The Conversation  features an article about how the Victorians ritualised death. Black mourning clothes were worn for set periods of time after bereavement, the length of time depending on the relationship. After this, grey or purple would then be worn. Jewellery was made of the ha

The Terrible Stranger in the ChurchyardThe Victorian attitude to death was epitomised by the public mourning of Prince Albert in 1861. Queen Victoria’s consolation, beside the Bible, was the reading of Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s In Memoriam (1849), a long poem which explores the undulating patterns of grief. Victoria’s response to the poem exemplifies the Victorian approach to death, in which the dead are mourned and memorialised rather than seen as lost forever. This Christian approach is also reflected in the graveyards of the period.

From 1832 or 1841, cemeteries were constructed around London to cope with the growing problem of the burial of the dead. Cremation was rare and seen as unacceptable, and existing graveyards were overflowing, with coffins often stacked up.

Perhaps the most famous of these London cemeteries is Highgate, opened in 1839. It became the resting place for many famous figures, including the author George Eliot, the poet Christina Rossetti, and members of Dickens’ family.

Another cemetery, at Brookwood in Surrey, was opened in 1854 after the cholera epidemic of 1848-9 overwhelmed the system. It was served by the London Necropolis Railway, which ran trains from Waterloo carrying mourners and coffins. The Necropolis Railway emphasised the class-bound nature of death and mourning, with carriages and waiting rooms (which doubled as funeral parlours) divided into first, second and third class.


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