In the 1800's the lack of burial space in
Britain's Churchyards was reaching crisis point. Grave digger's would dig up partially decomposed corpses to make room for
The rich of the times would strive to be buried either in the church itself or in brick lined
graves in the churchyard which would offer some security against being disturbed.
Evidence of this dire situation
can still be seen today in the way that many churches appear to be sitting in a ground depression, but in reality it's the
level of the surrounding graveyard that has risen due to the vast number of burials.
Thankfully in 1832 Parliament
passed a bill encouraging the establishment of seven private cemeteries in a ring around outer London. The 'new' cemeteries
were built to accommodate the growth of London and alleviate the scandal of overcrowded graveyards in the city.
Magnificent Seven (Kensal Green, Highgate, West Norwood, Abney Park, Nunhead, Tower Hamlets and Brompton) appealed to the
newly emerging middle class, keen to distance itself from the working class and to present to the public it's social status.
Graves were seen as a public extension to the family's property, and cemeteries
provided a place for families to establish permanent monuments to themselves.
Today all of London's magnificent
seven survive despite the grave robbers, vandals, world war two bombs and years of neglect. Many of them have "Friend" organizations
who are dedicated to the preservation and restoration of the Chapels, Catacombs, Mausoleums and Monuments and even offer guided
tours around the graves of the rich and famous as well as a wander around the deep dark depths of the catacombs.
Other points of interest: