This list includes abstracts from the Colloquium since 2005. Papers from the Virtual Colloquium held in November 2023 are marked [v].

Andy Clayden, Jenny Hockey and Trish Green 2009

University of Sheffield, UK

Going back to nature: routes to disposal in the natural burial ground

The paper explores the reasons why people are choosing natural burial, either for themselves or a deceased relative/friend.  It presents data from a 3 year ESRC-funded programme of empirical work in UK natural burial grounds which is exploring the extent to which natural burial represents: creative resistance to modernist disposal strategies, as epitomised in the cemetery; an aspect of the re-enchantment of death and a resurgence of Victorian romanticism; a form of ecological immortality expressed in a  more collective response to death; […]

Brian Parsons 2009

University of Bath, UK

Burying Enza: The Spanish ‘Flu 1918-1819 and the disposal of the dead in London

The Spanish ‘Flu Pandemic of 1918-1919 killed tens of million worldwide. In England it is estimated that around 228,000 died during the three ‘waves’ – June/July, October/November 1918 and in February the following year. While much research has been carried out into the onset and spread of the Pandemic, issues concerning disposal of the dead have received little attention. Drawing on range of archive materials, including newspaper reports, council minutes, Medical Officer of Health reports, cemetery registers and funeral directors’ records, […]

David Rogers 2009

Staffordshire University, UK

A short history of exhumation from lawful burial, in the context of criminal investigations, in England, with specific reference to some of the more unusual cases since 1809

This paper will examine the aetiology of ‘exhumation from lawful burial’ (ELB) in the context of criminal investigations, with specific reference to the secular and ecclesiastical law. It will also examine how ELB has become a valuable part of the crime investigators armoury of investigative strategies concerning death enquiries. Historically, the use of ELB by Coroners appears to have been common-place as the deceased were buried speedily after death. There was a requirement for the coroner and jury to view the body before he (the coroner) deliberated upon the cause(s) of death. […]

Fiona Stirling 2009

University of Sheffield, UK

Grave re-use: a feasibility study

Grave re-use was common in the UK for hundreds of years, but legislation introduced in the mid-nineteenth century made the practice illegal.  As a result, cemeteries must continually expand in order to accommodate further interments.  Many cemeteries incorporate vast areas of old burial that generate no income, are no longer visited and are poorly maintained.  The recent proposal by Government to reintroduce grave re-use seems straightforward in theory, but UK cemeteries were not designed to be re-used.  […]

Helen Frisby 2009

University of Leeds

Dead and buried? Disposal and commemoration in England before and after the Great War

Some historians have argued that the Great War of 1914-1918 precipitated a decentring of the corpse from popular commemorative ritual. One piece of evidence routinely cited for this argument is increases in the cremation rate following the Great War. However, I would suggest that the Great War did not influence popular disposal and commemoration practices to the extent that some have argued, and that even today the body remains firmly at the centre of popular commemorative strategies. […]

Natasha Mihailovic 2009

University of Exeter, UK

Urban Burial Places in England c.1700-1840

Focusing on Bristol and York, this paper will present a general outline of the treatment of urban burial grounds during the long eighteenth century. It will consider their upkeep and their use for purposes other than burial, before considering the responses of parish authorities to their increasing overcrowding, which took the form of extensions or the establishment of separate additional burial grounds. As part of this, it will look at the ways in which burial grounds were continually reshaped in accordance with the needs of the living, […]

Peter Jupp 2009

University of Durham, UK

Burying grounds in mid-nineteenth century Glasgow: the cause of reform

Throughout the nineteenth century, the city of Glasgow exhibited many of the difficulties in a rapidly urbanising and industrialising environment. Its high mortality rate and its poor levels of public health increased pressures on burying ground provision, further exacerbated by local patterns of wealth distribution and of migration, the structure of local government, and the characteristics of funeral arrangements in Presbyterian Scotland. These were the major factors behind the conditions in Glaswegian burying grounds which social reformer found unacceptable. […]

Ronnie Scott 2009

Independent researcher

Exhuming St Mungo’s, Glasgow’s forgotten pioneer cemetery

The pioneering St Mungo’s Burying Ground, which was established by Glasgow Town Council in 1832, introduced a number of modern and rational improvements over the crowded churchyards of the city. The three drivers of the cemetery were a rapidly rising population, a cholera epidemic and a changing set of beliefs around burial and commemoration. The cemetery was remarkable in a number of ways: it was lit by gas, drained by sewers, planted with shrubs and had wide carriage roads round and through it. […]


The Cemetery Research Group runs two events a year: in May and in November. Follow the links and send in an abstract