Wednesday, 14 January 2015

The cost of a gravedigger in Bromley Kent 1818

As I transcribe the Dunn funeral accounts book for 1818 I came across a useful table of charges for Mr Harris to dig graves.
Harris arrange for digging graves
4 feet                               one shilling and sixpence
5 feet                               two shillings
6 feet                               two shillings and sixpence
7 feet                               three shillings and sixpence
8 feet                               four shillings and sixpence
and filling in sixpence
9 feet                               six shillings
10 feet                             eight shillings and sixpence
12 feet                             fifteen shillings
additonal depths are noted at 13 feet 6inches and fifteen feet which are not priced and from funeral accounts are negotiable according to the supply of timber shoring by Edward Dunn who itemises this where relevant. There are also references in the accounts to occasions where grave digging involves disturbance and returfing an adjacent burial.
Harris was also quoted as
Opening vaults                 four shillings and sixpence
filling in vaults                 sixpence
digging a single vault        two shillings and tenpence
digging a double vault       3 shillings
and an addional entry
charge Carpenter 9 feet grave and turfing for 12 shillings.
Dunn records a number of vault burials inside the church with details of charges. Dunn used timber framing  for differing size arches to have a bricklayer form a brick vault. There could be no standard size arch as a lead coffin with an outside coffin could vary in size and each vault would therefore differ. In several accounts the person filling the grave was expected to be dressed in funeral attire during the service and is supplied with an appropriate colour co-ordinated hat band gloves cloak and favour.
In this folio there is also an undated page recording the duties of the sexton at Bromley responsible for cleaning  after opening and filling a vault in the church.
The earth at Bromley after turf and topsoil removal is heavy clay and involves heavy manual labour to dig to depth; depending on the height of the water table standing water may also be a problem. It appears that the floor of the parish church was partly flag stone but some references suggest that part may have been bare earth.
The choice of a lead coffin for the more affluent would suggest that some attempt to protect against water entry into the coffin.The lead coffin would be formed by plumbers laying lead over a wooden shell to which the lead would be nailed. I remain to be convinced that a lead coffin soldered after wards would in fact be water tight but in both Georgian and Regency tastes lead coffins were sought as the emerging transcript will record.