Tuesday, 21 August 2012


The idea of poverty was frightening enough in a time without social security althugh it must have been all the more repellent if a person had an idea of being buried in the workhouse as well as ending life there. I know that people did not have to be buried in te workshouse and I’m sure that the Authorities encouraged communities and the next of next to take responsibility for the dead. We can imagine the book keepers keeping a tally of the costs involved in provising a funeral and the gasp of excitement at the thought of saving a few pennies.

Those people who did find themselves buried in the workhouse are almost always lost to view and without markers. Yes, there will be the dry as dust paper records that exist in the UK although the physical markers of a grave are often absent. Without a marker and surrounded by the shame of poverty it is likely that many graves have never been visited or the prople occupying the grave actually mourned. Such is the way of poverty, death and burial in a land that perceives itself as being rich and vibant.

In England the workshouses that were built up and down the County have cemeteries attached to them although most people have no idea of this proximity. The cemetery is shrouded in secrecy and uncertainty. The dead are moved into that half world that is based on reality and clothed in fear.

Gressenhall, in Mid-Norfolk is an example of a place where the poor were transported and where they died over time. The Ordnance Survey maps are available and they record the presence of the cemetery. A map published in 1884 shows the cemetery to the west of the site.  The second map was published in 1906  shows the burial ground as being disused. More importantly, a map published in 1978 shows the cemetery as an orchard and we see the life cycle of the cemetery. The dead and the spaces occupied by the dead become a public space and a place for recreation. The idea of poverty becomes so difficult that the dead who died in poverty apparently have less rights to memorials than the living.

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