1847: Cemetery Clauses Act

From 1819, the communities throughout England, Scotland and Wales were taking measures to expand their existing burial spaces by creating cemeteries funded via joint stock finance. The sale of shares to finance infrastructure building had been well established by this time: canals and railways had proved to be profitable ventures. Familiarity with share purchase had become widespread, and local newspapers commonly carried columns of share values in local ventures.

Selling shares to finance cemeteries was therefore not a particularly remarkable development during the first half of the nineteenth century. More than 100 cemetery companies were established, and almost all had a specific act of parliament. By the mid-1840s many town councils were using joint stock finance as a sanitary measure, to improve local burial conditions. The Cemetery Clauses Act (10 & 11 Vict. c. 65) was passed to reduce the cost, since it contained a set of model clauses that could be inserted into any proposed new cemetery act.

Additional reading

J. Rugg (1997) ‘The origins and progress of cemetery establishment in Britain’ in P. C. Jupp and G. Howarth (eds) The Changing Face of Death, Basingstoke: Macmillan, 105-119.

Government pages list Acts of parliament: Search for ‘cemetery’ here.

This search will not include all joint-stock cemeteries since some were not established with an Act of parliament. A list of companies established prior to 1853 is in Appendix One of J. Rugg (1992) ‘The rise of cemetery companies in Britain, 1820-53’, unpublished PhD thesis, University of Stirling.

All the legislation relating to 19th century burial is collated on John Clarke’s hugely informative website

British History

Search the bibliography for further material on 19th and 20th century cemetery and crematorium history.