Edwin Chadwick.

Report on the sanitary conditions of the labouring population of Great Britain. A supplementary report on the results of a special inquiry into the practice of interment in towns. Made at the request of Her Majesty's principal secretary of state for the Home department online

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Online LibraryEdwin ChadwickReport on the sanitary conditions of the labouring population of Great Britain. A supplementary report on the results of a special inquiry into the practice of interment in towns. Made at the request of Her Majesty's principal secretary of state for the Home department → online text (page 16 of 27)
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charges of interment, is it not to be apprehended that unless some
regulations on a larger scale than of small localities be adopted,
the inconvenience arising in towns will increase the charges of
these calamities to the poorest of the middle classes and to the
working classes, not to speak of the charges on the poor’s rates,
for the interments of paupers will also be increased by
districts?—Yes; it has occurred to me that it will be so.

He expresses his conviction, however, that so strong is the feeling at
present against parochial interments, that if there should be no
legislative provision or interference for the public protection, the
parochial burial places being left open to the competition of private
and trading burial grounds, in a very short time not one-third of the
present number of burials would take place in the parochial grounds.

§ 110. The expense to the rate-payers of parishes for the transference
of the interments to the suburbs would be necessarily very high; the
expense of numerous separate parochial establishments, if only on the
scale of the establishments for the performance of the funeral ceremony,
and for such imperfect care of the ground as that given in those
described would be, at the least, between 25 and 30,000_l._ per annum.
The proposed regulation of the distance of cemeteries from human
habitations—that they shall in every case be two miles, not from houses,
but from the metes and bounds of London and Westminster, and “of any
other city, town, or borough,” as defined by the Municipal Act, and
“which shall contain more than 500 houses, the occupiers of which shall
be rated to the relief of the poor more than 10_l._ or upwards,” appear
to be made without any local examination, or reference to proper
observations or experience.—Vide post, §§ 162, 163, and 164. The metes
and bounds of several towns and places include common lands and sites,
sufficiently distant from any collections of houses, to be the most
eligible sites, and suitable soils for cemeteries, which according to
the best ascertained rule, should be at distances proportioned to the
numbers of inhabitants and probable burials, varying according to these
numbers, from 150 to 500 paces. All unnecessary increase of distance
must be attended with proportionately increased charges of interment to
the poorer classes: arrangements for preventing an increase of the
expense of conveyance of the remains to distant places of interment,
though practicable under general regulations for large national
cemeteries, would be impracticable on the plan of numerous places of
interment with small separate establishments. Mr. Jeffryes, an
undertaker, who chiefly inters the poorest classes in the Whitechapel
district, where the _parochial_ interments are generally diminishing,
was more particularly questioned on this topic.

What has been your experience in respect to the interment of people
of the working classes at cemeteries, and at a distance from their
residence, as compared with burials near their residence? At what
cemeteries have you interred persons?—At Mr. Barber Beaumont’s
cemetery, which is about a mile and a half from Whitechapel; and
also at the cemetery which is at the Cambridge Heath, Cambridge
Road. I have attended, but not on my own account, funerals at all
the other cemeteries—Highgate, Kensal Green, and others.

Supposing that interments within towns be prohibited for all
classes, and that funerals for the future must be performed beyond
the gas lamps or the pavements; judging from the cases you have
already had, what must be the effect on the funerals of the
labouring classes;—supposing that no other arrangements are made
than that of allowing parishes, or any two of them, to provide
cemeteries at a distance from town?—It will certainly increase the
expenses to the labouring classes, and increase the expenses to the
parishes generally. I perform funerals for the working classes at
one-third less than most others; yet I find that the extra expense
of a funeral only a mile or a mile and a quarter distance, is about
one pound per funeral extra; this consists chiefly of the extra
expense of conveyance.

Have you seen carriage conveyances or hearses for the conveyance of
bodies to the cemeteries without the use of bearers?—Yes, I have:
but to get a coffin out of the house, which sometimes has to be got
down stairs, and is very heavy, four men at the least will be
required, and then four men will be required to take it from the
hearse at the cemetery, so that men’s labour cannot be much less,
even if they provide bearers at the cemeteries, which is talked of:
there will still be the extra expense of the carriage, whatever that

§ 111. From the practical evidence already cited, §§ 87, 88, it will be
perceived, that notwithstanding this increase of expense, the chaplain
or curate, if unaided, cannot be expected to perform the service in a
manner that will be more satisfactory to the survivors than in those
parochial grounds which are now the subject of complaint. The numerous
successive services that may be expected to arrive on the Sunday must
often unavoidably have the appearance of being hurried over, and without
assistance and appropriate superintendence will sometimes really be so,
whilst the funeral of the person of better condition which takes place
separately, and at an appointed time, has its separate attention under
circumstances, giving rise to the appearance and creating the feeling of
an undue “acceptation of persons,” which it is said ought not to be, and
which the examination of practical examples will show, need not be.
Inasmuch as, in the present mode, the clergyman’s attention must be
absorbed with his own clerical duties, the grave-yard and the material
offices connected with it must be left to be managed, as it is now, by a
sexton and common gravedigger. No multiplication of the numbers of such
poor men in numerous extra-mural and parochial establishments will give
them education, or elevate their minds to act without superintendence,
up to the solemnity and delicacy of the duties to be performed in any
proposed alteration of custom. In such hands the institution and service
for the reception and care of the dead, (which, with all its appliances,
is one of the most elevated that can adorn the civic economy of a large
and civilized community,) would be impracticable, or would become a
common “dead-house,” or a revolting charnel. It may be confidently
affirmed, that to accomplish what is needed to satisfy the feelings of
the population, on the points on which they are so painfully
susceptible, and to gain the public confidence requisite to carry out
all the sanitary appliances and improvements that are requisite in
connexion with the practice of interment, would task the zeal and
ability, and unremitting attention of any, the best staff of educated
medical men that could be procured for such a service. The improvements
which appear to be practicable, may be perceived on a consideration of
the information hereafter submitted, as to what is already gained under
arrangements of a comprehensive character.

§ 112. The chief conclusions in respect to the proposed suburban
parochial interments deducible from the present experience appear then
to be,

1. That the change of the practice of interments on the plan of suburban
parochial or establishments of separate unions of parishes, while it
gave immediate relief to the centre of the town, would create
impediments to the regular growth of the suburbs, and, ultimately, as
the interments increase, diminish the salubrity of the suburbs. §§ 107,

2. That it would not _ultimately_ diminish any injurious effects arising
from the practice of interments amidst the abodes of the living; and
that its chief effect would be to transfer such evils from the districts
where they now prevail to the midst of the population of other
districts. §§ 105, 110.

3. That these results would only be obtained at a considerable expense
to the rate-payers of the parishes from whence the practice of
interments is transferred. §§ 107, 108.

4. That if burial in parochial grounds were transferred to such a
distance as not to interfere with the growth of the suburbs, the
increased distance of interments would occasion a proportionate increase
of the expense of interments to the labouring classes of the community.
§ 110.

5. That inasmuch as the difficulty of obtaining the means of defraying
the expense of such classes of interments is frequently a powerful means
of increasing the evil of the long delay of the interments, the measures
proposed would tend to increase the most extensive and direct source of
injury to the health and morals of the survivors of the labouring
classes—the long retention of the corpse in their crowded and
ill-ventilated places of abode. §§ 43, 44.

6. That interment by a parochial agency would aggravate or leave
untouched the other objections to the present practice of interments in
the metropolis. §§ 98, 99, 111.

_Practicability of ensuring for the Public superior Interments at
reduced Expenses._

The subject which may next be presented for consideration is how far the
pecuniary burthens may be reduced consistently with the sentiments
expressed by Jeremy Taylor, who deems it “a great act of piety, and
honourable, to inter our friends and relatives according to the
proportions of their condition, and so to give testimony of our hope of
their resurrection. So far is piety; beyond, it may be the ostentation
and bragging of grief to serve worse ends. In this, as in everything
else, as our piety must not pass into superstition or vain expense, so
neither must the excess be turned into parsimony, and chastised by
negligence and impiety to the memory of their dead.”

§ 113. It appears, from detailed inquiries, made of tradesmen of
experience and respectability, who have answered explicitly the
questions put to them, that the expense of the materials at present
supplied for funerals admit of a reduction under general arrangements
of, at the least, 50 per cent. The practical experience of these
witnesses would justify a dependence on their testimony as to the
possible reduction of expenses, especially in case the public feeling
should be gained to change from the practice of having processions
through the town to the practice of processions nearer to the
cemeteries, by which the expenses of conveyance included in Mr. Wild’s
estimate would be diminished. It is stated by the latter that the
disposition evinced by the higher classes, is to reduce expensive
trappings. He states:—

Is it not an occurrence of increasing frequency amongst the
respectable classes to express in their wills a wish to be buried
plainly, and at moderate expense?—Yes, it is; and they sometimes fix
sums. They fix such a sum as £150, where it has been usual to expend
such sums as £400 or £500. Parties of respectability now begin to
object to wearing cloaks and long hatbands. They are also beginning
to object to the use of feathers, and to the general display. The
system of performing funerals by written contract is also becoming
very prevalent. It is so frequent with me that I must have some
printed forms.

Mr. J. Browning of Manchester, member of the large society alluded to,
as comprehending 150,000 members, states that they have evinced similar

I have belonged to the Odd Fellows’ Society and to the Foresters’
Society, and have served office in both in this town, Manchester. I
have belonged to them about 13 years.

Do you find any alteration in the dispositions of the members of
those societies in respect to the ceremonies observed and the array
at funerals?—Yes, a very great alteration.

In what respect?—In Manchester and Liverpool it used to be the
practice, when a member of either society died, that the members and
the officers attended decorated with their regalia, and followed the
corpse in procession. They used to assemble in bodies, as many as
two or three hundred, and there was a great deal of drinking. Now
these sort of processions are put a stop to by members, and there is
no regalia or processions used. Only a few members attend the
deceased member, and they attend only with black scarfs, white
gloves, and a black silk hatband, which is considered respectful.
But in some of the country places they still follow the practice,
and they will have the processions.

But the general tendency is to render the ceremony more simple?—Yes,
and there is much less drinking in the towns.

§ 114. These manifestations are ascribable to a consciousness of the
incompatibility of funereal displays through the crowded streets of
populous districts, and are consistent with the desire to obtain proper
respect for the deceased, shown in the objections to brief, meagre, and
hurried services, and in the selection of secluded and decorated places
of burial; it is shown, indeed, by the removal of the meretricious
trappings, which have lost their effect, and the preference of a more
quiet simplicity which, under such circumstances, forms a better means
of ensuring that respect.

§ 115. Assuming the practicability of the accomplishment in this country
of administrative arrangements such as have been accomplished, and are
in habitual execution, abroad, to the great satisfaction of every class
of society, a primary regulation, which would be practicable, would be
to obtain for the public the opportunity of obtaining, at various
scales, supplies of goods and services for funerals. To Mr. Wild the
following questions were put:—

Do you believe it to be practicable, by proper regulations, greatly
to reduce the existing charges of interments?—Yes, a very great
reduction indeed may be made—at least 50 per cent.

May it be confidently stated that under such reductions, whatever of
respectability in exterior is now attached to the trapping, or to
the mode of the ceremony, might be preserved?—Oh, yes; I should say
it might, and that they could scarcely fail to be increased.

Might not the expenses of the funerals of _the labouring classes_ be
greatly reduced without any reduction of the solemnity, or display
of proper and satisfactory respect?—Very considerable reductions may
be made, and attention to propriety very greatly increased. One
large item of expense is the expense of bearers: they cost, for a
walking funeral of an adult, 12_s._ Nine shillings of this expense
would be dispensed with if the burial were at a cemetery. This would
go towards the expense of conveyance, and contribute to the
compensation: besides, it would avoid for the mourners the
inconvenience and annoyance of walking through the crowded streets,
often in wet weather. One circumstance attending burial in
cemeteries would be, a diminution of the number of mourners: this
would occasion a diminution of the expense of funeral fittings.

What is the lowest price for which a coffin is made?—The lowest
priced coffin at this time, is the adult pauper’s coffin, with a
shroud, but with no cloth or nails, or name-plate or handles, and
costs 3_s._ 6_d._; the contract is usually for deal, inch thick, but
they never are; if they were, they could not be supplied under
4_s._; they often break when taken to the grave.

What would be the price of a coffin deemed respectable by the
labouring classes, with name-plate and appropriate fittings
complete, if manufactured for an extensive supply?—The average price
of such coffins is now about 35_s._; but the same quality of coffin
might be supplied on a large scale for about 17_s._

What would be the price of coffins for persons of the middle class,
if supplied on a similar scale?—The prices vary with them from 3_l._
to 10_l._; they have frequently double coffins; the same coffins
might be supplied from 30_s._ to 5_l._, or 50 per cent. less.

§ 116. Mr. Hewitt, whose testimony has already been referred to, states,
that under general arrangements, it would be practicable to alleviate
the evil of the expense to an extent which would appear incredible. He

I have so far carefully considered the subject, that I should be
ready to take a contract for the performance of burials at the
following rates:—For a labouring man, 1_l._ 10_s._ without burial
fees; for a labourer’s child, 15_s._, for a tradesman, 2_l._ 2_s._;
for a tradesman’s child, 1_l._ 1_s._; for a gentleman, 6_l._ 7_s._
6_d._; for a gentleman’s child, 3_l._ 10_s._ These expenses are for
“walking funerals;” the expenses of hearses and carriages would
depend on the distance, and would make from one to two guineas each
carriage extra.

All these, with the same descriptions of coffins, and with the same
respectability of attendance?—Yes, on the scale of about half the
existing burials in the metropolis; if it were for the whole, it
might be done much better, and in some instances perhaps at a
greater rate of reduction.

§ 117. Mr. Wild gives, on similar grounds, the following estimate of the
practicable rates of expenses of interment with all decent appliances:—

│ Tradespeople. │ Mechanics.
│ Adults. │ Children. │ Adults. │ Children.
│ From. │ To. │ From. │ To. │ From. │ To. │ From. │ To.
│£. _s._│£. _s._│£. _s._│£. _s._│£. _s._│£. _s._│£. _s._│£. _s._
Coffin │ 1 5│ 4 4│ 0 15│ 1 10│ 0 17│ 1 5│ 0 10│ 0 15
Fittings,│ 0 15│ 2 0│ 0 10│ 1 0│ 0 10│ 0 15│ 0 5│ 0 10
&c. │ │ │ │ │ │ │ │
Sundries │ │ │ │ │ │ │ │
Convey- │ 1 1│ 4 4│ 1 1│ 2 2│ 0 17│ 1 1│ 0 10│ 1 1
ance │ │ │ │ │ │ │ │
Totals │ 3 1│10 8│ 2 6│ 4 12│ 2 4│ 3 1│ 1 5│ 2 6

§ 118. Next to the arrangements practicable for the regulation of the
supplies of goods, the most important practicable arrangements for
reduction of expense are those which may regulate the services necessary
for interments. The item set forth in the above estimate of the charge
for conveyance is on the supposition of separate conveyance in the
present mode to the distant cemetery. With reference to the charge for
the poorer classes, Mr. Wild was asked—

Might not several sets of mourners be carried in one
conveyance?—Yes; that has often occurred to me, and it would tend to
reduce the expense materially. When two or three children have died
in one street, and they have had to be buried in the same cemetery,
I have asked the parents whether, as they had to go to the same
place, they objected to go in the same conveyance, and they have
frequently stated that they had no objections. These were of the
more respectable classes of mechanics.

In the fittings up of the coffins, is it considered that these would
be as good as those now used?—Quite as good.

§ 119. One large item in the expense of funerals in the metropolis and
populous districts is the expense of hearers, § 115, who are provided
for each separate funeral. This expense is about 12_s._ for a set of
bearers for the funeral of an adult of the working classes. Formerly
common bearers were provided by the several parishes in the metropolis.
Any arrangements of a national character would include the provision of
a better regulated class of bearers at a greatly reduced expense. In the
course of the examination of Mr. Dix, the following information was

It has been suggested that, if the hearse were always used, the
expense of bearers would be dispensed with in walking funerals. What
do you conceive would be the case?—I conceive that that would not be
the case, inasmuch as it would require bearers to remove the body
from the house to the hearse, and from the hearse to the grave. But
this difficulty might, I would suggest, be, to a great extent,
obviated by the establishment of public bearers, who should have the
exclusive right of removing all corpses, and whose rate of payment
should be fixed.

What is the present rate of payment of bearers to the grave for the
labouring classes?—It is 2_s._ 6_d._ each.

If public bearers were appointed, what might be the expense?—Much
less than one-half.

Do you think that this principle of management would be satisfactory
to the working classes?—It is in fact an old method. Formerly there
were bearers in all parishes, appointed by the churchwardens. In the
parish of St. Margaret’s, Westminster, and in most of the city
parishes, the practice continues to this day. In the form of bills
of the various parish dues the charge for bearers remains to the
present day.

Were these parish bearers less expensive than others?—No; they were

Why were they discontinued?—In consequence of these bearers often
becoming undertakers themselves, which created a jealousy amongst
the trade, who refused to employ them, and the parishes had no power
to compel their employment. Also in consequence of the men being
elected by the churchwardens; they were seldom elected until they
became of an age that rendered them incapable of performing the
duties properly. They were not properly dressed, and were under no
control. In recommending public bearers, I presume they would be
under a different control than a parochial one or than the
churchwardens. I would add, however, that as one set of bearers
cannot carry a corpse more than a mile, I would only propose them in
aid of the hearses.

§ 120. Mr. Wild, who had previously volunteered the suggestion as to the
means of reducing the expenses of conveyance, by arrangements on an
extensive scale, observes, further, in reference to the bearers—

“My first view as to the possible economy of funerals, was derived
from seeing that parish bearers were often made use of. The present
charge for bearers for mechanics is 12_s._ for the adults, or 3_s._
per bearer. I was asking one of the parish bearers what he was
allowed, as the charge was included in the burial dues, which were
1_l._ 5_s._ 6_d._ He told me they were paid 6_d._ per bearer, or
2_s._ the set. He told me that they had borne six to the grave that
morning, and he had earned 3_s._ himself. This at the usual charge
would have been 3_l._ 12_s._; but properly provided bearers at the
cemetery might reduce the charges still further, perhaps to 3_d._
each case.”

§ 121. Before submitting for consideration any detailed arrangements for
securing, in a manner satisfactory to the people, better funerals at
less oppressive charges, it is necessary to premise, that there appear
to be no grounds to expect the extensive spontaneous adoption of

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Online LibraryEdwin ChadwickReport on the sanitary conditions of the labouring population of Great Britain. A supplementary report on the results of a special inquiry into the practice of interment in towns. Made at the request of Her Majesty's principal secretary of state for the Home department → online text (page 16 of 27)