderate calculation to be only 5,000, in ten years, the account would be ...
5,000 removals if belonging to Subscribers at £2 each, 10,000 .... the public, if only at £3 each, 15,0000. But of these, 2000 would very probably belong to different families who would purchase sites at £21.
If Subscribers, the amount would be 42,000 = Total £52,000 ... the public, if only at £25 each, 50,000 = Total £65,000
Which return is wholly independent of the revenue from ordinary burials, sales of vaults &c.
There are now about ten Cemeteries established for country towns, upon the plan first promulgated in the year 1824 by Mr. G.F.Carden, founded of the General Cemetery Company, established by Act of Parliament. Of these, it may be interesting to state the progress made in the New General Cemetery, Liverpool, which was begun in the yer 1825.
Interments: 1825-6-7-8: 1,895; 1829: 743; 1830: 930; 1831: 1,277; 1832: 1,402; 1833: 1,505; total 7,752; besides 140 vaults and 1,102 family graves sold.]


The model, to which the public are invited upon presenting their cards, is now at the Company's offices, 13, Regent-street. It shoes the whole space of fifty-two acres as it will afterwards be approximated. One portion, containing twelve acres and a half, is already entirely enclosed, and most magnificently wooded. The principal entrance will be above the side centre of the grounds, by the roadway which at present exists, until the new roads at the back of Notting Hill are completed. From this entrance there is a sweeping avenue of trees, and a broad roadway running around the church, and terminating in the public road by Sheppard's Bush. The church, for the service of the Church of England, is built upon arches, which are the catacombs for the dead. The building is after the design of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, which internally is admirably adapted for the display of full-length marble figures, on account of the niches with which internally is surrounded. About two thirds of the outer boundary of the whole has to be enclosed with a wall. The grand avenue of trees being formed, and catacombs under the church made, the church built, and this wall completed, the cemetery is finished for the public use; all of which, if the funds allow, will be completed during the present year. Fortunately for the speculators, the whole estate is brick earth; so that all the work of excavation will turn to account, and the soil be made, at the upper extremity, into brick, and every brick required for use can be made upon the estate. With this great advantage, and economical management, the subscribers will possess, first, a beautiful property of fifty-two acres, including numerous outbuildings, a farm, and buildings, and have all the works just named executed for the comparatively very trifling sum of £31,500. A large portion will remain unconsecrated, for the use of those dissenting from the Church of England; viz. one-half of the further outer boundary on the Uxbridge side, and a large piece internally, together also with a piece, one-half, of the present enclosed garden. There is a very sweet Gothic chapel for their especial use. As the estate is so extensive, and in order both to give a ton to the scheme, which will surpass every other, and comfortable security to relations and friends, all around are erected almshouses at shore distances from each other. The tenants of these being pensioners from corporations and other charitable societies, are a class of persons in whom confidence can be placed, and whose interests will secure good behaviour, in the little perquisites and rewards they will, no doubt, often obtain from visiters and the friends of those who inter there. Another arrangement generally strikes our fancy: the walks are so laid out, that plots of ground are at once visibly divided, and capable of being used wholly by the Catholics, the Jews, Quakers, or any other brotherhood, in case they should prefer doing so to having the use of the general ground set apart for the "Dissenters". There is another structure which we have yet to notice, a pyramidical form, capable of containing sixty thousand coffins. This is a range of layers, one above the other, decreasing gradually in size, and intended to be constructed out of the excavated soil in the cemetery, the overplus in making family vaults, when the future profits of the Company shall be sufficient to leave a surplus to create a building fund. Such an intent, considering the great value of building-ground, and that the cemetery of Pere la Chaise, 120 acres in extent, is now losing its beautiful shrubberies, by reason of the great use and fulness of the ground, is a work not of fancy, but of wise for-thought. Within three months pasts, for the reasons stated, an edict was issued in PAris, requiring super-structures to be made in Pere la Chaise. Considering, then, as the proprietors of the company set forth, "that on the burial of every stranger, of every lodger, and also of parishioners no having ground of their own, and of parties dying in extra-parochial places, double and even treble fees are now required", this Cemetery will be hailed as conferring a great public benefit; and considering that if only 1,500 families, at the trifling cost of £21 (instead of hundreds charged in some places) purchased their family vaults, capable of containing the remains of ten members, the sum would REIMBURSE the proprietors every shilling of outlay. With the advantages of situation and cheapness, there cannot be a doubt of the appoval and support of the public, and the consequent success of the Company.

The grounds, we had forgotten to say, are in every direction interspersed with walks, and tombs and monuments of elegant device, the handy-work of Mr. Day, the modeller. Ladies' Magazine and Museum, June 1834

[Since the above description, there have been added sundry elegant and tasteful arcades which will serve alike, when constructed, for use and shelter.]

Cunningham and Salmon, Printers, Crown-court, 72 Fleet-street.

Monday 8 September 2014

Sanitising History

Radio 4's 'Thought for the Day' today (8/9/14) was by Rev Professor David Wilkinson, about ebola. You may want to listen to it yourself. [link here]

Wilkinson starts his talk by noting that the head of Medecins Sans Frontieres has criticised the 'lock down' planned in Sierra Leone, on the grounds that it will undermine trust and drive down notifications of the disease. Wilkinson agrees; and he makes - I assume very valid -  points about the failure of the existing market-driven system to produce a vaccine before this vast outbreak; and the need, in future, for partnerships between pharmaceutical companies, government and local health providers. He finishes with "As a Christian I want to join with many other voices in highlighting that in this we need a common concern and action for the poor."

All excellent; but Professor Wilkinson sandwiches a historical homily between these thoughts.

History, of course, must offer countless parallels. We might look, for instance, at cholera coming to England in 1831/32 - an equally terrifying plague and, at the time, infinity more unknowable than ebola is today. The Central Board of Health - the government's medical advisors - toyed with the idea of internal quarantine  but decided it was impracticable  - and, of course, an affront to the much-vaunted personal freedoms of the English. Do the inhabitants of Sierra Leone feel any different about being trapped in their homes?

Professor Wilkinson, however, refers  back to John Snow's famous epidemiological studies of cholera in the 1850s.

Here's what he says:
On this day, 160 years ago on the instruction of Dr John Snow, the handle of the pump on Broad Street in Soho was removed. Snow had argued that its water was the source of an outbreak of cholera that had killed over 500. This was not an easy argument to win. Christian reformer, the Earl of Shaftesbury had for some time failed to persuade the authorities that improving sanitation would minimise cholera outbreaks. Opponents objected to the cost, but also were convinced that cholera was caused by miasma, a mysterious kind of ‘bad air’.

 By careful investigation and plotting the locations of deaths, Snow was able to argue that the disease was spread by germs and the outbreak originated from raw sewage that had contaminated the pump water. But Snow did not do this alone. Henry Whitehead, an evangelical Anglican curate, lived in the impoverished area of the city, and although initially sceptical of Snow, through meticulous research became one of his most vocal and influential supporters in arguing for germ theory and action in the light of it. His faith motivated his sympathy for the poor, his commitment to live with them and led him to oppose the view that cholera was simply a consequence of laziness which led to poverty. Snow and Whitehead’s partnership gave birth to the science of epidemiology and significant improvements in public housing and sanitation.
The point seems to be that a combination of clear-thinking science (Snow) and Christian charity (exemplified by Shaftesbury and Whitehead) ultimately reformed public housing and sanitation.

No-one but a lunatic would deny that Christianity was a major driving force in Victorian social reform - perhaps the driving force - but the above story is just plain wrong.

I'll explain why:

1.  Shaftesbury, a devout Christian, was a leading 'sanitarian' and social reformer. He was also, famously, a devout miasmatist. Here he is speaking in *1859* ...

"Filth and miasma will, in some form or other, accomplish their work, and, like evil spirits, anxious only for destruction, if they cannot exstinguish the physical, will corrupt the moral life of many generations ..."

In other words, Snow's epidemiological proof of cholera - widely ridiculed and ignored in the 1850s - had little or nothing to do with Shaftesbury's already long-standing interest in sanitation, housing and social reform.

2. "Opponents objected to the cost, but also were convinced that cholera was caused by miasma" ... Yes, cost was a major concern in sanitary reform. For example, there was great unwillingness on the part of central government to foot the bill for sewer schemes in London, which had been on the drawing-board since the late-1840s. But almost everyone, on all sides of the debate, was a miasmatist.

Edwin Chadwick, the civil servant who had carved his own niche in the running of the country by describing the insanitary hell of its great towns and cities, was the great proponent of miasmatic theory. Shaftesbury was one of his great supporters. By the 1850s, miasmatic theory was everywhere, not the preserve of opponents to social improvement. Indeed, quite the opposite, the ardent proponents of improved sanitation were all miasmatists.

3. The claim that Snow and Whitehead's work ultimately drove change is just wrong, except in the longest possible of historical long lenses. Every major sanitary reform that actually took place in Victorian London - sewerage, parochial cemeteries, model housing - had its basis in Chadwick and Shaftesbury's sanitary agitation of the 1840s. And their great article of faith was - you guessed it - that bad air caused disease. Chadwick, moreover, was not a great man of faith - rather, a ruthless Benthamite utilitarian, also remembered for the cruel calculus of the New Poor Law.

It's fascinating how Snow's genius has made him a latter-day saint of rational scientific inquiry - and much deserved. But we need to remember that he had little actual impact on the health of the metropolis. I certainly do not wish to diminish the importance of religious faith to the sanitary reform movement - it's absolutely crucial - but the notion that a marvellous alliance of enlightened scientists and Christians improved Victorian London is simply erroneous. There was a good deal of trial, error and dismal failure; and almost universal belief in 'miasma' persisted throughout the century. Moreover, there was many a dedicated church-goer who explicitly objected to helping the poor with better housing or drains; others, tacitly, had a nice row or two of slum properties from which they collected a modest rent.

Apologies for the rant, but these are not obscure facts - so let's remember them.