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

. (page 22 of 27)
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 22 of 27)
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parochial system, even if there were no difficulties in forming the
union of the smaller parishes for this object, could only furnish so
loose and uncertain a superintendence over an affair of such
magnitude, and requiring such constant vigilance, as to be
altogether inadequate to the purpose. It is not easy, with their
present burthens and responsibilities, to fill the parochial offices
with men competent to the duty, and with sufficient leisure to
devote to it. They are usually filled by men in business of some
kind, with considerable sacrifice of their time, and of that
attention which is required by their personal concerns. These
duties, however are confined, onerous as they sometimes are, to
their own immediate neighbourhood. But if we add to their
responsibilities, the care of a remote and large churchyard, with
all its complicated management, we impose upon them duties so
arduous and so incompatible with their own interests and avocations,
that the conscientious would shrink from undertaking them, and they
would fall into the hands of a lower class of busy persons, anxious
for notoriety, or with some remote view of advantage to themselves.
It will be absolutely necessary to relieve the parish officers from
a burthen which they cannot undertake without a sacrifice, which is
more than can be expected from men engaged in business or in some of
the active professions. Besides all this, the administration would
be constantly passing from one to another; the objection to the
whole parochial system, that a man no sooner learns the duty of his
office, than he is released from it, would apply in a tenfold degree
to an affair of such magnitude. The only way to secure the proper
organization and conduct of a remote cemetery, would be by officers,
judiciously selected, and adequately paid, who should devote their
whole time to the business. Many of these objections, as the want of
sufficient time without neglecting more serious duties, would apply
to the clergyman of a large town parish, and if the cemetery be made
an object of parochial taxation, the less he is involved in it the

On the wise and maturely considered organization, and on the
provisions for the careful, constant, and vigilant superintendence
of the whole system, will depend entirely its fulfilment of its
great object, the re-investment of the funeral services, and of the
sacred abode of the dead, in their due solemnity and religious
influence. Nothing can be more beautiful, more soothing under the
immediate influence of sorrow, or at all times more suggestive of
tranquil, yet deep religious emotion, than the village churchyard,
where the clergyman, the squire, or the peasant, pass weekly or more
often by the quiet and hallowed graves of their kindred and friends,
to the house of prayer, and where hereafter they expect themselves
to be laid at rest under a stone perhaps, on which is expressed the
simple hope of resurrection to eternal life, and where all is so
peaceful, that the tomb may almost seem as if it might last
undisturbed to that time. I am inclined to think that some of the
unbounded popularity of Gray’s Elegy, independent of its exquisite
poetic execution, may arise from these associations. Of these
tranquillizing and elevating influences, so constantly refreshed and
renewed, the inhabitants of large cities are of necessity deprived.
The churchyard, often very small, always full, and crowded with
remains of former interments, either carelessly scattered about, or
but ill concealed, is in some cases a thoroughfare, where the
religious service is disturbed by the noises, if not of passing and
thoughtless strangers, with those of the din and traffic of the
neighbouring street; and the new made grave, or the stone, which has
just been fixed down, is trampled over by the passing crowd, or made
the play-place of idle children. Where, as in some of the larger
parishes in the west of London, the burial place is not contiguous
to the church, it is more decent, but then it is secluded within
high walls, or perhaps by houses, and is only open for the funeral
ceremony, at other times inaccessible to the mourning relatives.

But will it not be possible, as we cannot give to the population of
the metropolis, and other crowded towns, the quiet, the sanctity,
the proximity to the church of the village place of sepulture, to
substitute something at least decent, and with more appearance of
repose and permanence; if not solemn, serious, and religiously
impressive? The poor are peculiarly sensible of these impressions,
and to them impression and custom form a great part, the most
profound and universal influence of religion; and to them they
cannot be given but by some arrangement under the sanction, and with
the assistance, of the Government. Private speculation may give
something of this kind to the rich, but private speculation looks
for a return of profit for its invested capital. To my mind there is
something peculiarly repugnant in Joint-Stock Burial and Cemetery
Companies. But, setting that aside, they are and can be of no use to
the _people_ of the metropolis and the large towns. There always has
been, and probably always will be, some distinction in the burial
rites (I beg to say that to the credit of my curates, they refuse to
make any difference between rich and poor in the services of the
church) and in the humbler or more costly grave of rich and poor—

Here lie I beside the door,
Here lie I because I am poor;
Further in the more they pay,
Here lie I as well as they.

But it may be a question whether the very numbers of funerals, which
must take place for a large town, with the extent of the burial
places, may not be made a source of solemnity and impressiveness,
which may in some degree compensate for the individual and immediate
interest excited by a funeral in a small parish. That which at
present, when left to a single harassed and exhausted clergyman, and
one sexton, and a few wretched assistants, can hardly avoid the
appearance of hurry and confusion, might be so regulated as to
impose, from the very gathering of such masses of mortality,
bequeathed together to their common earth, not (let me be
understood) in one vault or pit, but each apart in his decent grave.
The vast extent of cemetery which would be required for London
(suppose six or eight for the whole metropolis and its suburbs), if
properly kept, and with such architectural decorations, and the
grand and solemn shade of trees appropriate to the character of the
ground, could scarcely fail to impress the reflective mind, and even
to awe the more thoughtless. Our national character, and our more
sober religion, will preserve us, probably, from the affectations
and fantastic fineries of the Père la Chaise ground at Paris. From
some of the German cemeteries we may learn much as to regulation,
and the proper character to be maintained in a cemetery of the dead.

National sepulture is a part, and a most important part of national
religion; of all the beautiful services of our Church, none is more
beautiful (I might wish, perhaps, two expressions altered) than our
service for burial. I could have wished that the Church had taken
the initiative in this great question. I trust that she will act, if
the State can be prevailed upon to move, in perfect harmony with the
general feeling on the subject. It is fortunate, that in the Bishop
of London we have not merely a person of liberal mind, and practical
views, but one who brings the experience of the parish priest of a
large London living to his Episcopal authority and influence.

One further practical suggestion occurs to me as likely most
materially to diminish the expenditure of funerals of all classes,
and therefore to render any great scheme more feasible. A funeral
procession through the streets of a great and busy town can scarcely
be made impressive. Not even the hearse, in its gorgeous gloom, with
all the pomp of heraldry, and followed by the carriages of half the
nobility of the land, will arrest for an instant the noise and
confusion of our streets, or awaken any deeper impression with the
mass than idle curiosity. While the poor man, borne on the shoulders
of men as poor as himself, is jostled off the pavement; the
mourners, at some crossing, are either in danger of being run over
or separated from the body; in the throng of passers no sign of
reverence, no stirring of conscious mortality in the heart. Besides
this, if, as must be the case, the cemeteries are at some distance,
often a considerable distance, from the homes of the deceased, to
those who are real mourners nothing can be more painful or
distressing than this long, wearisome, never-ending—perhaps often
interrupted—march; while those who attend out of compliment to the
deceased while away the time in idle gossip in the mourning coach,
to which perhaps they endeavour to give—but, if their feelings are
not really moved, endeavour in vain to give—a serious turn. Abandon,
then, this painful and ineffective part of the ceremony; let the
dead be conveyed with decency, but with more expedition, under
trustworthy care, to the cemetery; there form the procession, there
assemble the friends and relatives; concentrate the whole effect on
the actual service, and do not allow the mind to be disturbed and
distracted by the previous mechanical arrangements, and the extreme
wearisome length of that which, if not irreverent and distressing,
cannot, from the circumstances, be otherwise than painfully tedious.

It may be worth observing that, in London, even the passing bell
seems almost lost in the din and confusion. This is the case even in
the old churches, which retain their deep, full, and sonorous bells.
The quick shrill gingle, or the feeble tone of those which are
placed in the chapels of the more recent burial-grounds, instead of
deepening to my ear, are utterly discordant with the solemnity of
the service. In the country nothing can be finer than the tolling
from some old grey church tower—

Over some wide watered shore,
Swinging slow with solemn roar.

What would be the effect of a bell as large as St. Paul’s, heard at
stated times, or in the event of the funeral of some really
distinguished persons, from the distant cemetery?

§ 178. The formation of national cemeteries would give the means of more
special and appropriate service for the interment of the dead than it is
now possible to provide by small parochial establishments. In the more
populous parishes, the service is unavoidably hurried. In all, the
feelings of survivors require the most full, respectful, and impressive
service. In many of the rural districts, the friends and fellow-workmen
of the deceased accompany the remains to the grave, and one object of
subscriptions to burial and general benefit clubs is to secure the
advantages of arrangements for the attendance of fellow-workmen, who are
members of the same club. When a waterman dies, to whom his brethren
would pay respect, the body is conveyed by them in an eight-oared
cutter, to the churchyard by the water-side. On their return, the seat
which the deceased would have occupied is left vacant, and his oar, tied
with a piece of crape, is placed across the boat. One of the most
popular and impressive of funeral ceremonies is that on the interment of
a private soldier. When a private of the metropolitan police dies, a
number of members of the force, and a superior officer, attend his
funeral in their uniforms. It is not unfrequent when a member has been
invalided and left the force, that he will make it a dying request that
his funeral may be attended by the officer and men with whom he served.
This request is generally complied with. Old soldiers who have been
invalided frequently make it a dying request to the commanders of the
regiments in which they have served that they may be buried as if they
had died in the service; and unless there be an exception to the
respectability of their conduct, the honour and consolation is bestowed.

§ 179. In Scotland, it is a subject of intense desire on the part of the
labouring classes to gain the attendance of some person of higher
condition at their funerals. When an aged and exemplary member of a
congregation dies, it is not unfrequent that the minister’s eldest son
will pay respect, by acting as one of the bearers of the corpse. In many
of the rural districts in England, the persons composing the procession
will sing hymns. In the churches, anthems are still sung, and funeral
discourses given in the manner described by the Rev. Dr. Russell, the
rector of Bishopsgate.

When I was a boy (says the reverend gentleman), nothing was more
common, in the parish of which my father was rector, than for the
body to be brought into church before the commencement of the
evening service on Sundays. The psalms and lessons appointed for the
burial service were read instead of the psalms and the second lesson
of the evening. At the time of singing, a portion of those psalms
which have reference to the shortness of life was sung; and
sometimes an ambitious choir would attempt a hymn—‘Vital spark of
heavenly flame,’ or the like. Since I have been in orders, I have
myself occasionally, in the country, buried persons with a similar
service. Sometimes funeral sermons were preached.

§ 180. The natives of the provinces, when they attend the remains of
their friends to the grave in London, frequently express a wish to have
anthems or such solemnities as those to which they have been

§ 181. The formation of national cemeteries would enable the
ecclesiastical authorities to provide means for complying with the
desire thus expressed. Under general arrangements, with reduced
expenses, it will be seen that ample pecuniary provision for it may be
made to give to the funerals of the many the most impressive solemnity.
On this subject, the Rev. Mr. Stone, rector of Spitalfields, observes—

Should the legislature determine upon removing the burial of the
dead from populous places, it would get rid of these mischiefs; and
should it adopt a national system of burial instead of the highly
objectionable parochial system sketched out in Mr. Mackinnon’s Bill,
it might do much more—it might greatly add to the solemnity of our
burial obsequies, and so make them at once more impressive and more
attractive. This might be done by concentration; instead of the
parochial clergyman, hurried to the performance of this affecting
service, when his time, attention, and sympathies are engaged by
other duties, summoned desultorily to it, and often compelled to
repeat it over and over again at the same grave, just as the
interest or the convenience of undertakers, the caprice, the
bigotry, or the carousals of mourners may choose to prescribe, let
ministers appointed to officiate in national cemeteries perform the
service over great numbers at once, and at two or three stated hours
in every day. But the performance of the burial service over great
numbers at the same time would add incalculably to its solemnity. In
the present state of things, simultaneous interments are supposed,
as they certainly are primarily intended, merely to save the time
and labour of the clergy; and they may sometimes be hurried through
in a manner so careless, slovenly, and unfeeling, as not even the
necessities of the clergy can excuse. But it is quite a confusion of
ideas to suppose that the practice itself is slovenly and unfeeling.
On the contrary, I find it more impressive in its effect upon
myself; and I think it must prove so to others. Two or three
coffins, placed with their sable draperies in the body of the
church, are in themselves an awful spectacle; and the attendant
mourners, occupying the surrounding pews clothed in the same livery
of death, form a congregation at once appropriate, and large enough
to give effect to a religious service. By their numbers, too, they
operate against the intrusion of idle gossips and inquisitive
gazers, and, associated as they are with each other in a bereavement
of the same kind, they are thus brought into a contact calculated to
kindle emotions of social sympathy and religious sensibility.
Assembled in the burial ground round the same grave, or disposed in
groups by the side of graves within a reasonable distance of each
other, they form a picture of the same affecting and impressive
character. If the sympathy of a public assembly is perceptible or
intense in proportion to the numbers that compose it, this
aggregation of burials need only be limited by the effective power
of the human voice.

Judging from an experiment of my own, I think that these salutary
effects would be heightened to a thrilling degree by music. And from
the practice of the highest civil and ecclesiastical authorities, I
presume that the introduction of music into the burial office is not
inconsistent with the rubric. At a burial already alluded to, I
acceded to a special request by allowing the introduction of some
organ-music; and, having no rubrical directions on the point, I
selected two parts of the service as those in which music seemed to
me to be most admissible, and most likely to prove impressive. After
the officiating minister has preceded the corpse from the entrance
of the church and read the introductory sentences, there is an
interval, during which he ascends the desk, the mourners take their
places in the pews assigned to them, and the corpse is deposited in
the body of the church; and there is a still longer interval, during
which the melancholy procession leaves the church for the burial
ground. I found that both these intervals, which are unavoidably
disturbed by somewhat bustling and noisy arrangements, were most
usefully and effectively filled up by the introduction of music. The
subjoined scheme of the music performed at royal burials will prove
that I was not mistaken in supposing music consistent with the
rubric, nor much so in selecting those parts of the service, at
which I prescribed its introduction. It will also serve to show to
what an extent music might be made to give effect and attractiveness
to a national burial of the dead.

Parts of the Service. Musical
“I am the resurrection,” &c. Sung Croft.
“I know that my Redeemer liveth,” &c. Ditto Croft.
“We brought nothing into this world,” &c. Ditto Croft.
The Psalms are chanted Chant in G minor Purcell.

After the lesson, and before the removal of the corpse from its station
in the choir, an anthem is introduced _ad libitum_.

“Man that is born of a woman,” &c. Sung Croft.
“In the midst of life,” &c. Ditto Croft.
“Yet, O Lord God, most holy,” &c. Ditto Croft.
“Thou knowest, Lord, the secrets,” &c. Ditto Purcell.
“I heard a voice from heaven,” &c. Ditto Croft.

Immediately before the Collect, “O merciful God,” or sometimes, though
very seldom, before “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,” an anthem is
introduced _ad libitum_.

At the close of the service, while the mourners are moving off, the Dead
March in Saul is played on the organ.

The anthems usually selected are two of the following:—

“When the ear heard,” &c. Handel.
“I have set God always before me,” &c. Blake.
“The souls of the righteous,” &c. Dupuis.
“Hear my prayer,” &c. Kent.

On the burial of esteemed members of the cathedral choirs, the other
choristers have sung the highest and most solemn of the church music.

§ 182. Where the circumstances described, in respect to the Protestant
population, have prevented compliance with the popular desire for hymns
or anthems to be sung or sermons to be spoken at the burial at the
parochial churches in London, interment has been purchased for the
express purpose of obtaining them at the trading burial grounds. And yet
it may be submitted that the desire is consistent with the earliest
recognized practice for all classes,[39] and that a system of national
cemeteries would in proportion to the numbers interred in them, furnish
valuable cases as examples for its beneficial exercise, and must, to a
great extent, prevent the misapplication of the service to such cases as
have apparently caused it to fall in public esteem.

“The honour,” says Hooker, “generally due unto all men maketh a decent
interring of them to be convenient, even for very humanity’s sake. And
therefore so much as is mentioned in the burial of the widow’s son, the
carrying him forth upon a bier and accompanying him to the earth, hath
been used even amongst infidels, all men accounting it a very extreme
destitution not to have at least this honour due to them.” * * * * “Let
any man of reasonable judgment examine whether it be more convenient for
a company of men, as it were, in a dumb show to bring a corpse to a
place of burial, there to leave it, covered with earth, and so end, or
else to have the exsequies devoutly performed with solemn recitals of
such lectures, psalms, and prayers, as are purposely framed for the
stirring up of men’s minds into a careful consideration of their estate
both here and hereafter.

“In regard to the quality of men, it hath been judged fit to commend
them unto the world at their death amongst the heathen in funeral
orations; amongst the Jews in sacred poems; and why not in funeral
sermons amongst Christians? Us it sufficeth that the known benefit
hereof doth countervail millions of such inconveniences as are therein
surmised, although they were not surmised only, but found therein.”
* * * “The care no doubt of the living, both to live and die well, must
needs be somewhat increased when they know that their departure shall
not be folded up in silence, but the ears of many be made acquainted
with it. The sound of these things do not so pass the ears of them that
are most loose and dissolute in life, but it causeth them one time or
other to wish, ‘Oh that I might die the death of the righteous, and that
my end might be like his.’ Thus much peculiar good there doth grow at
those times by speech concerning the dead; besides the benefit of public
instruction common unto funeral with other sermons.”—_Hooker,
Ecclesiastical Polity_, b. v. ch. lxxv.

“When thou hast wept awhile,” says Jeremy Taylor, in his Holy Dying,
“compose the body to burial; which, that it be done gravely, decently,
and charitably, we have the example of all nations to engage us, and of
all ages of the world to warrant; so that it is against common honesty
and public fame and reputation not to do this office.”—“The church, in
her funerals of the dead, used to sing psalms and to give thanks for the
redemption and delivery of the soul from the evil and dangers of
mortality.”—“Solemn and appointed mournings are good expressions of our
dearness to the departed soul, and of his worth and our value of him,
and it hath its praise in nature, and in manners, and in public customs;
but the praise of it is not in the gospel, that is, it hath no direct
and proper uses in religion; for if the dead did die in the Lord, then
there is joy to him, and it is an ill expression of our affection and
our charity to weep uncomfortably at a change that hath carried my
friend to the state of a huge felicity.”—“Something is to be given to
custom, something to fame, to nature and to civilities, and to the
honour of deceased friends; for that man is esteemed to die miserable
for whom no friend or relation sheds a tear, or pays a solemn sigh. I
desire to die a dry death, but am not very desirous to have a dry
funeral; some flowers sprinkled on my grave would do well and comely;
and a soft shower, to turn those flowers into a springing memory or a

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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 22 of 27)