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  • Mortuary

    Selections from Report of the Fourth Congress of the Sanitary Institute of Great Britain 1880 - Page 115 Appendix - List of Mortuaries

    A. Metropolis

    City of London - Mortuary provided in 1871 by Commissioners of Sewers, from plan by Colonel Haywood, C. E., building includes (1) Mortuary chapel with 12 slate tables (2) Keeper's house and office (3) coroner's court etc; (4) laboratory (5) weighing room (6) consulting room (7) dead room fitted up for post-morten exams (8) disinfecting apparatus etc (9) ambulance shed (10) shed for disinfected clothing.

    Shoreditch - A mortuary on grounds adjoing the church. Glass coffins for recognition of unknown dead. Disinfecting apparatus, and suitable means and convenience for conducting post mortem examinations

    Poplar - Mortuary for 40 bodies. No post mortem room

    (40? that's what it said) No entry for Whitechapel.

    Roy
    Sink the Bismark

  • #2
    Well done, Roy! A little bit of gold there.

    Pity there's no bleedin' illustrations, though. We still don't know what the Shoreditch mortuary looked like.

    PHILIP
    Tour guides do it loudly in front of a crowd.

    Comment


    • #3
      Thanks, Phil.

      The paper was presented by Henry C. Burdett, the great chronicler of all things health care in that era. He started by relating sad stories of corpses in homes because some places had no mortuary, such as the Parish of Mile End New Town in an 1880 incident he described.

      He mentions the waves of cholera and scarlet and typhus fever that ravaged the population in the 1800's and the need for large mortuaries. So that's no misprint about the space for 40 bodies in Poplar. The term mortuary chapel was common - " called a chapel, not that mass for the dead shall be said there, but to throw the sanctity of religion over the building." The main part of the paper details what facilities a proper mortuary ought to have.

      But, for our purposes, what caught my eye was the glass coffins at Shoreditch. It makes you wonder if Mary Kelly was put in one.

      Roy
      Sink the Bismark

      Comment


      • #4
        The mortuary building in the churchyard at St George in the East later became a Nature Study Museum, which the schoolchildren enjoyed because it made learning fun.

        Residents:
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        (US Dept of Agriculture Bulletin, 1909)
        Sink the Bismark

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        • #5
          Shoreditch

          Here is the excerpt from the first item from 1880.

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          Looking for more information, I found this from the Transactions of the Medico-Legal Society 1906-07. It says something similar

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          Last edited by Roy Corduroy; 10-18-2009, 05:21 AM.
          Sink the Bismark

          Comment


          • #6
            Different articles and lists during the period say various things. This piece from the 1876 Sanitary Record confirms space for 40 at Poplar.

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            Last edited by Roy Corduroy; 11-01-2009, 01:43 AM.
            Sink the Bismark

            Comment


            • #7
              Wapping

              Part of an 1891 article in the Sanitary Record - Mortuary Reform by J Neville Porter.

              By far the worst public mortuary in the metropolitan area is that for the parish of Wapping, in the East End of London. It is a mere old shed, of very small size, and what the coroner for the district calls a cupboard in a churchyard. It is very seldom if ever empty, as it is a waterside parish, and that part of the Thames which swirls and eddies within a few yards of the mortuary here makes for itself a kind of a bay, into which an immense proportion of the dead bodies found in the river are washed, and many corpses are cast up by the tide in a decomposed state. No shelves or slabs are provided on which to lay the bodies. They are placed in shells on the floor formed of gravestones. There is no convenience whatever for making post-mortem examinations, which are supposed to be carried on in this wretched old shed with scarcely a foot space to spare.

              Recently, one of the shells lying in this dilapidated old dead-house contained the body of a young woman which had been taken from the Thames. The body had been greatly knocked about in the river, and bore sufficient marks of violence to necessitate a post-mortmem examination being held on it. Dr. Russell Talbot, of Bow Road, who made that examination, has complained most bitterly of the defective arrangements at the mortuary, which he justly described as disgraceful and disgusting. When he arrived at the old shed he found no one in charge, and was at last compelled to obtain the assistance of one of the constables from the adjoining London Docks. The door of the mortuary was unlocked, and with the assistance of the constable, the shell containing the corpse was drawn out by the gate. The post-mortem examination was conducted in the open air, owing to a total lack of convenience at the dead-house. One consequence was that the low wall, part of which formed one side of the mortuary, was mounted by boys and youths, who gloated over the horrible scene. Numerous occupants of adjacent houses overlooking the mortuary were also staring through the windows at the examination. A correspondent states that it was fortunate for the feelings of the doctor that the examination was not a very delicate or extensive one, as the opening of the head proved the cause of death to be suffocation, produced by drowning. Instances have, however, occurred in which the bodies have required elaborate and very careful dissecting, in full view of the neighbours in the adjoining houses, and a gang of boys on the low wall referred to.
              Sink the Bismark

              Comment


              • #8
                Continuing in the 1891 article Mortuary Reform. Both ways of viewing are discussed. It seems one of these two ways was in use in Shoreditch in 1888, according to the articles by Burdett and Westcott, above.

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                Sink the Bismark

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                • #9
                  Poplar Location

                  Still trying to pinoint the location of the Poplar Mortuary

                  From The Medical Press and Circular 1869:

                  Public Mortuary for the East of London.
                  The Poplar District Board of Works have decided upon erecting a public mortuary upon a plot of land which they have purchased from the Tower Hamlets Cemetery Company. When completed the mortuary will be for the use of the three parishes over which the Board has jurisdition.


                  From this I am assuming Poplar mortuary was built on the grounds of said cemetery, but I do not know that for a fact.

                  Any help in this matter would be appreciated.

                  Roy
                  Sink the Bismark

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Hi Roy,

                    Poplar Mortuary was in Bickmore Street, which ran south off Poplar High Street and it was just next to Poplar Workhouse.

                    This is from 'Survey of London: volumes 43 and 44: Poplar, Blackwall and Isle of Dogs (1994), pp. 61-77.'

                    Poplar Borough Council's initial reaction was to abandon the proposal for a separate coroner's court and to adapt the existing mortuary accommodation in Bickmore Street. Various arrangements were considered and in 1906 attention was again focused on the site fronting High Street and Cottage Street

                    David O'Flaherty was very helpful to me a few years back when I was tying to pinpoint it's location.

                    Rob

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      You've put me on the right track, Rob

                      Apparently Bickmore was named Queen Street then. This is also from that survey:

                      Poplar High Street, South Side. Nos 104116 and Queen (later Bickmore) Street (demolished).

                      Queen Street's attractions were not increased by the presence here from 1871 of the parish mortuary and disinfecting station. The mortuary was built by Hodge & Robinson of Bisterne Place, Blackwall, to designs by A. & C. Harston, at a cost of 261. By the early 1890s it was thought to be both inadequate and below the standards required by the LCC. It was superseded by the new mortuary erected in Cottage Street in 191011 .

                      Again, thank you

                      Roy
                      Sink the Bismark

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        My pleasure Roy.

                        Here's the replacement Mortuary which still stands and still in use in Poplar High Street/Cottage Street.

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                        Rob

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                        • #13
                          1888 LANCET: Whitechapel Murders & Need For Central London Morgue

                          Hi, guys.
                          I came across an article in 'The Lancet' from 1888 which I found very interesting.

                          (Quote) A CENTRAL MORTUARY FOR LONDON.

                          A Plea has been made for a central mortuary for London, or rather for a central "morgue," where the dead may lie exposed to view, as in the morgue in Paris. This demand is based upon the requirements of justice, and the argument is used that the victim of a murder may have been seen by some passer-by at a moment which it may be important to fix in connexion with other points in the case, and that the passer-by should have convenient opportunity for inspecting the dead, and correcting or confirming his impression that the person seen is the deceased; as evidence that this opportunity is now wanting, the story is told of the refusal of the police to allow the body of one of the recent Whitechapel victims
                          to be seen.


                          We may point out that, to meet a requirement of this kind, not one but several morgues would be needed.

                          For the purposes of identification and for obtaining evidence, it is desirable that the body should be within easy access of the inhabitants of the district in which the crime is committed; but it is doubtful whether the exposure of the deceased to the public gaze would really aid in the detection of crime more than would the giving of facilities for the body to be inspected by those who can allege a sufficient reason for their desire.

                          It is not desirable to make a public spectacle of the victim of a crime. In doing so, it is doubtful if there would be any other result than the gratification of a morbid curiosity which would not be without harm to public morality.

                          At the same time, the difficulty which is now said to stand in the way of the inspection of a body should be removed; but something more than the satisfaction of mere curiosity should be required in support of an application to enter a mortuary. (End Quote)


                          The first thing I noticed was that the concept of a morgue was apparently still so new that the word was presented in quotation marks and the need for a morgue was explained in detail. This seems a bit odd, as the famous 'Paris Morgue' opened in 1804, and Edgar Allan Poe's novel 'Murders In The Rue Morgue' came out in 1841. I discovered that although we Americans generally use the word "morgue" to refer to an official facility belonging to the police or to a specific institution (say, a hospital), in Britain it is still more usual to say "mortuary". (In the U.S. "mortuary" usually denotes a place like a funeral parlor where embalming, etc., is carried out.)

                          When I read the sentence about "the refusal of the police to allow the body of one of the recent Whitechapel victims to be seen," I naturally assumed this referred to Mary Kelly. She was found in her own room and Joe Barnett identified her, so I assumed it meant that the police refused to let the general public view her body, which was no surprise under the circumstances.

                          That's why I was so startled when I read the date on this article...

                          September 15, 1888!

                          Best regards, Archaic

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Shoreditch

                            No mortuary photo, but scenes nearby.

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                            From Survey of London, Vol VIII - The Parish of St Leonard Shoreditch, 1922 (archive.org)
                            Sink the Bismark

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Hi Archaic,

                              Eventually the London County Council took over and was more progressive during the 1890s--a plan for a central mortuary and coroner's court was reproduced in Ian Burney's book Bodies of Evidence, and it was swank. It even had bathrooms. I don't know if it was ever actually built or not.

                              Rob and Roy,

                              Great work--can you determine where the police took Druitt? This is a hard one. All I can offer is that it must have been very near the Lamb Tap, since the jury would have had to go over and view the corpse. I put it either at the Lamb Tap itself (as bodies were sometimes deposited in taverns and Dr. Diplock can be usually found holding tavern inquests). I also understand that there was an undertaker close by, so maybe that's where they put him.

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