A sort of history question

(11 Posts)
wellthatsunusual Wed 23-Dec-20 23:31:00

This is graveyard related, so if you find this upsetting, please be warned.

I have wandered through many a cemetery in my time, and mostly the graves are from the 1800s onwards. In churchyards you might get something dating back another couple of centuries. In cathedrals and the like you mind see the graves of 'important people' from much earlier, but only the important people.

Where is everyone else? Presumably in unmarked graves, but where? Is the concept of one cemetery where everyone from the town is buried, and their grave marked out, a modern concept? Are people buried all over the place?

OP’s posts: |
DesiderataH Wed 23-Dec-20 23:39:32

I found this little article online which gives a brief overview of the graveyards.


I know going back centuries, the poor were mainly buried in mass unmarked graves, only the wealthy could afford 'proper' funerals

wellthatsunusual Thu 24-Dec-20 09:25:38

Thank you, that's an interesting article. I'm Irish and funerals are very important to people here, rich or poor. It has got me wondering at what stage in history that became the case.

OP’s posts: |
thebabessavedme Thu 24-Dec-20 09:43:29

I would think that most people had a simple wooden cross, stone markers would have been for the wealthy, I think funerals were important for the poor but would have been very simple affairs because of cost.

Notlostjustexploring Thu 24-Dec-20 10:08:56

This is really interesting!! I've never thought about it, but yes, the cemeteries in familiar with starts 18th century.

I suppose pre industrial revolution people were more spread out? Were people just buried where they lived? So combined with the aforementioned wooden cross there would be no evidence after a fairly short period?

I'm going to say that cemeteries as we know it are linked to the industrial revolution and cities expanding? But really I don't know, and it's an interesting question.

Madcats Thu 24-Dec-20 10:17:15

I've been to graveyards where there are older graves around the perimeter wall. I've also been to "closed" graveyards.

I did a quick Google:


AuntyPasta Thu 24-Dec-20 10:18:18

A brief history of burial in London



AuntyPasta Thu 24-Dec-20 10:22:37

The move from temporary burials (to produce clean bones) to permanent burials, the resulting overcrowding and the Burial Acts in the 1850s are particularly relevant.

Copperas Thu 24-Dec-20 10:23:39

Rich people were buried inside the church, poor people in the churchyard in single graves unless there was a sudden huge mortality - plague or battle. As room in the church ran out, richer people had grand Tombs outside

PastMyBestBeforeDate Thu 24-Dec-20 10:26:27

Some of my relatives (that I knew so relatively recently) were buried without a headstone or other marker because they said it was vanity apparently.

DGRossetti Thu 24-Dec-20 12:06:12

Funerary rites are fascinating, historically, and can be vital to archaeologists .... from Iron Age crouch burials and the entire gamut of Roman practices (they span centuries and had cremations and burials), excarnation, incarnation ... Anglo-Saxon burial rites ...

My memory was the booming population during the industrial revolution led to the creation (and acceptance) of cemeteries (like the Victorian Valhalla, Highgate - well worth a visit) and cremation.

Personally I think it's a shame that people can't practice whatever rite they feel appropriate - excarnation being frowned upon. Also funeral pyres are difficult (although surprisingly in the UK, not impossible) to arrange. Rather places an arbitrary limit on cultural acceptance ...

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