Sunday, 8 March 2015

Edward Dunn Funeral Accounts 1840-1857

There is a gap in the funeral account books at Bromley Archives deposited by the Dunn Family when the business ceased trading in the 1970's.
The missing account books were lost in one of a series of fires at the Market Square premises of the firm.
Edward Dunn took over the funeral trade in Bromley from his father Edward who died in 1830. The funeral accounts to 1839 reflect the burials of paupers from the parish Poorhouse as well as the notable persons of the District. The missing accounts sadly miss the opening of the Bromley Union Workhouse and the searcher must examine the Bromley parish burial register to identify burials from the Union Workhouse.
By 1858 when Edward's accounts resume the funeral trade in Bromley has altered. The coming of the railway in 1858 enables Edward to convey coffins with an Attendant to various places of burial including the major Cemeteries which had grown around London and are often referred to as the "Magnificent Seven". West Norwood Cemetery Wikipedia and the origin of the nickname for the seven cemeteries are explained in Magnificent seven cemetery Wikipedia.
The South Metropolitan Cemetery at Norwood features regularly in burials after 1858 but burials at Nunhead in South London as well as Brompton and Highgate are represented from Bromley. Edward is also able to bury at Kemptown near Brighton and collect bodies from Hucclecote in Gloucestershire using railways. Burials at Tower Hamlets Cemetery are also carried out with bearers and fittings travelling by rail. One train from Croydon to Brighton carries not only the coffin (protected in several yards of calico) but also a coach to convey mourners from Brighton station.
Norwood had been created following the South Metropolitan Cemetery Act of 1836 and held it's first burials in 1837. The Act permitted a payment to Parish Vestries of a parochial benefice of 7s 6d per full price adult burial but only 1s 6d for a pauper. Norwood therefore attracted burials of the wealthy whereas the poor could be buried more cheaply at Tower Hamlets which charged only 9 shillings for adult pauper communal burial compared to £1 at Nunhead and 17s-6d at Norwood.
Edward appears to be the only local funeral trader. He regularly employs large groups of men and in accordance with tradition has an appropriately fitted Attendant stay with the corpse overnight on the eve of burial. It is believed that these women were local midwives who would wash the corpse and dress prior to the corpse being placed in either the shell or coffin(s). In many accounts the Attendant accompanies Edward to the "taking in" of coffins.
The traditional horse drawn funeral hearse (now owned by Dunn),the upholstery and furniture removal vans to collect and convey coffins with suitable fittings and Dunn's own horses for funeral work are a feature which develops post 1830. Dunn employs some local coachmen regularly although not exclusively and local turnpikes particularly on London Road are used to collect coffins for local interment in Bromley and nearby parishes. The missing account years concide with an interesting development of local funerals as in the Victorian era we see the need for large cemeteries and the beginning of rail conveyance of not only coffins but bearers and fittings.