Monday, 24 August 2015

"For the interment of a limb" Bromley Kent Funeral Accounts

Any commentary on the subject of burial of limbs must consider the religious beliefs held by the person at the time and the unity of Judaeo Christian belief in interring humans as natural treatment of the physical elements of a person; belief in the spirit returning to God.
Judaic and Christian faiths use scriptural law uneqivocally to establish that the dead must be buried in earth. Those who for whatever reason have a limb amputated are considered to require interment awaiting future interment of the individual. Different burial practices may apply to distinct faith traditions but these absolute beliefs
The Bromley funeral accounts I have transcribed begin in 1803 and it is worth remembering the number of injuries to those involved in the Napoleonic war era.
Probably the most celebrated interred limb is that of Lord Uxbridge who lost the limb to rusty grape shot during the Battle of Waterloo Lord Uxbridge wikipedia . We can see here that the practice of interring amputated limbs was being observed during the eighteenth century as had been the case when surgeons removed limbs in earlier centuries.
These traumatic war injuries are not reflected in local record sources to any great extent however accidental injuries on coaches and carts are relevant to some of the interment of limbs in funeral accounts.
Perhaps the most obvious example of Funeral arrangements for interment are those for still born children but as Bromley develops as a town and Bromley Cottage Hospital and nursing homes open we see that such individuals and institutions purchase burial plots specifically to provide for interment of limbs. It is therfore perfectly possible to find a limb interred through such an arrangement in one burial place and the subsequent funeral for the individual for interment elsewhere. In Parish churchyards in recent years those plots which contain interred limbs have been noted and even have grave markers for the site of interred limbs.

Herbert George Dunn's funeral accounts from the mid 1870's onward record interment of limbs for one Bromley Nursing Home,whose proprietor had purchased land at Bromley Cemetery from Bromley Burial Board. The regularity of amputations of limbs due to development of gangrene required regular use by funeral directors of such arrangements. It is possible to find such interments at Bromley consistently until 1914 in the funeral account records I have transcribed.