Union of Benefices Act

By the 1850s London was expanding rapidly. It was a global capital controlling an Empire on which famously the Sun never set. As a result vast 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, so 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. In 1853, 200 acres of the Manor of Aldersbrook which was owned by the 2nd Duke of Wellington were purchased by the city of London commissioners and a new cemetery was built 7 miles from the City of London. It has been in continuous use ever since.

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. 

If you visit today, you can see the memorials for these Lost London City Church reburials at these cemeteries.  Here is my guide to City of London Cemetery reburials. And here is the guide to the Brookwood Cemetery Reburials

London Necropolis Terminus near Waterloo Station 
London Necropolis Terminus near Waterloo Station