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The increase in Britain's population during the eighteenth century led to the graveyards around churches becoming overcrowded, bodies being buried above bodies, and some graves being a matter of only two feet below the surface. By the nineteenth century it was clear that churchyard burial was no longer tenable in many places, particularly in the rapidly expanding cities and towns, and that some alternative measures for dealing with the dead must be found. The answer was the cemetery.
Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris was opened in 1804 and influenced British cemetery design. Early examples such as the Rosary Cemetery, Norwich (1819) and Chorlton Row Cemetery, Manchester (1821) drew on its example. Private companies saw profit in the burial of the dead and examples of their work include Key Hill, Birmingham (1834) and York Cemetery (1836). The first cholera epidemic of 1831-2 also spurred cemetery building and J.P. Loudon's book, "On the Laying Out, Planting and Managing of Cemeteries: And on the Improvement of Churchyards"(1843) offered an architect's views on their better design and construction. The second cholera epidemic of 1848-9 prompted a series of public health Acts, one of which gave newly appointed boards of health powers concerning the burial of the dead. However, it was not until a series of Acts, the first of which was passed in 1852, and which were consolidated in 1857 (becoming known as the Burial Acts), that a nation-wide structure of public cemeteries was established. Many town and city cemeteries were laid out during this time and in the following decades.
Today's photograph shows part of an entrance gatehouse to the cemetery in Boston, Lincolnshire, a facility that dates from this period having been opened in 1855. Today it is almost three times the size of that first cemetery. The original plot is now a designated wildlife area though it retains its distinctive memorials, chapel and entrance avenue, as well as the gatehouse. The newer extensions have graves more closely spaced, and today a crematorium is sited there too.
I took my photograph of the rear of the gatehouse, as the late afternoon light was fading, after doing some shopping in Boston. The old building retains most of its original features including the ornate bargeboards, and it was these that I decided to make the focus of my image.
photograph and text © Tony Boughen
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 5.9mm (28mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f2.1
Shutter Speed: 1/125
Exposure Compensation: 0 EV
Image Stabilisation: On