5th April, 2019. History of Hull’s Cemeteries 10.

Undoubtedly one of the most interesting elements of the municipal cemeteries in Hull is Hull’s first crematorium (now disused) located towards the eastern end of Hedon Road Cemetery site (not normally visible from the main road), see above picture. Records at Hull History Centre state that this building was a working crematorium from 1901 – 1961. A recently erected plaque near the main gates of the Cemetery state that this was the first crematorium built, a questionable claim, see below. Not only is the building itself a fine example of its type but also nearby is a purpose-built columbarium of artificial stone with hundreds of square niches to house small (compared with prehistoric ones) funerary urns, these with access doors on which are inscriptions.

Minutes of Hull Municipal Corporation’s Burial Committee (s.p.b.s) reveal that the first mention of a municipal crematorium was in April 1891 when Hull Literary Club ‘petitioned’ for a ‘Public Crematorium in Hull’. The following month the Committee members in turn ‘petitioned’ the President of the Local Government Board requesting a Bill to be put forward in Parliament authorising municipal corporations, as burial authorities, to apply for funds to erect crematoria for those who ‘may desire that their bodies after death may be so disposed of as to be dangerous to none’. At the same time other municipal corporations were invited to support this application.

At this time cremation was becoming a topic of conversation among progressive persons (see ref. in the Publications and Articles section of this website – Burial History and Barton Cemetery). The quote above shows that one reason for promoting cremation was linked to the great Public Health agenda that underpinned so many late Victorian reforms, the disposal of human bodies so as to pose no health threat to the living. Another reason was also related to cemeteries in that although cemeteries overcame the previous chaos experienced in churchyards (s.p.b.) they, in turn, ran out of available land and the cemetery sites needed to expand and expand again. This, indeed, was already becoming a problem at the Hedon Road site.

(To be continued).