Thursday, April 23, 2015

Death in the City

From The Guardian:
As well as sewerage, another “waste removal” problem plagued London in the 19th century: the disposal of the dead. There was little dispute about the means. Burial was the norm; cremation a peculiar foreign custom. The difficulty lay in finding room for an ever-increasing number of corpses. The capital’s burgeoning population, upon their decease, were filling up its small churchyards, burial grounds and vaults...Clearance of long-buried bones had always taken place; but the growing demand for burials in crowded grounds meant the work became ever more grisly.

Moreover, by the 1840s London’s overcrowded churchyards (and the older, small commercial grounds in the centre of the capital) were not only seen as posing a logistical challenge, but damned as a source of “miasma”. Sanitary reformers quite mistakenly believed that the stench from poorly interred decaying bodies was poisoning the metropolis. The practice of urban burial was touted as a profound menace to public health. (Read more.)

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