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Death and the Disposal of the Dead in the Industrial Town, 1820-1870: A study of burial practices & provisions in the North West of England

Hulme, Michala (2020) Death and the Disposal of the Dead in the Industrial Town, 1820-1870: A study of burial practices & provisions in the North West of England. Doctoral thesis (PhD), Manchester Metropolitan University.

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Abstract

Between 1801 and 1871 the population of England grew at an unprecedented rate. This increase in population led to a major problem for towns across the country, which was how to dispose of their dead. This was a particular issue in industrial towns in the North West of England such as Liverpool and Manchester, which had some of the worst mortality rates outside London. Using Manchester as a case study and then expanding to other towns in the North West, such as Chester, Liverpool, Wigan and Preston, the first part of this thesis looks at who controlled the burial of the dead from 1820 to 1870. In order to achieve this, the thesis will analyse and compare the history of burial provisions in the North West. This was a time when new forms of burial provisions, such as cemeteries, joined traditional places of burial such as churchyards as sites for burying the urban dead. The comparative analysis examines the complex reasons why burial sites developed and declined in this period. Its findings complement and contest current work in the field of burial practices, especially by highlighting the diverse nature of local burial provisions. The second part of the thesis focuses more specifically, on what happened post 1850, when local government took a more active role in providing cemeteries to bury the dead in the form of the municipal cemetery. It uses neglected municipal cemetery sources such as grave receipts, to add new understanding of those buried in such cemeteries, especially those buried public graves, including children. The thesis challenges much current research into Victorian burials, arguing that the public (or mass) grave was the most popular grave in these northern cemeteries. It gives novel insights into the role of women in the burial process, illustrates the diverse nature of urban burial provisions in North West England and raises questions which could usefully be applied to other regions. Most significantly, it demonstrates how historians have misunderstood important aspects of working-class attitudes towards death and burials, especially in relation to pauper burials.

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