notes by Brian Firth
Interments in this parish take place to a great extent, in the crowded
graveyards of Shoreditch Church (which is partly in this parish), of St.
Matthew, and of Gibraltar Chapel, and in the Jews' burying-ground. There
are no great number of interments in either of the cemeteries in the
Green District. In Shoreditch and in St. Matthew's the ground has been
very considerably raised by the numerous bodies which have been
interred. I regret to state, that at no very great distance of time it
was the practice to burn the coffins in one of the church-yards; it
would be needless to inquire what became of the corpses. It would be
greatly to the credit and advantage of the Christians, if they would
follow the practice of the Hebrews, who never, upon any account,
reopen a grave, or inter more than one in it. They bury at a depth of
four feet below the surface, and when the ground has been fully
occupied, they cover the whole surface with a fresh layer of earth, to a
height of four feet, in which they again bury as before. This process
has been twice followed in the Jews' burying- ground, so that three
persons are interred in every 21 feet (3 feet by 7 feet), at a depth of
4, 8, and 12 feet below the surface. This practice is to be preferred to
sinking a deep grave, as is the custom in some grave-yards, burying in
it, filling it up a few feet, and leaving the grave open for the next
occupant, when the same process is carried on, till the last coffin
reaches a few feet sometimes a few inches from the surface.
GREEN .- There are two burial grounds in this parish, called the old and
new ground; the old ground, like that of Whitechapel, is
very full; from eight to ten funerals have taken place daily, and three
or four grave diggers are constantly employed. The depth of the graves
is, on an average, little more than four feet, - at a greater depth the
water flows in. The new ground is situated in the Bethnal Green
Road, adjoining to the new church.
St. Peter's Churchyard, Hackney Road.-
Church founded 1841. Burials recorded 1843 - 1855
Black flint church with narrow flanking strips and space at E backing onto vicarage. Conventionally Victorian gloom.
¼ acre. This churchyard is maintained as a public garden by the vicar, who opens it during the summer months. There are not many tombstones. (Holmes)
St. Bartholomew's Churchyard, near Cambridge Road.
Church founded 1844. Ground closed 1855. Shown as recreation ground on O.S. of 1984. Church now converted into flats.
Obelisk remains and a couple of broken stones in park and play area enclosed by 19thc railings. Useful break in very built-up area.
Nearly an acre. This was laid out by the Metropolitan Public Gardens Association in 1885, and is maintained by the London County Council. It is immensely appreciated. (Holmes)
St. James the Less Churchyard, Old Ford Road.
Church opened 1842, ground closed 1855.
Burial a big business here after closure of metropolitan burial grounds. As well as
Over an acre. Closed and considerably below the church. A dreary, swampy waste, containing about 10 sad-looking tombstones and a colony of cocks and hens. (Holmes)
Victoria Park Cemetery.- 11 acres.
Opened by a private company in 1845, and never consecrated. By 1856 burials were at the rate of 130 every Sunday. Closed in 1876, after which 'the neglected ground was used by ruffians for gambling'.( A History of the County of Middlesex.) Holmes describes a funeral in 1884; can this date be correct?
Did good business in 1850s. e.g,
This is maintained as a public garden by the London County Council, having been laid out in 1894 by the Metropolitan Public Gardens Association. Before being laid out it was a most dreary, neglected-looking place; the soil is a heavy clay, and there used to be large wet lumps lying about all over the ground.. At a burial in 1884 the clerk brought a handful of earth out of his pocket to throw upon the coffin. Now it is a bright, useful, little park, and is called Meath Gardens. (Holmes)
Peel Grove Burial-ground
4 acres. Opened 1840, closd 1855; never consecrated. in 15 years 20,000 corpses were buried six deep. Used extensively for Cholera victims. Shown on 1894 O.S. as open space; Horwood shows a large empty field. Now an asphalted playground.
Also called North-East London Cemetery, Cambridge Heath or Road Burial-ground and Kildy's Ground. According to a return in 1855 it was 4 acres in extent, but now there is hardly one acre. It is in the occupation of J. Glover and Sons, dealers in building materials, and is full of wood, pipes, &c. There are some sheds in it. It was a private ground, formed 100 years ago, and was very much crowded. The late Metropolitan Board of Works saved the existing part from being built over. Before its present use it was often let out for shows, fairs, &c. (Holmes)
(by kind permission of Mr Ken Russell. See links for details of Ken's website)
Gibraltar Walk Burial-ground, Bethnal Green Road.
In use from 1792 until 1855. as the ground of a Congregational chapel. Record of exhumation here post-war.
Site of the ground is largely within the courtyard of Meridian Centre.
Another private ground, formed about 100 years ago. It belongs to a lady who lives in the house which opens into it, and who has let pieces of it as yards for the shops and houses round. It is full of shrubs, trees, and weeds, and covered with rubbish, and is about ¾ acre in size. (Holmes)
'Strangers' portion in the centre
The Rothschild tombs
Pictures courtesy of Robert Bard
Roman Catholic Ground, Bethnal Green.
In use early 19th century. I have been unable to trace this rather ephemeral ground on any map. May also be the site of one of the Stepney plague pits.
Another burial ground belonging to this chapel, (St Mary's RC Chapel, Finsbury Circus) in Dog Row, Whitechapel Road, is also excessively full, and requires to be dug with the greatest care. (Walker 1839)
Providence Chapel Burial-ground.
This has now disappeared under low-rise flats facing onto
Shoreditch Tabernacle, Hackney Road, was built on the site of the chapel. Part of the graveyard exists as a tar-paved yard or passage by the Tabernacle, with 4 tombstones against the walls. (Holmes)
Lost to Cambridge Road.