Gian Luca Amadei 2012

University of Kent, UK

The cemetery as machine

The advent of the Industrial Revolution in the second part of the eighteenth-century England was fuelled by the invention of mechanical devices such as the hydraulic pump.  The adoption of this machine had a fundamental impact in trade, commerce as well as transport. Its influence eventually reached out to unusual applications such as that of the catafalque – a mechanical device based on the principle of the hydraulic pump – which became a fashionable feature in nineteenth-century Victorian necropolises. The introduction of such a mechanical innovation into the Victorian Necropolis throws open a series of questions on the matter of burial rituals and the perception of death in the nineteenth century. Taking as case studies Kensal Green Cemetery, Highgate Cemetery and Brookwood Cemetery, this paper will attempt to shed light on how and why these mechanical devices arrived to be used in these cemeteries in the first place. What were their purposes and use in those cemeteries? How these mechanical devices evolved? How these unemotional machines used for burial found their place in what were otherwise perceived as romantic spaces? And lastly did this process of mechanisation of the cemetery change the perception of death in nineteenth-century Britain?


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