graves were of course in the out-laying parts of the Cemetery
and remain unmarked in the areas of the graveyard that are now
collapsing and remain overgrown to discourage the public from
venturing too far into the area.
Graves were dug and left open until they were filled, with sometimes
up to 30 bodies. It did not take long for these graves to become
full, disease was widespread among the working classes and they
reposed in death as they did in life, in close proximity to
their fellow men. It's recorded that in Leeds such graves, containing
up to 35 bodies, were no more than twelve feet deep.
had rapidly industrialized and its population had consequently
grown at an alarming rate. In 1801 Bradford had a population
of 13,624. By 1821 it stood at 26,309, almost doubling in twenty
years. This quickly rose to 42,000 by 1828 continuing onto reach
43,527 in 1831. By 1841 the population stood at 66,715 and continued
to rise to stand at 103,778 in 1851.
massive use of parish graveyards meant that the older ones became
full, yet everyone still had the right, according to the rules
of the Church Of England, to be buried in the churchyard of
the parish in which they died. Even suicides were allowed to
be buried in the churchyards, but between the hours of 9 p.m.
and midnight, and without the rites of the Church.
William Mawson was as well-housed in death as in life
An Act of 1823 had put an end to the practice of burying suicides
in some public highway with a stake driven through them. What
had once been a small village graveyard was now expected to
accommodate the dead from the new towns.
the problem of overcrowded graveyards wasn't something that
started in Victorian times. Saint Cuthbert had first added churchyards
to churches in 752 when it was decided to provide consecrated
ground in which to bury the dead. In 1267 all churchyards were
enclosed thereby limiting their size.
In medieval times graveyards had many heavy demands placed upon
them. Death visited the land on a regular basis. Charnel houses
were constructed to accommodate the bones of the dead that were
removed from the ground to make way for new burials.
churches themselves became burial grounds with their floors
filled with corpses and crypts being constructed under them.
By the Stuart period many graveyards were already full or overcrowded.
Some were described as "filled up with earth or rather
the congestion of dead bodies.. to the very tops of their walls."
This is why old graveyards in many places are now above street
level and why some churches appear to have been built in a hollow
compared to the surrounding churchyard.
Independent Chapel in Kipping Lane, Thornton had burials under
the east end in a vault twelve feet wide. Originally the vault
entrance had been above ground level but by 1854 it was some
two-and-a-half feet below the ground outside. As early as 1721
the Reverend Thomas Lewis spoke of "the indecent and dangerous
custom of burying in churches and churchyards."