HC Deb 03 March 1854 vol 131 cc275-6

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department, whether proprietors of private burial-grounds recently closed by the peremptory orders of the Government, are entitled to compensation, and, if not, what are the reasons for refusal? Whether any and what steps have been taken to secure the books of registry of the names of persons who were buried in private burial-grounds prior to the passing of the Act 6 & 7 Vict.? Whether the remains of the deceased, now lying in private burial-grounds, will have a legal guarantee against disturbance or removal?


With respect to the first question of the hon. Gentleman, as to whether the proprietors of private burial-grounds are entitled to compensation, I have to say that the Act of Parliament, under which public or private burial-grounds are closed, does not provide any compensation, and it does not occur to me that any should be given, because the only ground upon which those places were ordered to be closed is, that they have become public nuisances and dangerous to the public health, in consequence of the multitude of dead bodies deposited in them. I cannot, therefore, see that these parties, whether parishes or private individuals, who have so managed their graveyards as that they have become public nuisances can be entitled to compensation. With regard to the disinterring of bodies, I have taken the opinion of the law officers of the Crown on the subject, and they have informed me it would be a misdemeanor for anybody to remove the remains of a person buried in a grave without the consent of the relatives and the parties interested, and in one case where it has been attempted to remove the remains from one graveyard that had been closed, steps had been taken to obtain an injunction to prevent such removal. With regard to securing the books of registry of the names of persons buried in private grounds, I have to remind the hon. Gentleman that, since the passing of the Act of William IV. called the General Registration Act, the death is registered, and not the burial. Previously to the passing of that Act, the registration of burials in private grounds was not received as evidence in courts of law, the registration of parish burials alone being admissible in court as evidence; but since that Act the registry of death, no matter where the burial takes place, whether in public or private ground, is evidence of the death, and not the registry of the burial. No steps have, therefore, been taken with respect to the books of registry of burials in private graveyards, because before the passing of the Registration Act they are of no value as legal evidence, and since that time they have not been required as evidence.


asked if the noble Lord intended to bring in a Bill to prevent the forcible removal of bodies from graveyards without the consent of the parties interested; and, also, whether he would bring in a Bill to prevent the proprietors of those graveyards from building upon them after they had been closed?


said, he had already stated that, in the opinion of the law officers of the Crown, the forcible removal of the remains of persons buried in these graveyards was a misdemeanor, and, therefore, he did not conceive it was necessary for him to bring in a Bill on the subject. With regard to the second part—the ultimate disposal of the ground—that was a matter still under his consideration, and, if he should find it necessary to frame a Bill, he should do so at the earliest opportunity.

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