On the 25th October 1866, the family of four-year-old Jonathan Hope walked the two miles from Ancoats to bury their youngest son. He was the first person to be interred in a public grave at Manchester’s Philips Park Cemetery. By the end of the century the percentage of people interred in a public grave at Philips Park stood at just over 87% of all recorded burials. Despite the high numbers of public grave burials in municipal cemeteries throughout Britain, we surprisingly know little about the people actually interred in them.
Using the grave receipts of 1,500 public grave burials that took place between 1866 and 1870, this paper will take an in depth look at those that were buried in a public grave. The aim of this work is to add a new understanding of working-class attitudes towards death and burials – paying particular attention to the role of burial clubs in working-class communities and the public grave’s affliation to pauperism.