the unburied are dangerous or injurious to the public health

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route to CCI 19097Gray graves some falling overThe ‘City Road’ cemetery in Sheffield is well maintained, the grass is cut, fallen stones are repositioned, and mature trees shade the pedestrian walkways through it’s extensive hillside grounds. It has separate Church of England, Nonconformist and Roman Catholic burial grounds. Originally known as the Sheffield Township Burial Ground or Intake Cemetery (City Road was formerly called Intake Road), it was renamed the City Road cemetery when it was taken over by Sheffield City Council in 1900.

It was built because of:

1) the rapidly increasing population in Sheffield.

“1736 Sheffield and its surrounding hamlets held about 7000 people, in 1801 there were around 60,000 inhabitants, and by 1901, the population had grown to 451,195″ (Wikipedia)

“By 1841 there would be 110,000 people within its [Sheffield town] boundaries, and hardly any sanitation…   …disease was common and people did not live long. At this time the citizens of Sheffield died at an average age of just 27…   …The huge number of deaths at this time” (Sheffield General cemetery website)

2) the rapidly dying population in Sheffield due to a cholera epidemic that started in the town during 1832:

“meant that the churchyards in Sheffield were becoming full to overflowing. The dead were often kept under the floor of the church, and sometimes in these places you could really smell death…   …it was not unknown to see bits of corpses sticking out from the overfilled graves” (Sheffield General cemetery website)

3) and the introduction of ‘Burial Act’s which still apply today. These Acts required that dead people are buried, even the poor who can’t afford to pay for burial, because of the health risk associated with their lying unburied.  The local parish is required to fund the burial of the poor:

“persons as may have the care of any vaults or places of burial, for preventing them from becoming or continuing dangerous or injurious to the public health; . . . and such . . . persons shall do or cause to be done all acts ordered as aforesaid, and the expenses incurred in and about the doing thereof shall be paid out of the poor rates of the parish”

City Road cemetery is the largest cemetery in Sheffield:

“opened in 1881…  …It covers 100 acres, and is the largest owned by Sheffield City Council…   …By September 2005 almost 163,000 people had been buried within the cemetery occupying over 20,000 graves; some having as many as 8 or 9 bodies in them”

Entrance viewed From the CrematoriumSoon after the cemetery opened Sheffield was granted a charter to become a city in 1893. This garden cemetery was  commissioned and funded by the “Sheffield Township Burial Board”.   Their visits to Birmingham’s Whitton cemetery and Liverpool’s Anfield Cemetery probably influenced their  decisions about the lay-out and running of the cemetery. In 1878 the land for the cemetery was purchased from the fifteenth Duke of Norfolk for £13,625. A requirement of the purchase was that a proportion of the ground would be allocated for Roman Catholic burial. This requirement suggests to me that Catholics in England still suffered from discrimination. That is, the Duke of Norfolk didn’t expect a burial ground to automatically include Catholics, he felt the need to specify that the should be included to avoid them being excluded.

Hillside graves of many shapes and sizesLocal architects Messrs M E Hadfield and Son designed it to include Church of England and Nonconformist chapels. A catholic chapel was added in 1889. As-if the designers planned without including a Catholic area and had to retrospectively add it because of the purchase agreement.


2 bits of lovely banter on “the unburied are dangerous or injurious to the public health”

  1. Tim writes:

    This reminded me of the old Reading Cemetery (which I think you live close to). I very occasionally wander through it (not for some years, I must admit).. Someone once told me it was the largest cemetery in Europe – can that be true?

       1 likes

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  2. wendy writes:

    Hi Tim Reading Old Cemetery at cemetery junction was built about 50 years earlier than Sheffield cemetery, both of them are “Garden” cemeteries – designed to be pleasant places for the living to walk and be. Reading cemetery is 11.5 Acres, that’s just over one tenth of the size of the Sheffield city Road 100 Acre cemetery. It’s rather small compared to UK city garden cemeteries.

       0 likes

    [reply]

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