By the 1850s London was expanding rapidly. It was a global capital controlling and Empire on which famously the Sun never said. As a result last numbers of Victorian terraced houses in the suburbs were being built. You can still see them today as they form a ring of brick buildings 10 miles wide that surround the Georgian stone core of London. This meant that land in the city of London was at a premium and needed for commercial purposes to run the Empire. The residential population moved to the newly built suburbs. As a result the congregations of the London city churches declined rapidly – meaning there was a surplus of churches.
This gave rise to the Union of Benefices Act of 1860. It allowed parishes to be combined and churches to be demolished. In all, 23 churches were demolished between 1868 and 1907. The parishes were combined with other remaining churches and, in many cases, the graveyards were cleared of the human remains and the sites redeveloped for commercial buildings.
But what to do with these exhumed remains? The solution came in the building of cemeteries on the outskirts of London. One of these was the City of London Cemetery in Manor Park. An even more ambitious scheme was the building of Brookwood Cemetery even further away at 37 miles from London near Woking. This was the brainchild of the London Necropolis Company in 1854 which built a railway line specifically to carry dead bodies from Waterloo Station to the cemetery. There were even different classes of tickets that you could buy for your dead relatives on this railway. A First class ticket allowed you to pick the gravesite of your choice, while a Third class ticket meant a paupers funeral in a mass grave. You can still find the remaining ticket office for the old Necropolis Railway near Waterloo. It was only closed down in 1941. The Brookwood Cemetery contains the memorials for a dozen or so London city churches, as their graveyards were cleared and the bodies reinterred.
I recently visited Brookwood Cemetery to photograph the monuments to these City Church reburials. Sadly they were in a shockingly bad state, unlike the majestic monuments in the City of London Cemetery. Many of them had fallen over – with masonry blocks strewn around the ground. Often, the graves themselves had fallen in leaving a deep pit behind. Below is my guide to the reburial sites and the accompanying photographs. Since there are still Parish Clerks for all these lost churches and many are supported by wealthy City Livery companies, maybe funds could be raised to restore them?