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The London Necropolis (Brookwood Cemetery) Woking, Surrey

By the 1840s, many of London's old parish graveyards had beome full to bursting point and an increasing health hazard, particularly to those living nearby. In 1850, a campaign led by public health reformers such as Dr Joseph Rogers resulted in legislation for the forcible closure of these graveyards. In 1856, Rogers became the medical officer at the Strand union workhouse on Cleveland Street where the parish of St Paul, Covent Garden, had a burial ground — recently closed — dating back to the 1770s. When excavations were made to build a new laundry on the site, he discovered that the builders had to dig through twenty feet of bones in order to reach solid ground for the foundations.

To provide a new resting place for London's dead, a number of privately operated out-of-town cemeteries were set up. One of the first and most ambitious of these schemes was the London Necropolis opened in 1854 at Brookwood, near Woking in Surrey, some twenty-five miles from the capital. Brookwood's 2,000-acre site was, at the time, the largest burial ground in the world with enough space, it was said, to bury all London's dead for the next 500 years.

An illustration of Brookwood Cemetery, 1856.

Brookwood ran its own funeral train service from a terminal at Waterloo, with a private branch-line to the cemetery's own two small stations.

A funeral train en route to Brookwood, 1902.
© Peter Higginbotham.


 

The remains of the entrance to the Necropolis railway terminus at Waterloo.
(Copyright details)

Many London workhouses, hospitals and prisons had contracts with Brookwood to bury inmates whose bodies had not been claimed after death. A list of these is given below:

Workhouses
Holborn Union Workhouse1858 onwards
Lambeth Workhouse1858 onwards
Newington Workhouse, Walworth1856 onwards
St George's Hanover Square Workhouse1857 onwards
St George's Southwark Workhouse1856-1920
St Giles in the Fields Workhouse1857 onwards
St Luke's Workhouse, Chelsea1858 onwards
St Margaret & St John, Westminster - Kensington Workhouse1856 onwards
St Martin's in the Fields Workhouse1855-1868
St Marylebone Workhouse1858 onwards
St Pancras Workhouse1858 onwards
Strand Union Workhouse, Cleveland Street1856 onwards
Wandsworth Union Workhouse1858 onwards
West London Union Workhouse1857-1864
Hospitals
Brompton Consumption Hospital1855 onwards
Charing Cross Hospital1855 onwards
Islington Fever Hospital, Liverpool Road1857 onwards
Guy's Hospital1855 onwards
King's College Hospital1855-1910
London Hospital1859 onwards
Middlesex Hospital1857 onwards
Royal Free Hospital, Gray's Inn Road1858 onwards
Royal Hospital Chelsea1894 - present
Royal Infirmary for Women & Children, Waterloo Road1856 onwards
St Bartholomew's Hospital1856 onwards
St George's Hospital1855 onwards
St Mary's Hospital, Paddington1856 onwards
St Thomas's Hospital1858 onwards
Surrey County Lunatic Asylum - Brookwood Hospital1867-1990
University College Hospital1856 onwards
Westminster Hospital1855 onwards
Westminster Infirmary, York Street1855 onwards
Prisons
Woking Prison - Males1859-1889
Woking Prison - Females1869-1895
Tothill Fields Prison1855-1877

Records

Note: many repositories impose a closure period of up to 100 years for records identifying individuals.

  • The cemetery company will undertake searches - more details

Bibliography

  • Clarke, John M. (2004) London's Necropolis: A Guide to Brookwood Cemetery

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