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Modern Day Paupers' graves

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bemahan
710254.  Mon May 17, 2010 3:32 pm Reply with quote

Apologies if this has already been posted somewhere already.

Until I came across this article, I had no cause to think about modern paupers' burials but I was surprised to find them still in existence.

http://www.pressgazette.co.uk/story.asp?storycode=45250


Last edited by bemahan on Mon May 17, 2010 6:11 pm; edited 1 time in total

 
monzac
710260.  Mon May 17, 2010 3:38 pm Reply with quote

That's shocking.

 
suze
710279.  Mon May 17, 2010 4:22 pm Reply with quote

Which is worse?

That such graves exist in the 21st century, a thing which most of us probably didn't know until the Evening Standard got interested in the subject.

Or that, after the Evening Standard has said its piece and Boris has said his piece, two London Borough councils are apparently declining to address the matter.

 
bemahan
710285.  Mon May 17, 2010 4:37 pm Reply with quote

I can only find reference to London boroughs so I don't know if any other councils still use paupers' graves.

 
bobwilson
710296.  Mon May 17, 2010 5:04 pm Reply with quote

Those articles are a bit unclear. Are they saying that a single pit is dug and multiple caskets interred, and a single headstone is put up saying something like "here lies joe and edna and bob and doreen"? Or are they saying a single pit is dug and multiple caskets are laid side by side in the same amount of space used for one normal grave?

 
bemahan
710299.  Mon May 17, 2010 5:10 pm Reply with quote

They use the word 'pits' to describe the graves. The baby that was taken was in a cardboard coffin.
Quote:
A grave digger at Islington and St Pancras Cemetery said: The rule is four babies per grave; with adults we stack them six deep. We cover the top with planks but we don't fill it in until the grave is full.”<snip> Even John Foster, the £210,000-a-year chief executive of Islington council, had no idea paupers' burials took place in his borough. When I interviewed him recently, he turned to his press officer and asked: “Have we got communal graves? I don't believe we do.”

Yet Islington and Camden top the London borough league table with 318 communal burials in the past three years. Together with Hackney, Wandsworth, Brent, Southwark, Lewisham and Barnet, these eight boroughs account for 85 per cent of communal burials in London in the last year.

 
bobwilson
710301.  Mon May 17, 2010 5:19 pm Reply with quote

Quote:
The rule is four babies per grave; with adults we stack them six deep. We cover the top with planks but we don't fill it in until the grave is full.


Yes, I read that bit - that's what I meant about it being unclear.

I already knew (and assumed everyone else did) that adult bodies are double-deckered quite often. But the way that reads it could mean that for infant graves they dig a standard sized pit, lay the coffin in it width-ways, cover that temporarily but leave the rest of the pit open for more infant coffins. If you visit any cemetery the space taken up by infant graves is not full sized. I imagine it'd be quite difficult to dig an infant sized grave to a proper depth - so it makes more sense logistically to dig a full-sized pit and lay the coffins in a part of the grave.

 
bemahan
710305.  Mon May 17, 2010 5:26 pm Reply with quote

I knew they 'doubled-deckered' adults as I think that's what they do if 2 people in the same family are buried together.

I would imagine they dig a full-size pit for the babies as you describe. However, some councils allow up to e.g. 12, 15, 20 and even 30 babies in one grave which suggests it's larger than an average adult grave (Although they may not in practice bury so many together). IMO, one of the most disturbing aspects is that the graves are left 'open' for so long (I think it said up to 2 years somewhere).

 
bobwilson
710308.  Mon May 17, 2010 5:34 pm Reply with quote

Quote:
However, some councils allow up to e.g. 12, 15, 20 and even 30 babies in one grave


Where did you get those numbers from? And it's not really one grave - it's one pit containing multiple graves.

Quote:
one of the most disturbing aspects is that the graves are left 'open' for so long (I think it said up to 2 years somewhere)


Depends on what "open" means. People don't tend to die in nice convenient multiples - so if you've dug a pit for (say) 10 child graves it may (one hopes) take a while before you get your full quota. The thing is to make sure the existing corpses are secured from scavengers - but it wouldn't make sense to refill the entire pit after the first body was interred.

 
bemahan
710312.  Mon May 17, 2010 5:42 pm Reply with quote

Figures from:http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/standard/article-23816466-my-baby-boy-was-buried-with-13-others-in-a-pit-left-open-for-months.do if you scroll down on the left hand side.

As for 'open' - it appears that some councils just put wooden boards across so that the pits aren't secured from scavengers. Some are now putting metal covers on. It was the insecurity that I felt is somehow disrespectful rather than the waiting for more coffins*. Not just from the point of view of scavengers but rather from not being able to feel your deceased relative has been laid to "RIP".

*although, ideally, the shorter the wait the better. I would imagine that in the densely populated poorer boroughs, a grave for 10 would, sadly, be filled fairly quickly.

 
bobwilson
710316.  Mon May 17, 2010 5:49 pm Reply with quote

Quote:
although, ideally, the shorter the wait the better.


Ahem - that sounds like you want a plethora of dead children on tap. But more seriously, it surely isn't beyond the wit of human ingenuity to place a basic covering over a hole to secure it from passing animals.

Reading that additional article you referenced it does seem as if the Standard is milking the situation for emotional effect (no real surprise there then).

Quote:
had no idea how many babies would be interred in that pitiful communal grave


It doesn't seem to be a communal grave - it's a pit which contains multiple graves.

 
bemahan
710320.  Mon May 17, 2010 6:04 pm Reply with quote

The sensationalism is unnecessary really. In fact it nearly put me off even reading the article as I assumed they were over-egging the pudding, as it were.

I take your point that it isn't a communal grave. But if the pits are not closed to the weather, and the coffins are only cardboard then it's not a huge step away from a communal grave.

Practically speaking, it may be that in poor boroughs it is a fact of life (no pun intended) that several coffins have to be buried in a single pit. If this is so then there are two things that would make it more acceptable:
1) Ensure the pits are adequately secured/protected whilst they are 'open';
2) Fix a reasonable maximum time that a pit can remain 'open' so that relatives know when it will be closed (to help them with 'closure, to use a modern phrase - again, no pun intended).

 
suze
710321.  Mon May 17, 2010 6:06 pm Reply with quote

bobwilson wrote:
It doesn't seem to be a communal grave - it's a pit which contains multiple graves.


That rather depends on how you define "communal". No, it's not a case of multiple bodies being placed in the same pit without benefit of coffins, and neither is it the case that there is more than one body per coffin. (Save only in the very rare instance of conjoined twins; they are not separated post mortem.)

But it is the case that most London boroughs do use pits which will contain more than one coffin. Some don't though, so it's not the case that it's impossible to avoid the situation. And Merton, which does use pits containing more than one grave, completely fills the pit after each and every internment. So again, it's not true to argue that it can't be done.

What is the case is that using only one grave per pit or filling the pit each time costs money, and that money goes on the council tax. Which, unfortunately, is what it all comes down to.

 
bobwilson
710328.  Mon May 17, 2010 6:21 pm Reply with quote

Quote:
And Merton, which does use pits containing more than one grave, completely fills the pit after each and every internment.


That seems a bit daft - why bother digging a multiple grave pit in the first place?

Quote:
it is the case that most London boroughs do use pits which will contain more than one coffin. Some don't though, so it's not the case that it's impossible to avoid the situation.


Different areas will have different physical restrictions on the space available for bodies. I don't know London well enough to be specific but maybe Hampstead with its Heath has more room to expand cemeteries than does Holborn?

Anyway, the underlying issue is one of sensitivity. I can't really see why a pit which is (say) 20 feet x 20 feet and intended to be used for multiple graves can't be covered over after every interment by a large plastic/metal slab which is in turn covered by some soil.

 
suze
710332.  Mon May 17, 2010 6:37 pm Reply with quote

Yes, I'm sure it's true that some boroughs just don't have much space for burials. I can imagine that being true of Southwark (which goes up to 30 coffins per pit) and Kensington and Chelsea (20), but it seems less likely to be true of Hillingdon (15).

Conversely, there won't be a vast amount of free space in Lambeth - and that's one of the boroughs which doesn't use multiple graves at all.

In any case, a borough which has run out of space for burials is always at liberty to establish a cemetery outwith the borough. The City of London has done so for over 150 years (its cemetery is near Ilford, but is nearly full and a new one will be needed in the next couple of decades), and a handful of other boroughs do a similar thing.

bobwilson wrote:
That seems a bit daft - why bother digging a multiple grave pit in the first place?


That is a fair question - if Merton is going to work in that way, it might just as well abandon the use of multiple graves altogether. I don't know why it works the way it does.

 

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