Julie Rugg 2011

Univesity of York, UK

Burial board cemeteries: a modern invention?

In the England, burial boards were set up following the passage of the Burial Acts from 1852. This legislation was subject to modification: a new Burial Act was passed in practically every year of the 1850s, and further Burial Acts followed until the final Act was passed in 1906. The acts were accompanied by a set of ministry ‘directives’ on cemetery management. These directives presented best practice guidance based on scientific evidence, and were produced by the General Board of Health. Detailing – in 54 sections – how best to effect the most sanitary and sustainable burial system, ‘Instructions to Burial Boards’ certainly support Ragon’s contention that cemeteries constituted ‘the high place of the embodiment of administrative rationality.’ However, more detailed exploration of operational practice indicates that change was driven less by central directive and more by shifting commemorative preference. It remains to be asked, therefore, just how ‘traditional’ was the burial board cemetery?


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