Wednesday, 2 November 2016

ferryman or necropolis junction

Via the always intriguing Nag on the Lake, we learn about a morbidly strange but practical rail line in operation from November 1854 until bombed during the London Blitz in World War II that was in the exclusive service of transporting the departed and their mourners to a sprawling necropolis, a convenient journey from central London but also not close enough that the graves might pose a public health hazard.
Conceived as a way to alleviate severe overcrowding in ancient urban cemeteries, the living population having doubled from the beginning to the mid seventeenth century and an outbreak of cholera completely overwhelmed the struggling funeral system, the trains going to Necropolis Junction were segregated by animate/inanimate, class and confession and travel along a picturesque route daily. After the war, the railway was not rebuilt, the scheme proving less palatable (not in keeping with due solemnity) and profitable than the backers had hoped, and the motorised hearse had already fulfilled that need.