British death through the ages

British Death through the Ages


Guest writer VIOLET FENN explores the history of the British fascination with death


For as long as humans have walked the earth there have been burial traditions worldwide and Britain was no exception.

In the Paleolithic era we were still hunter-gatherers and lived nomadic lives; even so, there is some evidence to show that cave burials took place. However undeveloped our social strata, respect for the dead was evidently already established.

By Neolithic times man was beginning to live in more settled environments – customs surrounding death and burials became more structured now that descendants would still be around to tend the remains.

This was the era of the long barrows such as West Kennet, near Avebury – chambered tombs that held many bodies and which were covered in earth when full. These have a visible impact on the British landscape to this day.

Author: The Spooky Isles

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2 Comments

  1. Excellent article. One thing to also bear in mind is that the 1832 Anatomy Act legitimately gave medical dissectionists access to cadavers in the form of people who had died in workhouses and others who had been executed. So after that time there would have been little reason for bodies to be dug out of graves or tombs broken into.

  2. Hi Mel :) Yes, I know about the 1832 Act. The fact that this came into existence is certainly a big factor in there being only a few mortsafes in existence – there wasn’t a great deal of them around to start with, as the trade in illegal cadavers didn’t last for very long.

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