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Thursday 1 September 2011

The Magnificent Seven

No, no, no, not this Magnificent Seven.......
However it was due to the title of this 1960's film, that Architectural Historian Hugh Meller, used the phrase in 1981 to describe seven of the large cemeteries in London.
It was between 1800 and 1850 the population of London doubled in size, from 1 million to more than 2 million inhabitants. This was due to London becoming the world's commercial capital after the victory of the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.

At this time, London's dead were buried in small parish churchyards, but as the population escalated, these soon became dangerously overcrowded. This in turn lead to decaying matter seeping into the water supply and caused epidemics to spread rapidly due to inadequate sanitary conditions.
There were stories of shallow graves being dug up and once the coffin wood was removed for use as firewood, the bodies were then simply flushed directly into the newly-built sewer system.     

From the 1820s onwards, private entrepreneurs attempted to solve the problem by creating suburban cemeteries, with ample landscaped acreage and independent from the parish church. As a result the 'Garden Cemetery' movement was formed.

In an era before the existence of large urban parks, these garden cemeteries became popular places for a carriage ride or a stroll.
In 1832 Parliament passed a bill which encouraged the establishment of private cemeteries outside London, and later passed another bill to close all inner London churchyards from accepting new interments.

Over the next decade the seven cemeteries were established:

The Magnificent Seven appealed to the newly emerging wealthier middle class, who were keen to distance themselves from the working classes. These cemeteries provided a place where these families could establish permanent monuments to themselves and were seen as an extension to the family's property, these grand and often elaborate tombs were a public display of their social status.

 Brompton Cemetery

Click on the bold type cemetery name above to visit their web page for more information. 

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