“I will lay me in the village ground,
There are the dead respected.”

THERE are few spots in England more peaceful, more suggestive, and more
hallowed than our village churchyards, when they are treated with that
reverence which is their due. I have many in my mind now, but I will try
to think of one only “where the churchyard, grey with stone and green
with turf, holds its century of dead,” where “side by side, the poor man
and the son of pride, lie calm and still.” The church is grey and
ivy-grown. Its broad tower, that has weathered many a storm, is half
hidden amongst tall trees bursting into leaf, which hold, high up in
their branches, the nests of the cawing rooks. Far below winds the
gentle river, between wide stretches of meadow-land, and there is the
old one-span bridge with the picturesque cottages of the village
following each other down to it and up again, and in the background of
the picture are the sheltering, sheep-covered hills. An old gabled
parsonage adjoins the church, and the pathway which leads to it is
through the peaceful sleeping-place of those whose tired bodies have
been laid upon “the pillow of the restful earth.” The birds are making
music in the trees, the gentlest of vernal breezes stirs the air, and
from the seat in the venerable porch I can look out upon that quiet
scene in the “lengthening April day.” Green grass, long and sweet, is
growing amongst the “grey tombstones with their half-worn epitaphs,” and
is trying to hide the primroses and the early bluebell buds which are
peeping from the ground, for there

“the flowers of earth
Their very best make speed to wear,
And e’en the funeral mound gives birth
To wild thyme fresh and violets fair.”

It is so green and fresh, so calm and sweet a spot in which to await the
resurrection morn, that we can understand what Keble felt when he said,

“Stoop, little child, nor fear to kiss
The green buds on this bed of death.”

As there is “no fear in love,” so there should be no “fear” in death,
for death is but our translation into the presence of the greater love
“which passeth knowledge.”

Our London churchyards of to-day were once village churchyards, and were
attached to quiet old churches which, with a few neighbouring houses,
stood far away from the town and were encircled with fields. There are
many now living who can remember walking from the City to St. Mary’s,
Islington, by a footpath through the meadows, and such was also at one
time the case with Paddington, St. Pancras, Hackney, Shoreditch,
Stepney, Bow, Bromley, Rotherhithe, Lewisham, Camberwell, Wandsworth,
Battersea, and many other parishes. It is difficult to realise it now,
and yet it is only in the present century that they have been merged
into the great metropolis, and separated by many miles of houses from
the hedges and fields. Nor is it long since the village stocks were
moved from several of the churchyard gates.

Most of the original parish churches have been replaced, some of them
more than once. The oldest ones now in existence are St. Saviour’s,
Southwark, Stepney, Bow, Chelsea, Fulham, the Savoy, Westminster (St.
Margaret’s), Lambeth, Deptford (St. Nicholas’), and Putney, with the
tower of old Hackney Church. Many of the others belong to the eighteenth
century. In the tenth year of the reign of Queen Anne the number of
houses in the districts adjacent to the City having increased so
rapidly, it was enacted by Parliament that fifty new churches should be
built “for the better Instruction of all in the Principles of
Christianity,” and for “redressing the inconvenience and growing
mischiefs which resulted from the increase of Dissenters and Popery.” In
order to raise the necessary funds it was agreed to levy an additional
duty of two shillings per chaldron “upon all Coals and Culm” that were
brought into London, and two shillings per ton upon weighable coals for
a term of 137 days, after which for eight years the duty was to be three
shillings per chaldron and per ton. But although some old churches were
rebuilt or repaired at that time, only ten new ones were erected, such
as St. Anne’s, Limehouse, St. George’s in the East, St. Luke’s, Old
Street, and St. John the Evangelist’s, Westminster.

[Illustration: ALL SAINTS, WANDSWORTH, ABOUT 1800.]

Descriptions of the churchyards attached to these churches are not easy
to find, nor were they of any great interest, except that many notable
men were buried in them. Yet there is one point in connection with them
that is interesting, and it is that although the churches are in the
severe and sometimes almost grotesque style of architecture of Gibb,
Hawksmoor, and others, yet in the eighteenth century it was customary to
erect headstones over graves with elaborately carved designs.
Eighteenth-century tombstones have hour-glasses, scythes, cherubs’
heads—blowing or smiling or weeping—elaborate scenes, generally
allegorical of the flight of time, and epitaphs upon which much thought
and care were expended. With the nineteenth century the carved
tombstones disappeared.[3] St. Paul’s churchyard,

Footnote 3:

This subject has been carefully gone into by Mr. W. T. Vincent, who
has quite lately brought out a book upon the designs on carved

Deptford, contains many quaint specimens, and here also is a “shelter,”
the roof of which was the old pulpit sounding-board, But the older
churchyards, those which may be more rightly described as the merged
village churchyards, have been pictured from time to time.


One of Mr. Loftie’s original ideas is to describe London as known by
Stow, Norden, and Shakespeare, who lived and wrote at about the same
time, _i.e._, 1600. I do not mean to say that he tells us what the
burial-grounds were like in that day, for no historian of London ever
seemed to think it worth while to do more than refer to one here and one
there, or I should not have ventured to put forward this work at a time
when we are satiated with histories of the metropolis; but I will, for a
moment, adopt his plan. It is impossible to read _Hamlet_ and the vivid
description of the gravediggers who played at “loggats” with the skulls
and bones, while they drank and sung, without coming to the conclusion
that Shakespeare had witnessed the very same practices in the graveyards
in his day as were exposed and stopped no less than two and a half
centuries later, when “skittles” were played with bones and skulls at
St. Ann’s, Soho, and other churchyards. But I cannot entirely give up
the idea that Shakespeare walked in some churchyards which awoke
peaceful and reverent thoughts in his contemplative mind.


Stow scarcely mentions the churchyards at all. He and his later editors
give up many pages of his survey to inscriptions copied from monuments,
some being from tombstones in the churchyards, but most being from the
tablets in the churches, and he occasionally refers to the gift by
citizens of pieces of ground for graveyards, these being mainly in the
City itself. Perhaps, however, it may not be out of place to quote from
one or two passages which give us an idea of the condition of the open
land immediately adjoining the City, and which point to the fact that
such parish churches as lay beyond this land must indeed have been rural
and remote.

We read in the edition of 1633 that “filthie cottages” and alleys
extended for “almost halfe a mile beyond” Whitechapel Church, “into the
common field.” He also refers to the fine houses, with large gardens,
which were being built round the City, where former generations, more
benevolently inclined, had erected hospitals and almshouses. He mentions
the “wrestlings” that took place at Bartholomewtide by “Skinners Well,
neere unto Clarkes Well.” This Clarkes Well, or Clerkenwell, “is curbed
about square with hard stone: not farre from the west end of Clarkenwell
Church, but close without the wall that encloseth it.” … “Somewhat
north from Holywell (Shoreditch) is one other well, curbed square with
stone, and is called Dame Annis the cleere; and not far from it, but
somewhat west, is also another cleere water, called Perilous Pond,
because divers youths (by swimming therein) have been drowned.” Stow
most carefully enumerates the wells and conduits of the City and its
surroundings, several being “neere to the Church.” And it is a fact that
many wells, conduits, and pumps in and around London were—and some still
are—not only in close proximity to the churchyards, but actually in
them. The water from St. Clement’s Well and St. Giles’ Well came through
the burial-grounds. The site of the Bride’s Well, which gave the name to
the precinct and the hospital, is still marked by the pump in an alcove
of the wall of St. Bride’s Churchyard, Fleet Street. There was a pump by
St. Michael le Querne and one in the churchyard of St. Mary le Bow,
against the west wall of the church. There was a well in the crypt of
St. Peter’s, Walworth, a pump in Stepney Churchyard, and another in St.
George’s in the East, to which his parishioners used to resort for
drinking water until the Rev. Harry Jones, during a cholera scare, hung
a large placard on it, “_Dead Men’s Broth!_” and Dickens used to picture
the departed, when he heard the churchyard pumps at work, urging their
protest, “Let us lie here in peace; don’t suck us up and drink us!”

(_From Aggas’ Plan, 1560._)]

[Illustration: ST. PANCRAS VILLAGE.
(_From Rocque’s Plan_, 1746.)]

And Norden, what did he say? His plan of London, like the one by Aggas
and later ones, gives us a picture of the remoteness of the outer
parishes. Here is his description of old St. Pancras Churchyard:
“Pancras Church standeth all alone, as utterly forsaken, old and
wether-beaten, which, for the antiquity thereof, it is thought not to
yield to Paules in London. About this church have bin many buildings now
decayed, leaving poor Pancras without companie or comfort, yet it is now
and then visited with Kentishtowne and Highgate, which are members
thereof…. When there is a corpse to be interred, they are forced to
leave the same within this forsaken church or churchyard, when (no
doubt) it resteth as secure against the day of resurrection as if it
laie in stately Paules.” It would indeed be curious to see what Norden
would think now of this churchyard, with the Midland Railway trains
unceasingly rushing across it, and the “dome” and “trophy” of
headstones, numbering 496, not to speak of the stacks and walls of them
round about, which were moved into one part of the ground when the other
part (Catholic Pancras) was acquired by the railway company. Poor
Pancras is not forsaken now, it is in the midst of streets and houses,
and what remains of the churchyard is full of seats and people.

This particular ground, with others in the same neighbourhood, were
famed later on as the scenes of the operations of body-snatchers, as is
evident from Tom Hood’s rhyme, entitled “Jack Hall,” from which one
verse will be sufficient:—

“At last—it may be, Death took spite,
Or jesting only meant to fright—
He sought for jack night after night
The churchyards round;
And soon they met, the man and sprite,
In Pancras’ ground.”

When Jack Hall is himself dying, and twelve M.D.’s are round him,
anxious for his body, he tells them:—

“I sold it thrice,
Forgive my crimes!
In short I have received its price
A dozen times.”

Timbs in his “Romance of London” gives a detailed account of the first
indictment for body-stealing—the act taking place at St. George the
Martyr ground (behind the Foundling Hospital) in 1777. But it must be
remembered that, although at one time body-snatchers or resurrection-men
carried on a brisk trade, yet where one body may have been disinterred
for hospital use one hundred were removed to make room for others.

The churchyards in London to which a somewhat rural flavour still clings
are, perhaps, those in the extreme south east, such as St. Nicholas’,
Plumstead, and St. John the Baptist’s, Eltham, which, together with Lee
and Tooting Churchyards, are still used for interments, St. Mary’s,
Bromley-by-Bow (originally the chapel of St. Mary in the Convent of St.
Leonard), with its beautiful altar tombs, and St. Mary’s, Stoke
Newington. There is something particularly picturesque about the last
named, with the old church in its midst. Mrs. Barbauld lies buried here,
and a lady whose death was caused by her clothes catching fire, upon
whose tombstone this very quaint inscription was placed:—

“Reader, if you should ever witness such an afflicting scene,
recollect that the only method to extinguish the flame, is to stifle
it by an immediate covering.”

All the parish churches had their churchyards, the only ones not
actually adjoining them being those of St. George’s, Hanover Square, St.
George’s, Bloomsbury, and St. George the Martyr, Queen Square, where the
first body interred was that of Robert Nelson, author of “Fasts and
Festivals.” Some were added to many times, some have been seriously
curtailed. The largest of the churchyards are Stepney, Hackney, and
Camberwell. That of St. Anne’s, Limehouse, had a strip taken off it in
1800, when Commercial Road was made, that of St. Paul’s, Hammersmith,
was similarly curtailed in 1884. The present churches of Hammersmith and
Kensington are far larger than their predecessors, and therefore the
churchyards dwindled when they were built. St. Clement Danes and St.
John’s, Westminster, once stood in fair-sized churchyards; now, in each
case, there is only a railed-in enclosure round the church. But one of
the most serious shortenings was at St. Martin’s in the Fields. In fact,
of those buried from this particular parish, few can have been
undisturbed, except, perhaps, in the cemetery in Pratt Street, Camden
Town, now a public garden, which belongs to St. Martin’s. One of the
parochial burial-grounds is under the northern block of the buildings
forming the National Gallery, another one is lost in Charing Cross Road,
while a third one (now a little garden) in Drury Lane was so
disgustingly overcrowded that no burials could take place there without
the disturbance of other bodies, which were crowded into pits dug in the
ground, and covered with boards. But to return to the churchyard itself,
the burial-ground immediately surrounding the church, where Nell Gwynne
and Jack Sheppard were buried. A strip on the north side and a piece at
the east end still exist, flagged with stones, and were planted with
trees, provided with seats, and opened to the public by the Metropolitan
Public Gardens Association in 1887. But once there was a large piece of
ground on the south side, where now there is none, called the Waterman’s
Churchyard. Its disappearance is accounted for by the following
inscription on a tablet on the church wall:—

“These catacombs were constructed at the expense of the
Commissioners of Her Majesty’s Woods and Forests, in exchange for
part of the burial-ground of this parish, on the south side of the
church, given up for public improvements, and were consecrated by
the Lord Bishop of London on the 7th day of June, 1831.”

In _The Sunday Times_ of June 12, 1831, these vaults are thus

“The new vaults under St. Martin’s burying-ground are the most capacious
structure of the sort in London. They were opened on Tuesday, at the
consecration of the new burial-ground. They consist of a series of
vaults, running out of one another in various directions; they are
lofty, and when lighted up, as on Tuesday, really presented something of
a comfortable appearance.” After relating something about the size and
number of the arches, the quantity of coffins they would hold, &c., the
description closes with these words: “Crowds of ladies perambulated the
vaults for some time, and the whole had more the appearance of a
fashionable promenade than a grim depository of decomposing mortality.”

This account reminds me very much of the ceremony which took place after
the opening of St. Peter’s Churchyard, Walworth, as a garden, in May,
1895. The Rector had kindly provided tea in the crypt, a huge space
under the church where gymnastic and other classes are held. This crypt
used to be full of coffins lying about at random, with a well in the
centre, but a faculty was obtained for their removal to a cemetery. The
scene on the day to which I refer was a very gay one. Where, a few
months previously, there had been coffins and dirt, there was a well
white-washed building, lighted with plenty of gas, lace curtains between
the solid pillars and low arches, a number of little tables with tea,
cakes, &c., and many brightly-attired girls to wait on the visitors, who
enjoyed their refreshment to the enlivening strains of a piano.

(_From Aggas’ Plan_, 1560.)]

The churchyard of St. Giles’ in the Fields is a very interesting one. It
might well be now called St. Giles’ in the Slums, although of late years
the surrounding streets have been much improved and the worst courts
cleared away. Before there was a church of St. Giles’ there was a
lazaretto or leper hospital on the spot, and what is now the churchyard
was the burial-ground attached thereto. As a parish the settlement seems
to date from 1547, but the hospital was founded 200 years earlier, and
was entrusted to the care of the Master and Brethren of the Order of
Burton St. Lazar of Jerusalem, in Leicestershire. The churchyard, which
holds many centuries of dead, was frequently enlarged, Brown’s Gardens
being added in 1628, until the parish secured an additional
burial-ground, in 1803, adjoining that of St. Pancras. And yet it is
barely an acre in extent. It is related in Thornbury’s “Haunted London”
that in 1670 the sexton agreed to furnish the rector and churchwardens
with two fat capons, ready dressed, every Tuesday se’nnight in return
for being allowed to introduce certain windows into the churchyard side
of his house. But it could not have been a pleasant churchyard to look
at. It was always damp, and vast numbers of the poor Irish were buried
in it (the ground having been originally consecrated by a Roman
Catholic), and it is hardly to be wondered at that the parish of St.
Giles’ enjoys the honour of having started the plague of 1665. And the
practices carried on there at the beginning of this century were equal
to the worst anywhere—revolting ill-treatment of the dead was the daily

Now the churchyard is a public garden, Pendrell’s tombstone being an
object of historical interest, the inscription upon which runs as

“Here lieth Richard Pendrell, Preserver and Conductor to his sacred
Majesty King Charles the Second of Great Britain, after his Escape
from Worcester Fight, in the Year 1651, who died Feb. 8, 1671.

Hold, Passenger, here’s shrouded in this Herse,
Unparalell’d Pendrell, thro’ the Universe.
Like when the Eastern Star From Heaven gave Light
To three lost Kings; so he, in such dark Night,
To Britain’s Monarch, toss’d by adverse War,
On Earth appear’d, a Second Eastern Star,
A Pope, a Stern, in her rebellious Main,
A Film to her Royal Sovereign.
Now to triumph in Heav’n’s eternal Sphere,
He’s hence advanc’d, for his just Steerage here;
Whilst Albion’s Chronicles, with matchless Fame,
Embalm the Story of great Pendrell’s Name.”

This ridiculous epitaph belongs to the truly eulogistic group. It has
its counterpart on a tombstone in Fulham Churchyard, erected to the
memory of a lady, where the epitaph is “Silence is best,” or in the
following one from Lambeth:—

“Here lieth W. W.
Who nevermore will trouble you, trouble you.”

Old Chelsea Church is noted for its monuments, many persons of
distinction having been buried there, and in the churchyard is a great
erection in memory of Sir Hans Sloane, but the ground is closed to the
public, and the tombstones are sadly neglected. From a dramatic point of
view the burial-ground attached to St. Paul’s, Covent Garden, is most
interesting, as it contains the graves of a large number of actors.

So many works have been written about monuments and epitaphs that it is
not my intention to refer to many, but some are interesting as giving a
peep into the life of those they commemorate. There are several in
London which describe the number of times the deceased person was
“tapped for dropsy.” A tombstone at Stepney is in memory of one
“Elizabeth Goodlad, who died in 1710, aged 99, and her twenty
daughters.” They must have been exemplary daughters not to have worn out
their mother sooner! The Rev. Matthew Mead was also buried here, a most
prolific writer of sermons and treatises on religion, including one with
this quaint title, “The almost Christian tried and cast.” Stepney
Churchyard is very old; it is highly probable that there was a church
there in Saxon times. The other churchyards in East London which can
boast of considerable antiquity are Bromley, Bow, Whitechapel, and
Hackney, although Sir Walter Besant, in his novel, “All Sorts and
Conditions of Men,” says that the churchyards in East London “are not
even ancient.” No doubt if he re-wrote that novel now he would alter
many of his remarks. It is hardly possible to think that the eastern
districts of London ever formed a “marvellous, unknown country,” or that
Rotherhithe needed any “discovery.”

By the close of the last century and at the beginning of this one, the
want of additional burial space was much felt in several parishes. Some
had “poor grounds,” and some, like St. James’s, Clerkenwell, had a
“middle ground,” this particular one being now the playground of the
Bowling Green Lane Board School, but the extra graveyards were all small
and all crowded. The parishes of St. Margaret’s, Westminster, St.
James’s, Piccadilly, St. Andrew’s, Holborn, St. James’s, Clerkenwell,
St. Marylebone, and St. Mary’s, Islington, secured additional
burial-grounds in which chapels of ease were erected. These are Christ
Church, Victoria Street, St. James’s, Hampstead Road, Holy Trinity,
Gray’s Inn Road, St. James’s, Pentonville Road, St. John’s Wood Chapel,
and the Chapel of Ease in Holloway Road, the ground surrounding which is
one of the best kept churchyard gardens in London. Many of the district
churches, built at the commencement of this century, also had graveyards
attached. In Bethnal Green, for instance, not only is there the
burial-ground of St. Matthew’s, which was consecrated in 1746, and has
vaults under the school as well as the church, but there are those of
St. Peter’s, St. Bartholomew’s, and St. James’ the Less, the two first
being laid out as gardens, and the last being a dreary, swampy waste,
containing about ten sad-looking tombstones and a colony of cocks and

It is impossible, in a chapter already too long, to touch upon all the
churchyards outside the City, but I must refer briefly to the four
principal parish churches which have disappeared. The present building
of St. Mary le Strand only dates from 1717; the original one stood in a
“fair cemetery,” much nearer the river, and was also called the Church
of the Innocents. This ground was enlarged in 1355 by a plot 70 feet by
30 feet in size, but the church and churchyard disappeared about 1564 to
make room for Somerset House. The church of St. John the Evangelist,
Tybourn, was removed in 1400 by Bishop Braybrooke, and the first church
of St. Marylebone was built to take its place. Provision was made for
the preservation of the churchyard, but it also disappeared before long.
It was near the site of the present Court House in Stratford Place,
under which, and the older one, bones were dug up in 1727 and 1822.

(_From Rocque’s Plan, 1746._)]

[Illustration: ST. MATTHEW’S, BETHNAL GREEN, 1818.]

Tybourn Church was removed because it was in so lonely a situation, and
yet so near the main road from Oxford to London, that robbers and
thieves were always breaking into it to steal the bells, images,
ornaments, &c. The Church of St. Margaret, Southwark, stood in the
middle of the Borough High Street, with a much-used graveyard round it,
which was enlarged in 1537. But it was in so inconvenient a place, and
the ground was so much used for holding markets in, that it was removed
about 1600, and the parish amalgamated with St. Saviour’s. The old town
hall took the place of the church, and the Borough Market is still held
on or near the site of the churchyard. When St. Katharine’s Docks were
made, in 1827, St. Katharine’s Church, the ruins of the hospital (dating
from 1148), two churchyards of considerable size, and the whole
parish,—inns, streets, houses and all, were totally annihilated. The
church was a beautiful one; it has been described by Sir Walter Besant
and other chroniclers, and must have been amongst the finest specimens
of ecclesiastical architecture in London. The whole establishment was,
to a certain extent, rebuilt near Regent’s Park. It is said that a
quantity of the human remains from the churchyard were used to fill up
some old reservoirs, &c., in the neighbourhood; but, at any rate, it is
a fact that they were distributed amongst the East-end churchyards, and
several cartloads were taken to Bethnal Green and deposited in St.
Matthew’s ground, where the slope up to the west door of the church is
composed of these bodies from St. Katharine’s. There were originally
steps leading to the entrance, but the steps are buried under this
artificial hill, the ground having been raised several inches.

What may be called the parish churchyards in London, outside the City,
number about seventy-two. Of these no less than forty are now being
maintained as public gardens, and this does not include the additional
parochial graveyards, nor those attached to district churches. A few,
such as Streatham and Hampstead, are generally open to the public, but
are not provided with seats, and one of the best kept is that of St.
Bartholomew’s, Sydenham, which, although not a public garden, is indeed
“a thing of beauty.” The old churchyard at Lee is also attractive, and
contains tombs and effigies belonging to many families of note,
including those of the Ropers, Boones, and Floodyers, and a monument to
the memory of Sir Fretful Plagiary, of whom, notwithstanding the
uncomfortable name with which he was endowed, his epitaph says, “He
science knew, knew manners, knew the age.”

“From plague, pestilence, and famine,
Good Lord, deliver us.”

CONSIDERING that we have records of the visitation of London by direful
plagues and pestilences at frequent intervals during ten centuries, and
that these visitations always led to a mortality far in excess of the
ordinary one, it is not to be wondered at that from time to time special
burial-places had to be provided to meet the special need. In 664,
during the time of the Saxon Heptarchy, London was “ravaged by the
plague,” and from that date forward it returned again and again, causing
the kings, the courtiers and the richer citizens to be constantly
fleeing for safety into the country, until the final and awful calamity
of 1665. According to some authorities the plague has never re-appeared
since then, although according to others a few cases occurred annually
until the year 1679. But after that time, although there was a division
for “the Plague” in the annual Bills of Mortality, there were no entries
against it, and after 1703 we cease even to see the word recorded. In
early days the visitations were so ordinary that, when mentioned in the
histories of London, they are not taken much account of. Here is one
record: “The plague making its appearance in France in 1361, the king to
guard against the contagion spreading in London, ordered that all cattle
for the use of the city should be slaughtered either at Stratford on one
side the town, or at Knightsbridge on the other side, to keep the air
free from filthy and putrid smells. This regulation was certainly
wholesome; but the close dwellings of which the city then consisted,
were always fit receptacles for contagious disorders; the plague
accordingly came over, and in two days destroyed 1,200 persons.” If an
infectious disorder were to carry off 1,200 persons in two days in
London now, when the population is counted by millions instead of by
thousands, there would be a general panic, a special inquiry, and,
perhaps, a Royal Commission.

In 1349 two large tracts of land were set aside for the interment of
those who then died of the plague, and as their history is generally
well known, I will give Noorthouck’s somewhat concise account: “At
length it (a great pestilence) reached London, where the common
cemeteries were not capacious enough to receive the vast number of
bodies, so that several well-disposed persons were induced to purchase
ground to supply that defect. Amongst the rest, Ralph Stratford, Bishop
of London, bought a piece of ground, called No-Man’s-Land, which he
inclosed with a brick wall, and dedicated to the burial of the dead.
Adjoining to this was a place called Spittle Croft, the property of St.
Bartholomew’s Hospital, containing thirteen acres and a rod of ground,
which was purchased for the same use of burying the dead by Sir Walter
Manny, and was long remembered by an inscription fixed on a stone cross
upon the premises. On this burial-ground the Charterhouse now stands.
There was also another piece of ground purchased at the east end of the
City, just without the wall, by one John Corey, a clergyman, for the
same use; on which spot was afterwards, in this same reign, founded the
Abbey of St. Mary of Grace, for Cistercian monks; it is now covered by
the victualling-office and adjoining houses. It was asserted that not
one in ten escaped this calamity, and that not less than 100,000 persons
died in the whole.” The next sentence is characteristic of the way in
which, as I have already said, these visitations were treated.
“Notwithstanding this sad misfortune, the city soon recovered itself,
and advanced greatly in prosperity, as will appear by a charter it
obtained in the year 1354, granting the privilege of having gold or
silver maces carried before the chief magistrate.” The translation of
the Latin inscription on the stone cross on Sir Walter de Manny’s ground
is as follows:—

“A great plague raging in the year of our Lord 1349, this
burial-ground was consecrated, wherein, and within the bounds of the
present monastery, were buried more than 50,000 bodies of the dead,
beside many others thenceforward to the present time: whose souls
the Lord have mercy upon. Amen.”

The space called No-Man’s-Land was three acres in extent and was
afterwards known as the Pardon Churchyard, being used for the interment
of executed people and suicides. It was in use long after the Cistercian
Monastery was built on the Spittle Croft. Wilderness Row, now merged
into Clerkenwell Road, marks its site, while the gardens and courts of
the Charterhouse, the Square, the site of a demolished burial-ground for
the pensioners (Sutton’s Ground), and the burial-ground which still
exists at the north end of the precincts, are all part of the Spittle
Croft and of the monastery burial-ground. There have already been
attempts to do away with the Charterhouse, to substitute streets and
houses for the old buildings, gardens, and courts, but happily it is not
so easy as it once was to tamper with land consecrated for burials, even
though that land may have been set aside 550 years ago. The
“Victualling-office,” which took the place of St. Mary’s Abbey, was
where the Royal Mint at present stands, and, if one may trust William
Newton’s plan, the abbey graveyard was where the entrance courtyard is

The numbers who died in subsequent visitations must have helped not a
little to fill the parish churchyards, but it was not until the year of
the Great Plague that there seems to have been any very general
provision of extra ground, although the pest-house ground in the Irish
Field, “nye” Old Street, was consecrated in 1662, especially for the
parish of St. Giles, Cripplegate.

But the plague of 1665 taxed the resources, the patience, and the energy
of the Mayor, magistrates, and citizens of London in a manner that was
unprecedented. All through that fatal summer and autumn, and on into the
commencement of the following year, did it play havoc with the people.
In August and September it was at its height. The exact number of
persons who died could not be known, for thousands of deaths were never
recorded. Bodies were collected by the dead carts, which were filled and
emptied and filled again from sunset to dawn, and no account was kept of
the numbers thrown into the pits. At any rate, between August 6th and
October 10th, 49,605 deaths were registered in the Bills of Mortality as
from the Plague, and Defoe, whose “Journal of the Plague” gives every
detail that any one can wish for, considered that during the visitation
at least 100,000 must have perished, in addition to those who wandered
away with the disease upon them and died in the outlying districts. “The
number of those miserable objects was great. The country people would go
and dig a hole at a distance from them, and then, with long poles and
hooks at the end of them, drag the bodies into these pits, and then
throw the earth in from as far as they could cast it, to cover them.” It
is pretty certain that many unrecorded burials took place in the fields
of Stoke Newington.

London must have been a sad sight. All shows, pleasures and pastimes
were stopped; people crowded continually into the churches, where
dissenting ministers, notwithstanding the Act of Uniformity which was
then in force, occupied the pulpits of deceased or absent vicars, and
preached to the most attentive listeners; huge fires were always burning
in the streets; children were kept out of the churchyards; the city was
cleared of all “hogs, dogs, cats, tame pigeons and conies,” special
“dog-killers” being employed; and food and assistance was daily given to
the most needy; while those who could afford to do so fled into the
country, except a few devoted physicians, justices, and other helpers,
including the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Earl of Craven, Monk
(afterwards Duke of Marlborough), and Gilbert Latey and George Whitehead

The plague, introduced from Holland, first broke out in Long Acre, and
gradually spread all over London. When it became impossible to bury in
the ordinary way, huge pits were dug in the churchyards and bodies were
deposited in them without coffins. The chief plague-pit in Aldgate
Churchyard was about 40 ft. long, 15 or 16 ft. broad, and 20 ft. deep,
and between the 6th and the 20th of September, 1,114 bodies were thrown
into it. But it soon became necessary to make new burial-grounds and new
pits for the reception of the dead, as the “common graves of every
parish” became full.


There were pest-houses in the ground to the north of Old Street and in
Tothill Fields, Westminster, to which infected persons were taken. They
corresponded to the isolation hospitals of to-day. But they could only
accommodate, at the most, 300 patients or so, and were wholly inadequate
to meet the need. The pest-houses in Old Street, or rather Bath Street,
were long ago destroyed; Pest-House Row and Russell Row used to mark
their sites. But a portion of the pest-field exists in the garden behind
the St. Luke’s Lunatic Asylum, which was used as a burial-ground for the
parish of St. Giles, Cripplegate, until the formation, in 1732, of St.
Luke’s parish, when it became the St Luke’s “poor ground.” The
pest-houses in Tothill Fields were standing at the beginning of the
present century. They were known as the “five houses” or the “seven
chimneys,” and were erected in 1642. The Tothill Fields, no longer being
needed as a plague burial-ground, were subsequently built upon, but not
until they had been used for the burial of 1,200 Scotch military
prisoners with their wives. A considerable portion of the fields is,
however, still open, and is known as Vincent Square, the playground of
the Westminster School boys. Mackenzie Walcott, in his Memorials of
Westminster, states that Harding’s stoneyard in Earl Street is the site
of the principal plague-pit. This, I believe, is now the yard of Her
Majesty’s Stationery Office, Waste Paper Department.

Defoe gives a very careful description of some of the plague-pits and
burial-grounds which were made in his immediate neighbourhood. He

1. “A piece of ground beyond Goswell Street, near Mount Mill, … where
abundance were buried promiscuously from the Parishes of Aldersgate,
Clerkenwell, and even out of the city. This ground, as I take it, was
since made a Physick Garden, and after that has been built upon.” Mount
Mill was on the north side of Seward Street.

2. “A piece of ground just over the Black Ditch, as it was then called,
at the end of Holloway Lane, in Shoreditch Parish; it has been since
made a Yard for keeping Hogs, and for other ordinary Uses, but is quite
out of Use for a burying-ground.”

This Holywell Mount burial-ground has been “in use” again since Defoe’s
time, and was also used as a plague-pit before 1665. Originally the site
of a theatre dating from the time of Shakespeare, and named after the
neighbouring Holywell Convent in King John’s Court, it afterwards became
a burial-ground, famous as being used for the interment of a great many
actors. There is a small part of it left, but at the outside not more
than a quarter of an acre. It is behind the church of St. James’,
Curtain Road, and is approached by a passage from Holywell Row. A parish
room has been built on it, and what remains is used as a timber yard.
The piece between the parish room and the church is bare and untidy.

3. The third place mentioned by Defoe was at “the Upper end of Hand
Alley in Bishopsgate Street, which was then a green field, and was taken
in particularly for Bishopsgate Parish, tho’ many of the Carts out of
the City brought their dead thither also, particularly out of the Parish
of Allhallows on the Wall.”

He then goes on to describe how this place was very soon built upon,
though the bodies were, in many cases, still undecomposed, and he states
that the remains of 2,000 persons were put into a pit and railed round
in an adjoining passage. New Street, Bishopsgate Street, now occupies
the site of Hand Alley.


4. “Besides this there was a piece of ground in Moorfields,” &c. Here he
refers to the Bethlem burial-ground, which was not made at that time,
but enlarged. Defoe finally mentions the extra grounds which had to be
supplied in Stepney, then a very largely extended parish. They included
a piece of ground adjoining the churchyard, which was afterwards added
to it; and in 1886, in laying out this churchyard as a public garden,
some human remains, without coffins, and very close to the surface, were
accidentally disturbed at the south-western side of the ground. Another
of the Stepney pest-grounds was in Spitalfields, “where since a chapel
or Tabernacle has been built for ease to this great parish.” I believe
it to be St. Mary, Spital Square. Another was in Petticoat Lane. “There
were no less than five other grounds made use of for the Parish of
Stepney at that time, one where now stands the Parish Church of St.
Paul’s, Shadwell, and the other where now stands the Parish Church of
St. John at Wapping.” The churchyards of these two churches, the former
of which is a public garden, and the latter of which is still closed,
are therefore survivals of pest-fields. But there are three other places
to account for which Defoe does not localise. One was possibly in
Gower’s Walk, Whitechapel, where human remains, without coffins, were
come upon recently in digging the foundation for Messrs. Kinloch’s new
buildings. The remains were moved in boxes to a railway arch in
Battersea in the winter of 1893-4. I saw this excavation myself, the
layer of black earth, intermingled with bones, being between two layers
of excellent gravel soil. One additional ground bought at the time of
the Plague was on the north side of Mile End Road. By about 1745 it was
used as a market-garden, and now the site is occupied by houses south of
the junction of Lisbon and Collingwood Streets, Cambridge Road. Besides
these it is certain that a large tract of land south of the London
Hospital was also used for interments, and the Brewer’s Garden and the
site of St. Philip’s Church were probably parts of this ground, which
was known as Stepney Mount. On the north side of Corporation Row,
Clerkenwell, in digging foundations for artisan’s dwellings, a number of
human remains were recently found. This site may have been a plague-pit,
or it may have been a burial-ground for an old Bridewell close by, or an
overflow from the graveyard in Bowling Green Lane.

The chief place of interment for those who died of the plague in
Southwark was the burial-ground in Deadman’s Place (now called Park
Street). Here vast numbers of bodies were buried. The graveyard was
afterwards attached to an Independent Chapel, and many eminent
Dissenters were buried there, for it soon became a sort of Bunhill
Fields For South London. Now the carts, the trucks, and the barrels in
Messrs. Barclay and Perkins’ Brewery roll on rails over the remains of
the victims of the plague and the Dissenting ministers with their


(_From Rocque’s Plan, 1746._)]

But pest-fields were needed in the west of London, as well as in the
north, south, and east, and in addition to Tothill Fields there was a
large tract of land set aside near Poland Street, upon the site of which
the St. James’s Workhouse was subsequently built, a piece of the ground
surviving still in the workhouse garden. Carnaby Market and Marshall
Street were also built on the site about the year 1723, when three
acres, known as Upton Farm, were given in exchange in the fields of
Baynard’s Watering Place (Bayswater), upon which Craven Hill Gardens now
stands. There was a plague-pit near Golden Square, this district being
all a part of the pest-field at one time.

The orchard of Normand House, by Lillie Road, Fulham, is said, by Mrs.
S. C. Hall, to have been filled with bodies in the year of the Great
Plague. The site of this orchard has almost gone; Lintaine Grove, and
the houses on the north side of Lillie Road were built upon it. There is
still a piece vacant, and for sale, at the corner of Tilton Street,
about three-quarters of an acre in extent. Knightsbridge Green (opposite
Tattersalls) was also used for the victims of the Plague, and those who
died in the Lazar Hospital. Such are all the records of plague-pits and
pest-fields which I think sufficiently authentic to record.

There used to be an additional burial-ground for Aldgate parish in
Cartwright Street, E., consecrated in 1615. This, at the beginning of
the present century, was covered with small houses, and on a part of the
site the Weigh House School was built in 1846. The rookery was cleared
by the Metropolitan Board of Works nearly forty years later, when Darby
Street was made, and the vacant land was offered as a site for artisans’
dwellings. I brought the case to the notice of the Metropolitan Public
Gardens Association, and the Board was communicated with. At first it
was denied that any part of the site had been a burial-ground, but
excavations were made and human remains were found. Nor was this really
necessary, for the workmen who had pulled down the houses, and the
authorities at the school, were well aware of the fact, and knew of
actual tombstones being unearthed, upon which a date as late as 1806 had
been found. The Board of Works caused the plans for the surrounding new
buildings to be altered, and what is left of the site of the
burial-ground is now an asphalted playground adjoining the southern
block. A certain gentleman afterwards wrote and circulated a pamphlet,
in which he stated that the Metropolitan Board of Works had discovered
one of the “seites” set apart in Whitechapel for a pest-ground in 1349,
whereas the fact was that the Board had been driven, somewhat against
its will, to preserve as an open space the site of a consecrated
burial-ground belonging to the parish of St. Botolph, Aldgate. That it
may once have been a part of a pest-field is likely enough, for they
abounded in the district, but the age of the Aldgate ground was, I
consider, sufficient to account for the driest of the dry bones found

Although the Plague has not re-appeared, there have been periods of
great mortality from other diseases. Special provisions for burial had
to be made at the time of the cholera visitations. In the outbreak of
1832, 196 bodies were interred in a plot of ground adjoining the
additional burial-ground for Whitechapel (now the playground of the
Davenant Schools). A large piece of ground by the churchyard of All
Saints, Poplar, on the north side of the Rectory, was also used for the
purpose, and the circumstance is recorded on the monument which stands
in the middle of it.

The fact that the bodies in the pest-fields and plague-pits were usually
buried without coffins, and were only wrapped in rugs, sheets, &C., has
accelerated their decay, and it can no longer be thought dangerous when
such pits are opened. Not that I wish in any way to defend the
disturbance of human remains, for I hold that no ground in which
interments have taken place should be used for any other purpose than
that of an open space, and, apart from the legal and sentimental aspects
of the question, human remains, in whatever state of decay they may be,
are not fit foundations for buildings, nor is it seemly or proper to
gather them up and burn them in a hole, or to cram them promiscuously
into chests or “black boxes,” to be padlocked and deposited in other
grounds or convenient vaults. But the old plague-pits, the very crowded
churchyards, and the private grounds where the soil was saturated with
quicklime, the coffins smashed at once, and decay in every way hurried,
are likely now to be less insalubrious than those grounds where lead and
oaken coffins—specially intended to last for generations—are still in
good preservation, and only occasionally give way and let out the
putrifactive emanations.




“Methodism was only to be detected as you detect curious larvæ, by
diligent search in dirty corners.”—GEORGE ELIOT.

FOREMOST amongst the burial-grounds devoted especially to Dissenters is
Bunhill Fields,—not the New Bunhill Fields in Newington, nor Little
Bunhill Fields in Islington, nor the City Bunhill Ground in Golden Lane,
not the Quakers’ ground in Bunhill Row—but the real, genuine, original
Bunhill Fields, City Road.

The land on the north side of the City and south of Old Street was
variously called the Moorfields, Finsbury Fields, the Artillery Ground,
Windmill Hill, and Bone-hill or Bon-hill. In the year 1549, when the
Charnel Chapel in St. Paul’s Churchyard was pulled down, “the bones of
the dead, couched up in a charnel under the chapel, were conveyed from
thence into Finsbury Field, by report of him who paid for the carriage,
amounting to more than one thousand cartloads, and there laid on a
moorish ground, which, in a short time after, being raised by the
soilage of the City, was able to bear three windmills.” The number of
windmills was, later on, increased to five, and they may be seen on many
old maps of London. Heretics used to be interred in Moorfields, and
bones from St. Matthew’s, Friday Street, were moved to Haggerston, in
fact several acres in this district were in use for the purpose of
burying in.

The land north of the Artillery Ground was known as Bonhill or Bunhill
Field, “part whereof, at present denominated Tindal’s, or the
Dissenters’ great Burial-ground, was, by the Mayor and Citizens of
London, in the year 1665, set apart and consecrated as a common
Cemetery, for the interment of such corps as could not have room in
their parochial burial-grounds in that dreadful year of pestilence.
However, it not being made use of on that occasion, the said Tindal took
a lease thereof, and converted it into a Burial-ground for the use of
Dissenters.” So wrote Maitland in 1756, but before that time a large
plot was added on the north, and eventually the whole cemetery measured
about five acres. There at least 100,000 persons found their last
resting-place, including vast numbers of Methodist, Baptist,
Presbyterian, and Independent ministers. In Walter Wilson’s History of
the Dissenting Meeting-houses, which might be more rightly called a
history of dissenting divines, the burial of the ministers in Bunhill
Fields is constantly mentioned, and the elaborate inscriptions from
their tombs are given. These have, however, become much defaced, and
numbers of them are now illegible. The ground belongs to the
Corporation; it is not laid out as a garden, but paths have been made
and seats placed in it, the gates being open during the day. The most
frequented paths lead to the tombstones of John Bunyan, on the south
side of the public thoroughfare in “Tyndal’s Ground,” and Daniel Defoe,
on the north side, both being at the eastern end of the cemetery.
Bunyan’s tomb was restored in 1862 by public subscription, a piece of
the original stone being now in the Congregational Church at Highgate.
The monument to Defoe was raised in 1870 by a subscription in the
_Christian World_. Amongst other celebrities buried here were Dr.
Williams, the founder of the Library in Red Cross Street (now in Gordon
Square), Susannah Wesley, mother of John and Charles, Isaac Watts, Sir
Thomas Hardy of Reform Bill fame, and several members of the Cromwell
family. The Corporation restored the tombstone of Henry Cromwell, which
was found seven feet below the surface.

On the south side of the Thames the largest and most important of the
Dissenters’ burial-grounds was that attached to the Independent Chapel
in Deadman’s Place (now called Park Street, Southwark), originally a
plague-ground, and very much used for the burial of the victims. Here
many more ministers were buried, whose names are household words
wherever Dissenters are gathered together. I cannot say what has become
of their tombstones, but the site of the ground is now only one of the
paved yards in Messrs. Barclay and Perkins’ Brewery.

If the mantle of Bunhill Fields has fallen anywhere, I suppose that
Abney Park Cemetery claims the distinction. It was first used in 1840,
and has always been the favourite cemetery of the Dissenters, there
being no separating line in it to mark off a consecrated portion. Its
formation is also associated with the memory of Dr. Watts, who lived for
some years, and who died, in the neighbourhood, at the house of his
friend Sir Thomas Abney. There is a monument to him in the cemetery,
although he was buried at Bunhill Fields, and there are many huge
monuments to other eminent dissenting divines of latter days. The
tombstones are crowded together as closely as it seems possible, and yet
they are being constantly added to, although the greater part of this
cemetery is already over-full.


The first dissenting meeting-houses were in the City and its immediate
neighbourhood. They were frequently but “upper rooms” in narrow courts,
and had no graveyards attached to them. But when the persecution of the
Dissenters, under the Act of Uniformity, was relaxed, meeting-houses and
chapels sprang up in every part of London, and these, in some cases, had
burial-grounds adjoining them. A few of the larger grounds, such as
Sheen’s, in Commercial Road, and the one in Globe Fields, were bought by
private individuals and carried on as private speculations entirely
apart from the Chapels. They are described in Chapter IX. But of the
genuine Dissenters’ graveyards _i.e._, the little grounds attached to
chapels and meeting-houses in London, there must have been at one time
or another about eighty—there may have been more. This number of course
represents but a very small portion of the meeting-houses themselves,
which were in existence at the beginning of this century. The following
remarks of the Rev. John Blackburn, one of the secretaries of the Union
of Congregational Ministers, show how the respectable Dissenters
repudiated the private burial-grounds: “I may with confidence disclaim
the imputation that the graveyards of Dissenters were primarily and
chiefly established with a view to emolument. Many graveyards that are
private property, purchased by undertakers for their own emolument, are
regarded as dissenting burial-grounds; and we are implicated in the
censures that are pronounced upon the unseemly and disgusting
transactions that have been detected in them…. By far the greatest
portion of the persons buried in these grounds are not Dissenters at
all…. The denomination to which I belong have about 120 chapels in and
around London, and I believe there is not more than a sixth part of them
that have graveyards attached.”

In the returns of the Metropolitan burial-grounds which were made fifty
or sixty years ago, those to whom the work was entrusted generally
expressed their inability to find out the correct number of the
Dissenters’ grounds, and Walker wrote, “I have not been able to procure
any satisfactory accounts of the numbers interred in burying-grounds
unconnected with the Established Church. By some parties information was
refused, by others the records of the place were stated to have been
lost or neglected, and in some cases the parties most interested in
suppressing, had alone the power to communicate.” When I first began,
twelve years ago, to make as complete a list as I could of the London
burial-grounds, I wrote to the secretaries at the centres of the chief
dissenting bodies, as I thought they might possess information about the
burial-grounds of their own chapels. From the Congregationalists I had
no reply; the Wesleyans kindly answered that they were endeavouring to
procure the information, but it never came; the Baptists wrote two or
three letters and took some trouble on my behalf, but they failed even
to find the number of their grounds. I had, therefore, to seek my
information in other ways.

The only body of Nonconformists that has kept a careful account of its
graveyards is the Society of Friends. They also treated their grounds
and the remains in them with greater respect (except in one notable case
to which I shall refer), and they kept them neat and clean, and do so
still. Walker recognised this fact as long ago as 1847. A statement
respecting their graveyards was made by representatives of the Society
to the committee which sat in 1843, showing that they still had
considerable room in these grounds, and that they were careful not to
allow less than 7 feet or 8 feet of earth above each coffin. The Friends
attend to all matters connected with their meeting-houses and
burial-grounds at their six weeks’ meeting, and each of these grounds
has been a Quakers’ graveyard from the beginning, not changing hands,
first belonging to one community and then another, as has been the case
with so many of the chapel graveyards. The members of the Society have
also exercised a most praiseworthy self-control by not wearing mourning,
by avoiding useless expense at funerals, and ostentatious tombstones,
memorials, or epitaphs. Until about fifty years ago no tombstones were
used at all, as at Long Lane, S.E.; then they used small flat ones, as
at Hammersmith and Peckham; and finally they adopted small upright ones,
all the same shape, about a quarter of the size of the ordinary
headstones in cemeteries. These may be seen at Ratcliff and Stoke
Newington, the graveyard at the latter place, which surrounds the Park
Street meeting-house, being still in use. I wish that every one who
intends to erect a tombstone—and this is a note for Jews as well as
Christians—would, before doing so, pay a visit to a Quakers’
burial-ground, and ponder on the matter there. An interesting article on
the Society of Friends has appeared in the _Times_ of January 8, 1896,
in which the following words are quoted, “The Quakers—the man and the
Society—must move or perish.” But I trust they may not move forward with
the times in adopting more elaborate burial customs.

Four of the Quakers’ graveyards have entirely disappeared. The
burial-ground for the Friends of Westminster was in Long Acre, by Castle
Street. It passed out of their hands in 1757, and was built upon. In
rebuilding houses on the same spot, about four years ago, many human
remains were disturbed. These were claimed by the Society, which was
allowed to collect them and bury them at Isleworth. There was a little
meeting-house with a burial-ground attached in Wapping Street, which
seems to have been used until about 1779, but was then demolished, the
worshippers moving to the meeting in Brook Street, Ratcliff. The other
two burial-grounds which the Friends have lost were in Worcester Street
and Ewer Street, Southwark. The latter, although it adjoined their Old
Park Meeting (which the King took as a guard house), may never have been
used by them. At any rate in 1839 it was in private hands, and
eventually disappeared under the railway. The former, which dated from
1666, was very full, so that in 1733 the surface was raised above the
original level. This was demolished when Southwark Street was made
(1860); and the London Bridge and Charing Cross Railway also runs over
its site. The Friends then moved the remains and a number of coffins to
their ground in Long Lane, Bermondsey.[4]

Footnote 4:

A most interesting report upon this removal was made by the Surveyor
to the six weeks’ meeting, in which are contained some excellent
remarks upon the futility of burying in lead coffins, nine of these
being found in the ground. The graveyard had been disused since 1799.

The Quakers of the Bull-and-Mouth and Peel Divisions used a large ground
near Bunhill Fields, between Checquer Alley and Coleman (now Roscoe)
Street. It was acquired in 1661, and many times added to, and was used
extensively by them at the time of the Great Plague, when they had their
own special dead-cart. George Fox’s body was carried here in 1690, an
orderly procession, numbering 4,000 persons, following to the grave. In
1840 a school was built in it, and the rest of the tale it grieves me to
tell. A part of the burial-ground exists now, not half an acre in area.
It is neatly laid out as a sort of private garden. Five thousand bodies
were dug up in the other part and buried, with carbolic acid, in a
corner of the existing piece, and the site from which they were removed
is now covered with a Board School, a coffee palace, houses, and shops,
including the Bunhill Fields Memorial Buildings, erected in 1881.[5]

Footnote 5:

Although 12,000 Quakers were buried in the Coleman Street ground,
including Edward Burrough and others who died as martyrs in Newgate
Gaol, George Fox’s grave was the only one marked by a stone,—a small
tablet on the wall, with the simple inscription, “G. F.” This
attracted visits from country Friends in such numbers that a zealous
member of the Society named Robert Howard “pronounced it ‘Nehushtan,’”
and caused it to be destroyed.

The remainder of the Friends’ burial-grounds are intact. The one in
Baker’s Row, Whitechapel (acquired in 1687 and used by the Devonshire
House Division), is now a recreation ground; and the one in Long Lane,
Bermondsey, which was bought in 1697 for £120, has lately been laid out
for the use of the public. In addition to these there are, in London
itself, five little grounds adjoining meeting-houses in High Street,
Deptford, in Brook Street, Ratcliff, in High Street, Wandsworth (given
by Joan Stringer in 1697), by the Creek, Hammersmith, and in Hanover
Street, Peckham Rye. The Society acquired the Ratcliff ground in 1666 or
1667, the land being originally copyhold, but enfranchised in 1734 for
£21. All these grounds are neatly kept; the one in Peckham, which dates
from 1821, is beautiful, and illustrates what can be done with a disused
and closed graveyard, not even visible from the road, when it is treated
with proper care and respect. Many of the burial-grounds just outside
London have been sold with the meeting-houses.

There are not many Roman Catholic burial-grounds in London apart from
those attached to conventual establishments. St. Mary’s Church,
Moorfields, has a very small churchyard and had two additional grounds,
one in Bethnal Green which has disappeared, and one in Wades Place,
Poplar, now used as a school playground. This is the case also with a
Roman Catholic burial-ground in Duncan Terrace, Islington, which has
been asphalted for the use of the boys’ school, some tombstones and a
figure of the Virgin Mary being in an enclosure on the north side. There
is a very large ground dedicated to All Souls, by St. Mary’s Church,
Cadogan Terrace, Chelsea, and a small one by the church in Parker’s Row,
Dockhead, S.E., the garden here, which is now a recreation ground for
the schools or the sisters, having also been used for burials. There is
one in Woolwich, lately encroached upon through the enlargement of the
school, where three lonely-looking graves are in a railed-in enclosure
in the middle of a tar-paved yard; and there is also the ground behind
St. Thomas’s, Fulham, which is still in use.


But the burial-grounds adjoining Baptist, Wesleyan, Independent, and
other Chapels, what shall be said of them? They have suffered terribly
in the slaughter, and although many still exist, a very large number
have entirely disappeared. Only three are open as public gardens—the
Wesleyan ground in Cable Street, St. George’s in the East, which was
added to St. George’s churchyard garden in 1875; the ground behind the
Independent Chapel by St. Thomas’ Square, Hackney; and the burial-ground
adjoining Whitfield’s Tabernacle, Tottenham Court Road, the subject of
much litigation, which was opened in February, 1895, by the London
County Council. The original chapel on this site was founded by George
Whitefield in 1756, amongst his supporters being the Countess of
Huntingdon, David Garrick, and Benjamin Franklin. One other graveyard
was laid out as a garden, that adjoining Trinity Chapel, East India Dock
Road, but it is now closed, no one at present undertaking its


For the rest of the grounds, not only Methodist but also
Congregationalist and above all Baptist, we must employ the “diligent
search in dirty corners,” but all the seeking in the world will not
restore those that are gone—sold and built upon. The fates of some of
them are recorded in Appendix B. The parishes south of the river seem to
have been great strongholds of dissent. Woolwich, Deptford, Walworth,
and Wandsworth are still full of chapels, many of which have
burial-grounds attached. North of the Thames perhaps Hackney is richest
in chapels and chapel graveyards, including the Unitarian in Chatham
Place. Whitechapel also had a great many. But in the Borough and other
parts of Southwark the little meeting-houses swarmed at one time, some
of which, with their little burial-grounds, still exist. A few of the
chapels now belong to the Salvation Army; one in York Street, Walworth,
has lately been acquired as the Robert Browning Hall, and its
burial-ground is to be a public garden; others in Peckham, Woolwich, and
Hammersmith have been converted into schools (the two last named being
board schools), their graveyards being the playgrounds; and many more
have fallen from their first estate.

It might be instructive to those who are not well acquainted with South
London to take a walk, in imagination, through Long Lane. It begins at
St. George the Martyr, Borough, of “Little Dorrit” fame, where the
churchyard is a public garden. Close by this, also on the north side of
the lane, there used to be a Baptist Chapel in Sheer’s Alley, with a
burial-ground. Wilmott’s Buildings occupy the site. Very little beyond
is Collier’s Rents. Here is a chapel which used to belong to the
Baptists, but is now in the hands of the Congregational Union. Its
dreary little graveyard is on the north side, behind a high wall. A
little further on, and opposite, is Southwark Chapel (Wesleyan), built
in 1808. It also has a graveyard, where the chief ornament is a hen-coop
amongst the tumbling tombstones. A short turning to the north, Nelson
Street, takes us to the disused burial-ground of Guy’s Hospital; and
before we come to the end of the lane there are three more grounds to be
seen, that belonging to the Society of Friends, already mentioned in
this Chapter, and one that adjoins it and is owned by the trustees of a
neighbouring Baptist Chapel, which is very small and has a minister’s
vault in the middle. This ground originally belonged to the Independents
of Beck Street, and its appellation when closed was the Neckinger Road
Chapel burial-ground. Lastly we come to St. Mary Magdalene’s, the parish
church of Bermondsey, with a charming churchyard garden which includes a
portion of the cemetery of Bermondsey Abbey. And yet Long Lane is only
about half a mile in length!

It is a little curious to notice that in the next parish, Rotherhithe,
there are no less than five churchyards, but not a single burial-ground
belonging to the Dissenters.

When visiting the burial-grounds for the London County Council, I was
much struck with three that seemed particularly neglected and untidy.
These were the Baptist ground in Mare Street, Hackney, which was being
used for the storage of old wood, furniture, and flower-pots; the ground
behind the pretentious Congregational Chapel on Stockwell Green, where
all kinds of dirty rubbish, paper, iron-building materials, the broken
top of a lamp-post, &c., were lying about amongst the sinking graves;
and a little ground in Church Street, Deptford, behind a chapel which
belongs to a General Baptist (Unitarian) connection, whose creed I do
not pretend to understand, but whose railings were so broken that a far
larger visitor than I could have followed me through the gaps to behold
broken tombstones, collections of unsavoury rubbish, and another
specimen of the worn-out top of a lamp-post. There were many other very
untidy grounds, such as those by the Wesleyan Chapel in Liverpool Road,
King’s Cross, and the Congregational Chapel in Esher Street, Lambeth;
but I think the three I have mentioned above would have been—in the
Spring of 1895, at any rate—awarded the first, second, and third prizes
in a competition for neglect; and in January, 1896, I find these grounds
are in much the same condition as they were then.

It is pleasant to turn to some of the chapel grounds which are well
kept. The one which adjoins the Congregational Church in High Street,
Deptford, is generally neat; so is the graveyard of the City Road
Chapel, at any rate at its western end, where John Wesley’s monument
stands; and the same may be said of the portions that are left of the
grounds adjoining Union Chapel, Streatham Hill, and the New West End
Baptist Chapel in King Street, Hammersmith.


There was a large burial-ground behind a chapel in Cannon Street Road,
E. The building passed into the hands of the Rector of St. George’s in
the East, but was afterwards pulled down, and one of Raine’s Foundation
Schools was subsequently erected on its site. The burial-ground, in
which many Lascars[6] were interred, is now in three parts. One is a
small playground for the school, the largest part is Messrs. Seaward
Brothers’ yard for their carts, and the third piece is a cooper’s yard
belonging to Messrs. Hasted and Sons. A similar kind of chapel in
Penrose Street, Walworth, known for a time as St. John’s Episcopal
Chapel, is now the studio of a scenic artist, while the large
burial-ground in the rear is the depôt of the Newington Vestry, and is
full of carts, manure, gravel, dust, stones, &c.

Footnote 6:

These Lascars used to live in a court near by, and are said to have
been locked in at night.

The East London Railway has swallowed up the graveyards by Rose Lane
Chapel, Stepney, and the Sabbatarian or Seventh Day Baptists’ Chapel in
Mill Yard, by Leman Street; the Medical School of Guy’s Hospital is on
the Mazepond Baptist Chapel-ground; the site of one which adjoined the
London Road Chapel, S.E., is now occupied by a tailor’s shop, the next
house being on the space where the chapel stood, and these two shops are
easily picked out in the row as they are higher and newer than their
neighbours on either side. A little Baptist graveyard in Dipping Alley,
Horselydown, which had a baptistery in it, disappeared very many years
ago; the site of the Baptist Chapel and burial-ground in Worship Street,
Shoreditch, forms a part of the yard used as the goods depôt of the
London and North Western Railway; a similar one in Broad Street,
Wapping, is now, I believe, a milkman’s yard, and was for many years
previously the parish stoneyard; while the very crowded ground which
used to be behind Buckingham Chapel, Palace Street, has a brewery on it.
There is a little graveyard in front of Maberley Chapel, Ball’s Pond
(now called Earlham Hall), but the three tombstones that are left in it
are not only put upon the north wall of the chapel, but have actually
been painted with the wall.

I have mentioned that a few of the chapels have been replaced by
schools, but I ought also to mention that the graveyards behind Abney
Chapel, Stoke Newington, N., Denmark Row Chapel, Coldharbour Lane, S.E.,
and the chapel in Hanbury Street, Mile End New Town, E., were only
closed for a very few years before school buildings were erected on
them. A small yard remains of the last named, but practically nothing is
left of the others. The site of the graveyard in the rear of the chapel
in Gloucester Street, Shoreditch, has, together with that of the chapel
itself, been merged into the premises of the Gaslight and Coke Company.

These are specimens of the uses to which the Dissenters’ grounds have
been put, and which we want to prevent in the future, for I hope that it
may not be long before many of those that have not been entirely lost
are “converted” into cheerful resting-places for the use of the living.

It is the question of their maintenance, when they are once laid out,
that has hitherto caused so much difficulty, and this not only with the
Dissenters’ grounds, but also with the churchyards. Where the Vestry or
District Board of Works will undertake to maintain a ground under the
Open Spaces Acts it is simple enough, and in many cases this has been
done most effectually. But some of these bodies will not accept the
responsibility. The Corporation keeps up St. Paul’s Churchyard and
Bunhill Fields, and the London County Council maintains Whitfield’s
Tabernacle ground and ten graveyards which were laid out by the
Metropolitan Public Gardens Association. It was with great difficulty
and after a hard fight that the Earl of Meath managed to induce the
Council to take over some of these grounds (and this only year by year),
together with several squares and playgrounds, the maintenance of which
was too heavy a burden upon the funds of a voluntary society. Of late
years the Association has not laid out any burial-ground until its
future maintenance is legally secured. A short time ago, soon after the
publication of the return prepared by me for the Council, the Parks and
Open Spaces Committee recommended that a conference should be held to
consider some general scheme for the treatment of the burial-grounds
which are still closed, their acquisition for the use of the public, and
their maintenance, it being felt somewhat unjust that while some of the
Metropolitan vestries and boards (such as St. Pancras and Hackney) were
annually expending considerable sums in the upkeep of graveyard gardens,
others (such as Rotherhithe and Limehouse) declined to do so. But the
recommendation, when it came before the general meeting of the Council,
was withdrawn for the time being, and the whole question remains in
_statu quo ante_.

“The very names recorded here are strange,
Of foreign accent, and of different climes;
Alvares and Revira interchange
With Abraham and Jacob of old times.”

IT is only natural that in London, to which so many from other countries
have fled, and where so many foreigners have lived, worked, and died,
there should be evidences left of their places of interment. Solitary
cases of their burial among Englishmen are, of course, to be met with
everywhere, and there are many such in the London graveyards. In
Rotherhithe Churchyard is a well-known tombstone erected to the memory
of Prince Lee-boo of the Pelew Islands, who died in 1784; in St. Ann’s,
Soho, there is a tablet to that of Theodore, the last King of Corsica;
there is the grave of an Indian chief in the burial-ground of St.
John’s, Westminster, in Horseferry Road; and it is said that the first
person interred in a part of Bishopsgate Churchyard was a Frenchman
named Martin de la Tour, while this ground also used to contain a very
old altar tomb with a Persian inscription round it to the memory of Coya
Shawsware, a Persian merchant, who died in 1626. The edition of Stow’s
“Survey,” published in 1633, contains a picture of this monument and an
account of the funeral ceremonies which took place at the grave.
Maitland also refers to it, but gives a totally different first name to
the merchant. It is evident that for some time after his burial his son
and other friends used to gather at the grave twice a day for prayer and
funeral devotions, until driven away by the ridicule of the populace.


But there have been in London many special burial-grounds belonging to
special groups of foreigners, and several of them remain. Foremost among
these are the Jewish cemeteries.

Until the year 1177, the time of Henry II., the Jews in England were
only allowed one burial-place. It was known as the Jews’ Garden and was
outside the wall of London by Cripplegate, several acres being devoted
to the purpose—a neighbourhood subsequently known by the name of
Leyrestowe. When other burial-places were permitted, this ground was
built upon, but the remembrance of it still lives in the name of one
street in the district, Jewin Street, reminding us of the time of the
bitter persecutions which the Jews suffered, and which are chronicled,
to our shame, in English history.

“Pride and humiliation hand in hand
Walked with them thro’ the world where’er they went;
Trampled and beaten were they as the sand,
And yet unshaken as the continent.”

In the first place it is to be noticed that the Jews, as a race, are
particularly pledged to preserve their burial-places. This is not a law
among them—so I have been told by the Chief Rabbi—but a binding
obligation handed down from the most ancient times, and any disturbance
of the burial-grounds which now exist is not permitted. No doubt it was
totally beyond their power to prevent the “Jews’ Garden” from being
covered with streets, its very size and position rendered it practically
impossible to preserve, and it was probably annihilated during one of
those periods when the Jews were expelled from England. Another
exception which proves the rule is at Oxford, where the Botanic Garden,
which dates from 1622, was made on the site of the Jewish burial-ground.

They also strictly observed the sanitary laws respecting burial laid
down for them, and their cemeteries have not been overcrowded. Burial is
only allowed at 6 feet from the surface of the ground, and only one body
is in each grave, one coffin not being placed above another; and this
rule has been carried out in the Jewish burial-grounds in London—again
with one exception.

In the very large, old graveyard in Brady Street, Bethnal Green
(formerly called North Street), there are walls running through it, and
the southern half is higher than the northern half, having quite a hilly
appearance. The following is the explanation. This half of the ground
was originally allotted to “strangers,” Jews who belonged to no special
congregation. About thirty years after it was full, a layer of earth, 4
feet in depth, was added to the ground, and it was used over again. As
the coffins were again placed 6 feet from the surface, there still
remained 4 feet of earth between them and the old ones beneath. As a
result of this curious and interesting arrangement, there may be seen,
in several cases, two gravestones standing up back to back, which
represent the two graves below them. Here lie buried, with other members
of the family, Nathan Mayer de Rothschild, the founder of the English
house of Rothschild, Asher and Benjamin Goldsmid, and many another Jew
famous on ’Change.

Within the Metropolitan area there are at present nine Jewish
graveyards; there are others more lately acquired, and all still in use,
at Willesden, West Ham, Edmonton, Plashet, and Golders Green, Hendon,
The disused grounds which belong to the United Synagogue are those in
Brady Street, Bethnal Green, E., Hoxton Street, N., Alderney Road, Mile
End, E., and Grove Street, Hackney, E., and I cannot, unfortunately,
call them well kept, but the neatest is the one in Alderney Road. In all
of them the tombstones are upright, rather above the average size, and
with inscriptions upon them which are almost invariably in Hebrew. The
one in Hoxton is very small. It was originally formed for the use of the
Hamborough Synagogue, Fenchurch Street, and was first used about the
year 1700. All these grounds are old, part of the one in Alderney Road
dates from about 1700, while the Brady Street Cemetery was formed in
1795. Many of the tombstones have at the top a representation of two
outstretched hands with the thumbs joining, the symbol of descendants of
Aaron, the High Priest. Others have a hand pouring water out of a
flagon, and they are over the graves of the Levites whose duty in the
synagogue is to pour water upon the hands of the Priests (the
above-mentioned descendants of Aaron), who are nearly all named Cohen.


In Ball’s Pond, Islington, is the small cemetery of the West London
Congregation of British Jews, which is still in use. Here some very
large and extravagant tombstones may be seen, and the ground is very
neatly kept. In Fulham Road (Queen’s Elm) is a dreary little ground
belonging to the synagogue in St. Alban’s Place, S.W. I believe an
occasional interment takes place here in reserve plots, but the
congregation has provided itself with another cemetery at Edmonton. I am
indebted to the kindness of Mr. R. Proctor for the photograph of this
graveyard. Some few years back, before the Disused Burial-grounds Act
was in force, a row of shops was built on the west frontage of the
ground, the one body lying in that part being removed to another place.
No doubt the freehold worth of the land was considerable at that time,
and therefore the congregation disregarded their scruples concerning
this one deceased member. The graveyard can only be visited between
certain hours on Sundays, but the rest of the Jewish cemeteries have
resident caretakers. In Bancroft Road, Mile End, is another dreary
place, which, although in so crowded a district, is still in use. When
last I visited it I was told there was room for about four more graves!
It belongs to the Maiden Lane Synagogue. None of these grounds, except
that at Ball’s Pond, have proper paths in them; they have been entirely
filled with graves, between which a few narrow lines like sheep-tracks
wind about the grass.


Lastly, there are the cemeteries of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews—one,
closed for burials, behind the Beth Holim Hospital in Mile End Road, and
one, nearly five acres in extent and still in use, just beyond the
People’s Palace. These are neatly kept, the former, or at any rate a
part of it, being actually turned into a sort of garden for the patients
in the hospital, with trees in it, paths and seats. The latter is bare
of trees or shrubs, but is divided into plots, with paths between. In
both of them the tombstones, unlike those in the other Jewish grounds,
are flat, either slabs on the ground or low altar tombs; and in the
large ground there are many children’s graves, marked by much smaller
altar tombs dotted amongst the large ones, which are very unique and
interesting. The Hebrew inscription at the entrance tells us that this
is “The House of the Living,”—“Beth Hayim.” The cemetery was acquired in
1657, and contains the remains of the ancestors of Lord Beaconsfield,
the Eardley family, Sampson Gideon, the Samudas, D’Aguilars, Ricardos,
Lopes, and many others who trace their descent from Sephardi Jews.

Hitherto it has not been possible to secure any of the Jewish graveyards
as public gardens, the feeling of the community is against it, but the
day may yet come when the Council of the United Synagogue will allow the
experiment to be tried.


The burial-ground of the Greeks in London is an enclosure in Norwood
Cemetery, where some elaborate monuments may be seen. The Mohammedans
can practise their rites at Woking.

There is no special place at the present time, I believe, where Danes
and Swedes are buried, but their churches, with surrounding graveyards,
were situated close together, in Wellclose and Prince’s Square, E. The
church in Prince’s Square is still the Swedish church of London
(Eleanora), and there is a notice at the corner of a turning on the
south side of Cable Street, St. George’s in the East,—“Till Svenska
Kyrkan.” Here, in a vault, are the remains of Emmanuel Swedenborg
himself, while the garden contains many tombstones, especially an inner
enclosure which was filled first. But the building now situated in
Wellclose Square is no longer the Danish or Mariner’s Church, the site
is occupied by schools and mission buildings in connection with St.
Paul’s, Dock Street, the present seaman’s church. Nor are there any
tombstones in the garden, although it is certain that many Danes and
many sailors were buried under the church, and in a surrounding
graveyard, which was probably an inner enclosure like that in Prince’s
Square. Mention of it is made by Northook in 1773, and by Malcolm in
1803; and there is a picture of the church in Maitland’s “History of
London.” The following account from the “Beauties of London and
Middlesex (1815)” is also of interest:—“At the extremity of this parish
is Wellclose Square, which has also borne the name of Marine Square,
from the number of sea officers who used to reside in it. It is a pretty
little neat square; but its principal ornament is the Danish church in
the centre, in the midst of its churchyard, planted with trees…. This
structure was erected in 1696, at the expense of Christian V., King of
Denmark, as appears by the inscription: ‘Templem Dano Norwegicum
intercessione et munificentia serenissimi Danorum Regis Christiani
Quinti erectum MDCXCVI.’ Gaius Gabriel Cibber was the architect, who
erected a monument within this church to the memory of his wife Jane,
daughter of William Colley, Esq., and mother of Colley Cibber, the
famous dramatist. The architect himself is also buried here.” The
Flemish burial-ground was in the district of St. Olave’s, Southwark. It
adjoined a chapel in Carter Lane, and before its demolition was used as
an additional graveyard by the parishes of St. Olave and St. John,
especially the former. When the railway to Greenwich was made this
ground disappeared, and part of its site forms the approach to London
Bridge Station.

in Tooley Street in the Parish of St. Olave, Southwark,
_with a Plan of the adjacent Neighbourhood_


In Milman’s Row, Chelsea, there is a quaint and curious burial-ground
belonging to the Moravians. The adjoining buildings have passed out of
their hands, their present chapel being in Fetter Lane, E.C. In 1750
Count Zinzendorf purchased two acres of land (a part of the garden and
stables of Beaufort House) of Sir Hans Sloane, about one acre of which
was set aside for burials, and divided into four parts—the first for
male infants and single brothers, the second for female infants and
single sisters, the third for married brothers and widowers, and the
fourth for married sisters and widows. The stones are flat on the grass
and very small, not more than about 11 or 15 inches by 10 or 12 inches
in size, and the ground was closed for interments about the year 1888.

There is no purely Dutch place of interment in London now. Besides the
Dutch Church in Austin Friars (the survival of the priory of the
Augustine Friars), which has lost its churchyard, they used to have a
few chapels which seemed to change hands, sometimes belonging to Dutch
and at other times to German congregations. Such was Zoar chapel, in
Great Alie Street, Whitechapel, which is now a Baptist conventicle. It
had a fair-sized burial-ground behind it at the beginning of the
century, the site of which is covered by houses and a forge. One day
recently I knocked at the door of this chapel, hoping to be allowed to
look round it, in order to make sure that no part of the yard was left.
The woman who opened it, when I politely asked if I might go in, said
“No!” and slammed the door again at once. One meets with varied
receptions in different places, Two German churches, with graveyards
attached, were also in this neighbourhood—the Lutheran (St. George’s),
in Little Alie Street, and the Protestant Reformed Church, in Hooper
Square. The latter has entirely disappeared, the railway covering its
site. The former church still exists, with the little yard behind it,
separated by a wall from the adjoining schoolyard, but the entrance from
Little Alie Street has been bricked up.

The precinct of the Savoy had a distinctly foreign flavour about it, but
the Savoy Chapel itself is now the only remnant left of the large group
of buildings which were used at different times as palace, hospital,
barracks, and prison, and finally demolished in 1877. The churchyard is
probably even older than the church. It is now a neat little garden, in
the possession of Her Majesty the Queen, as Duchess of Lancaster, and
laid out, chiefly at her cost, for the use of the public. This is the
burial-ground described by Dickens, in _All the Year Round_, with some
of his tenderest touches, and of which he says: “I think that on summer
nights the dew falls here—the only dew that is shed in all London,
beyond the tears of the homeless.” But the Savoy used to contain one, if
not two, German chapels, besides a French Jesuit chapel and a
meeting-place for Persian worship. The German church (wrongly called
Dutch on Rocque’s plan) had a burial-ground on its west side, which is
marked on the ordnance maps, except the very latest, as it survived
until 1876, when the human remains were removed to a cemetery at Colney
Hatch. Now its site is covered by part of the new block of buildings
which include the Savoy Chambers and the Medical Examination Hall. The
Rev. W. Loftie’s book, “Memorials of the Savoy,” gives a full and
interesting history of the Precinct, and is, as is usual with his works,
compiled with care and truthfulness; but beyond simply mentioning the
existence of the German burial-ground he has nothing to tell of it. We
should have liked to know what the gravestones were like, and whether
any persons of distinction were interred there.

We now turn to the French in London, and these have to be divided into
the Roman Catholics and the Huguenots. No doubt Frenchmen and
Frenchwomen have been laid to rest in the burial-grounds attached to all
the Roman Catholic churches, and especially in All Souls Cemetery,
behind the chapel of St. Mary, in Cadogan Place, Chelsea, which chapel
was built by M. Voyaux de Franous, a French _Émigré_ clergyman, and
consecrated in 1811. Large numbers were also interred at St. Pancras,
the eastern end of the old churchyard receiving, in consequence, the
name of “Catholic Pancras.” But this is the part which has been so much
disturbed and appropriated by the Midland Railway Company, and what
remains of it is some dreary, dark slips under the railway arches, and
groups and hillocks of tombstones which were moved into the western part
of the ground, where, amongst other illustrious graves, are those of Dr.
Walker, of dictionary fame, Mary Woolstoncraft Godwin, and William
Woollett, the engraver.


About the year 1687 between thirteen and fourteen thousand French
Protestants, driven from home by the intolerance of Louis XIV., settled
in London, some in Spitalfields, others in the district of St. Giles’
and Seven Dials, in Stepney, and in Wandsworth. There was a French
church at Wandsworth, which subsequently fell into the hands of the
Wesleyans, and the Huguenots who settled in this locality were chiefly
engaged in trade as hatters. As a result of these settlements we find
their graves in Bethnal Green Churchyard and other places, but
especially in the East Hill burial-ground at Wandsworth, where many
French Protestants of note were interred, and where there are some fine
old headstones and altar tombs. It is a picturesque ground between the
two roads, but, with the exception of a pathway through it, it is not
open to the public.

Foreigners now have to be buried in the cemeteries, and many a strange
service or ceremony has been held at the graveside of those who belong
to other climes, especially, perhaps, in Kensal Green Cemetery, Norwood
Cemetery, and the others that are non-parochial. The Jews and the Greeks
are, I believe, the only communities of strangers who still keep up
separate burial-grounds of their own in London.

“Such ebb and flow must ever be,
Then wherefore should we mourn?”

WHEN the Greyfriars, or Christ’s Hospital, was set aside for “poor
children,” and Bridewell for “the correction of vagabonds,” St.
Bartholomew’s Hospital in the City and St. Thomas’s in Southwark were
devoted to the care of the “wounded, maimed, sick, and diseased”; and in
these four benevolent institutions, which owe so much to the short-lived
but truly pious King Edward VI., there was provision made for the burial
of the dead. It must be remembered that the quadrangle of Christ’s
Hospital, which is still surrounded by cloisters, was the burial-ground
of the Greyfriars, but apart from this, for the boys of the school or
the officers or servants, there was a small plot of ground set apart as
a graveyard at the north-west corner of the block of buildings. This was
demolished when the great hall was built, in 1825, and if any of its
site remains it is only a limited piece of the courtyard on the north
side of the hall and the doctor’s garden. A few tombstones are preserved
in the passage leading to the doctor’s house. At this time was formed
the additional burial-ground for Christ Church at the western end of the
churchyard of St. Botolph, Aldersgate Street. But the churchyard
adjoining Christ Church, and even the cloisters themselves, were used
from time to time by the Hospital, and it was the custom in the last
century for a “blue” to be buried by torchlight. His schoolfellows
passed through the venerable courtyards and buildings in procession, two
by two, and sang a burial anthem from the 39th Psalm, which must have
been a most solemn and touching sight, and was “particularly adapted to
the monastic territory” of the Hospital. It will be a sad day when this
noble old school is torn from its rightful home in the City of London,
and when the boys receive a “modern” education in a trim, new building,
and wear the dull tweed suit and the school cap dragged on at the back
of their heads; and it is well to impress again and again upon the
Charity Commissioners and the Almoners of the Hospital that a very
considerable portion of the site will not be available for building
upon, as it will come under the provisions of the Disused Burial-grounds
Act. The same remark applies with even greater force to the neighbouring
hospital, the Charterhouse, where all the gardens and courtyards,
including the Square itself and the little burial-ground which is still
recognisable as such, have been used at one time or another for
interments. I have explained how this came about in a former chapter.


I think it probable that when St. Bartholomew’s Hospital was far smaller
than it is now, burials took place in the cloisters, or rather in the
large space in the middle of which the western wing was built. In a very
interesting old plan of the precincts, dated 1617, there is not only
shown the “Church-yarde for ye poore” in two pieces, about where the
west wing is now, but also a large ground which is named Christ Church
Churchyard, to the south of this, but north of the City wall. The
hospital later on used the Bethlem burial-ground, and the ground set
aside eventually as the hospital graveyard (for the interment of
unclaimed corpses), is in Seward Street, Goswell Road. This was first
used about 1740, and, after being closed for burials, it was let as a
carter’s yard and was full of sheds and vans. Through the kindness of
the Governors, it fell into the hands of the Metropolitan Public Gardens
Association, and it is now a children’s recreation ground maintained by
St. Luke’s Vestry. The burial-ground of St. Thomas’s Hospital is at the
corner of Mazepond; on part of it St. Olave’s Rectory and Messrs.
Bevington’s leather warehouse were built; the remainder is leased to
Guy’s Hospital, and contains the treasurer’s stables and an asphalted
tennis-court for the use of the students. Guy’s Hospital burial-ground
is in Snow’s Fields, Bermondsey, and is now a large builder’s yard, but
there is a reasonable hope of its being secured before long as a
recreation ground. The “unclaimed corpses” from the London Hospital
found their last resting-place very near home. In 1849 the whole of the
southern part of the enclosure, quite an acre and a half, was the
burial-ground, and here, although it was closed by order in Council in
1854, it appears that burials took place until about 1860, one of the
present porters remembering his father acting as gravedigger. The
medical school, the chaplain’s house, and the nurse’s home have all been
built upon it, and it is sincerely to be hoped that no further
encroachments will be permitted. The remaining part is the nurses’ and
students’ garden and tennis-court, where they are in the habit of
capering about in their short times off duty, and where it sometimes
happens that the grass gives way beneath them—an ordinary occurrence
when the subsoil is inhabited by coffins!


Bridewell also had its burial-ground, where the lazy and evil were
interred. It is at the corner of Dorset and Tudor Streets, near the
Thames Embankment, and is an untidy yard, boarded off from the street
with a high advertisement hoarding, and in the occupation of a builder.

The Bethlem burial-ground had a more interesting history. In 1569 Sir
Thomas Roe, or Rowe, Merchant Taylor and Mayor, gave about one acre of
land in the Moorfields “for Burial Ease to such parishes in London as
wanted convenient ground.” It was especially intended for the parish of
St. Botolph’s, Bishopsgate, and was probably used for the interment of
lunatics from the neighbouring asylum, besides being used by St.
Bartholomew’s Hospital. It was enclosed with a brick wall at the
persuasion of “the Lady his Wife,” and she was buried there; and it was
the custom upon Whit Sunday for the Lord Mayor and Aldermen to listen to
a sermon delivered in this “new churchyard, near Bethlem.” We read that
in 1584 “a very good Sermon was preached … and, by Reason no Plays
were the Same Day (_i.e._, Whit Sunday, as there used to be), all the
City was quiet.” But the Churchyard and the Asylum have disappeared,
Liverpool Street Station having taken their place, and hundreds of the
Great Eastern Railway goods vans daily roll over the mouldering remains
of the departed citizens.


Very different to the fate of these hospital burial-grounds is that of
another one I will mention. Facing Queen’s Road, Chelsea, is the long,
narrow graveyard of the Chelsea Hospital. It is neatly kept, with good
grass and trees. Here many a venerable pensioner has been laid to rest,
and, although it can no longer be used for burials, it still serves to
remind the living of their brethren who have gone before them. There are
some fine monuments and epitaphs to very long-lived invalids, two aged
112, one 111, one 107, and so on, and it is one of those quiet and
quaint corners of London which form so marked a contrast to the noisy
streets close by. One pensioner, who died in 1732, named William Hiseman
and aged 112, was “a veteran, if ever soldier was.” It is recorded that
he took unto himself a wife when he was above 100 years old. There is
something very peaceful about these old men’s graves; the grain gathered
in by the “Reaper whose name is Death” was fully ripe:—

“It is not quiet, is not ease,
But something deeper far than these;
The separation that is here
Is of the grave; and of austere
Yet happy feelings of the dead.”

On the south side of the Thames there are some other burial-grounds
which should be mentioned here. Greenwich Hospital possesses no less
than three cemeteries. In 1707 Prince George of Denmark gave a plot of
ground for the purpose, measuring 660 by 132 feet. This is on the west
side of the Royal Naval School. It is enclosed and full of tombstones.
But in 1747 an extra two and a half acres, surrounding the old ground,
were appropriated for interments. This space is well kept, containing
some fine trees and only a few monuments. The gate from the school
playground is generally open. Then there is the Hospital Cemetery in
West Combe, nearly six acres in size, and first used in 1857. The
burial-ground of God’s Gift College (Dulwich) is at the corner of Court
Lane. It dates from about 1700, and is a picturesque, well-kept little
ground, with several handsome altar tombs in it. The cemetery of Morden
College, Blackheath (founded for decayed merchants about 1695) also
exists. It is about a quarter of an acre in size, with about eighty
tombstones, but the graves have been levelled, and the ground, though
still walled round, forms part of the College gardens.


There were several almshouse graveyards in London, including the
“College yard” for St. Saviour’s Almshouses, Southwark, which is now a
builder’s store-yard in Park Street, and over which the London,
Brighton, and South Coast Railway passes on arches, and one behind the
Goldsmith’s Almshouses, now covered by the artisans’ dwellings on the
west side of Goldsmith Row, Shoreditch. The frightfully crowded
“almshouse ground” in Clement’s Lane formed part of the site of the new
Law Courts; while one in Crown Street, Soho, adjoining St. Martin’s
Almshouses, disappeared when the French Chapel was built, and has now
been lost in Charing Cross Road. In order to enter the almshouses in
White Horse Street, Stepney, it is necessary to pass through a
graveyard, and it cannot be a lively outlook for the pensioners, who
have gravestones just under their windows. It was connected with the
Independent Chapel, and first used in 1781.

Perhaps the most interesting of these burial-grounds is one which
belonged to the Bancroft Almshouses in Mile End Road. The fate of the
asylum itself is well known; it has been replaced by the People’s
Palace, and the improvement from an antiquarian or architectural point
of view is nil. The recent interest taken in the proposed destruction of
the Trinity Hospital in Mile End Road points to the fact that the
pendulum of public opinion is now swinging towards the preservation of
historical buildings. The graveyard of Bancroft’s Almshouses was a long
strip on the eastern side. Part of it has been merged into the roadway.
St. Benet’s Church (consecrated in 1872), Hall, and Vicarage were built
upon it, and the bones of the pensioners are under the Vicarage garden.
The northernmost point of the graveyard is enclosed and rooted over, and
forms a little yard where flag-staffs, &c., are stored. But between this
and the wall of the Vicarage there is a piece open to the road, with
some heaps of stones in it and rubbish. There are, at any rate, four
gravestones left, against the wall, and there may be others behind the
stones; but I daresay it is only a very small proportion of those who
pass in and out of the Palace who have ever noticed this relic of the
Bancroft Almshouses.

In a large number of the London parishes it was necessary to have “poor
grounds,” _i.e._, graveyards where bodies could be interred at a
trifling cost or entirely at the cost of the parish; for,
notwithstanding the great dislike of the poor to “a pauper’s funeral,”
and the efforts they will make to avoid it, there always have been cases
in which no other sort of funeral can be arranged. Some of the “poor
grounds” were attached to the workhouses, others were merely a part of
the parish churchyards, while others again were older additional
burial-grounds secured by the parishes before the days of workhouses.

The workhouse of St. Andrew’s, Holborn, was in Shoe Lane, and in the
adjoining graveyard the unfortunate young genius, Chatterton, was
buried. This ground gave way to the Farringdon Market, which, in its
turn, has been supplanted by a new street called Farringdon Avenue. The
workhouse ground of St. Sepulchre’s, Holborn, together with another
additional graveyard belonging to the parish, was in Durham Yard, and
the sites of both of them have disappeared in the goods depôt of the
Great Northern Railway. The burial-grounds by the workhouses of
Shoreditch, St. Paul’s, Covent Garden, and St. Giles (in Short’s
Gardens) have also disappeared; so also has the one allotted to the use
of St. James’ Workhouse in Poland Street, which was a part of the old
pest-field, although a remnant of the pest-field exists still as the
workhouse garden. The original Whitechapel Workhouse was built in 1768
on a burial-ground, and then a plot of land immediately to the north was
set aside for a poor ground, and consecrated in 1796. This in turn
became the playground of the Davenant Schools, one of which (facing St.
Mary’s Street) was built in it. A recent addition to the other school
has also encroached on the burial-ground. In 1832 196 cholera cases were
interred in an adjoining piece of ground, which was probably what is now
used as a stoneyard, and is full of carts. The workhouse graveyard,
belonging to St. Clement Danes, was in Portugal Street. The workhouse
itself was re-adapted and re-opened as King’s College Hospital, but the
burial-ground was used until its condition was so loathsome, and the
burning of coffins and mutilation of bodies was of such every-day
occurrence, that it must have been one of the very worst of such places
in London. It is now the garden or courtyard and approach, between the
hospital and Portugal Street. The burial-ground attached to the
Workhouse of St. Saviour’s, Southwark (which may have been the old
Baptist burial-ground in Bandy Leg Walk which existed in 1729) has a
curious history. The workhouse was supplanted by Winchester House, the
palace of the bishops when South London was in their diocese, the old
Winchester House, nearer the river, having been destroyed. This in time
became a hat manufactory, the burial-ground remaining as a garden
situated between the building and Southwark Bridge Road. Finally, the
site was secured by the Metropolitan Board of Works for the Central Fire
Brigade Station, and what is now left of the burial-ground is the garden
or courtyard between the new buildings which face the road and the old
house behind them. If the paupers and the bishops and the factory hands
did not succeed in frightening away the ghosts of the departed, they
must have a sorry time of it now when the call-bells from all parts of
London bring out the engines and the men who fight the flames.

Of the parochial “poor grounds” not adjoining workhouses a few are worth
noticing. St. Saviour’s, Southwark, in addition to the workhouse ground,
the College or Almshouse ground, and the churchyard itself, which was
from time to time added to, curtailed and used for markets, possessed
still another graveyard, the famous Cross Bones ground in Union Street,
referred to by Stow as having been made “far from the Parish Church,”
for the interment of the low women who frequented the neighbourhood. It
subsequently became the parish poor ground, and after having been in
use, and very much overcrowded, for upwards of 200 years, it was closed
by order in Council dated October 24, 1853. In a report upon the state
of this ground the previous year, it is stated that “it is crowded with
dead, and many fragments of undecayed bones, some even entire, are mixed
up with the earth of the mounds over the graves,” and it “can be
considered only as a convenient place for getting rid of the dead, but
it bears no marks of ever having been set apart as a place of Christian
sepulture.” The Cross Bones ground passed out of the hands of the rector
several years ago and was sold as a building site, but building
operations were opposed and stopped. Schools were erected in it before
it was closed for burials. It has been the subject of much litigation,
and it now stands vacant, waiting for some one to purchase it as a
playground, and used in the meantime as the site for fairs,
merry-go-rounds, and cheap shows.

The “poor ground” for the parish of St. George the Martyr, Southwark, is
a square plot of land, now a little public garden, in Tabard Street. It
was originally the burial-ground of the adjoining Lock Hospital before
that building was removed in 1809 to Knightsbridge, whence, later on, it
was again removed to Harrow Road. It is said by some that the little
cemetery was even older than the hospital, and may have been used for
interments during no less than eight centuries. The Cripplegate “Poor
ground,” or the “upper churchyard of St. Giles,” was in Bear and Ragged
Staff Yard (afterwards called Warwick Place) out of Whitecross Street,
and was first used in 1636. It was very much overcrowded, so much so
that it was more than once shut up for a few years as full, but always
re-opened again. A part of the site is now occupied by the northern half
of the church of St. Mary, Charterhouse, and by its mission-house, there
being only a tar-paved pathway round these buildings to represent the
rest of the ground. The church was built in 1864. There are human
remains within six inches of the surface of the ground, several having
been dug up and put in a vault which is under the mission-house, and the
entrance to which is closed with a very large flat stone, bearing the
date of 1865. The mission-house is giving way already, and it has large
cracks in it, for a vault of this kind is not a good foundation.

The parish of St. James’, Clerkenwell, had a very small “poor ground,”
in Ray Street, which was bought in 1755 for £340, and was consecrated
eight years later. It was 800 square yards in area, and was approached
through a private house occupied by a butcher, “who had his
slaughter-house and stable at the back, and immediately adjoining the
burial-ground.” In about the year 1824 it was found that several bodies
had been exhumed and placed in the stable; this caused a scandal in the
neighbourhood, and the man and his business were ruined. When Farringdon
Street and the Metropolitan Railway were made, the site of the ground in
Ray Street, together with Ray Street itself, entirely disappeared; and
the “sleepers of the railway are laid over the sleepers in death.” The
burial-ground had already been done away with, the Clerkenwell
Commissioners, according to Pinks, having taken it for public
improvements, when they collected the remains into one spot and erected
a plain mausoleum over them.

In early days it seems to have been the custom for patients entering the
large hospitals to pay a sum of money down for possible funeral
expenses, except in cases of sudden accident. Later on a security given
by a householder was considered sufficient, but now no such arrangement
is needed. The sum demanded at St. Bartholomew’s was 17s. 6d., and at
Guy’s £1 was paid. At Westminster Hospital and at the Lock (Hyde Park
Corner), from which some patients may have been buried in what is now
called Knightsbridge Green, no security was asked; but at the Bethlem
Hospital an entrance sum of £100 had to be paid for board, funeral
expenses, &c. In case of death at a London hospital at the present time,
the friends or relations of the deceased are expected to remove and bury
the body, and this has often led to a good deal of difficulty, one body
being claimed by various people, because the person who buries it can
often secure the insurance money. Bodies which are now unclaimed (and at
St. Bartholomew’s there are about eight in a year) are buried in a
cemetery at the cost of the hospital.