Nicholas Wheatley 2020

Cemeteries and their railway connections: what happened to John Claudius Loudon’s vision of railways transporting the dead to English cemeteries?

John Claudius Loudon, the noted cemetery designer, first mentioned the use of ‘railroads’ to transport the dead to cemeteries in 1830, at a time when public railways were only just beginning. Loudon repeats the proposal in his 1843 book On the Laying Out, Planting and Managing of Cemeteries. This paper examines the nature of Loudon’s proposal and considers it in the context of the development of out-of-town cemeteries and the virtually simultaneous development of the railway network from 1830 onwards. Evidence from official sources in 1848 and 1850 about the use of trains to transport the dead to cemeteries will be examined. The development of the railway service to Brookwood Cemetery by the London Necropolis Company from 1854 will be explained, with illustrations, as will the lesser known railway service from Kings Cross to the Great Northern London Cemetery (at Southgate). Other cemeteries that were the subject of proposed railway connections will be mentioned, including what would have been a major cemetery on the outskirts of Birmingham served by a railway. The question will be considered of why Loudon’s vision of cemeteries connected to the railway network did not become a reality in the UK, other than the services to Brookwood and Southgate. However, reference will also be made, with illustrations, to two cemeteries in Australia that were served by railway branches, thus providing an overseas realisation of Loudon’s vision.


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