Burial Traditions in England


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This presentation by CPJ Field & Co. is about the historical burial traditions in England, from the Stone Age's barrows to today's eco-friendly funerals.

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Burial Traditions in England

  1. 1. British Burial Traditions Looking at burial and funeral rites from the stone age until today. Created by CPJ Field and Co.
  2. 2. Stone Age • In Stone Age Britain from around 4000 BC, the dead were buried in chambered tombs alongside the rest of their families or other members of their settlements. • The chambers were constructed as barrows (or large mounds of stone or timbers) and had a forecourt where the burial rituals were observed. • This type of burial often served to unite the community as it brought together members of the sparsely populated land.
  3. 3. Stone Age • Approximately 1000 years later, passage graves developed.These graves were built out of a mound of earth or stone with one entrance. • They consist of a number of chambers, and are most commonly found in a cross shape. • Passage graves are also known as passage tombs, and they have also been identified in Ireland, Scandinavia, Germany and the Netherlands. • Some of those found have been decorated with megalithic art.
  4. 4. Iron Age • The Iron Age influenced burials differently in many of Britain’s regions. • Archaeologists have found examples of numerous styles of burial rituals ranging from cremation which was commonplace to the unique style of chariot burials where the deceased was buried with his chariot, horses and possessions.
  5. 5. Roman Britain • Interestingly, many burials in Roman Britain were not burials at all.The bodies of the deceased were cremated on a wood-pyre located near to where the ashes would be buried. • Cremation saw the ashes placed in a pot with some of their possessions and valuables which was then buried. • The growth of Christianity in Roman Britain influenced burial styles with the first examples of graveyards, which included religious paintings and other treasure.
  6. 6. Anglo Saxon • The Anglo-Saxon period saw a growth of both cremations and burials but scholars have noted that there was huge variation in styles of this period. • Bodies were found in a number of positions including face up and face down, as well as in deep and shallow graves and typically with the head facing to the west.
  7. 7. Viking Challenge • The burial styles of theVikings during their time in Britain did not differ greatly from the way the existing population buried their dead. • Evidence shows that they practiced both burials and cremations, and that frequently they were buried with possessions such as embroidery, swords and nails. • There are a number of burial mounds throughout the UK that have been identified as belonging to theVikings.
  8. 8. Plagues • Plague swept through Europe beginning in the 14th century and lasted until the 18th century. • During this time, as the number of victims continued to rise, existing burial grounds became full and pits were dug to contain the infected bodies of the dead. • These burials were well organised and often included physicians directing the process, working with drivers who moved bodies day and night.
  9. 9. Tudor England • Tudor England saw a few new styles of burial, including Heart-burial, in which the heart is removed from the deceased and buried separately to the rest of the corpse. • Before burial, the body would be washed, wrapped in a sheet and placed inside the coffin. It would be adorned with flowers or herbs. • Generally, a feast would be held and money would be distributed to the poor. For families with little money to spare, the feast would be limited to ale and cakes.
  10. 10. 17th Century • In the 17th Century, funerals and burials were becoming more structured and included the ringing of a bell.There were nine rings for a man, six for a woman and three rings for a child, and then one ring for each year of the deceased life. • Mourning clothes were worn to trick returning spirits into not recognising those attending. • A searcher, often a highly regarded person in the community, would be summoned to determine the cause of the death.
  11. 11. 18th Century • In the 18th century, gift favours were added to the typical funeral rituals.They were tied in silk and distributed to the mourners. • Of course, funerals differed greatly in their design depending on the wealth of the individual being buried. Many of the aspects of the burial ritual were dependent on the social stature of the deceased.
  12. 12. 19th Century • By the 19th century, mourning had developed a complex set of rules, including wearing mourning clothes.Widows, friends and acquaintances wore different levels for different lengths of time and servants wore black arm bands. • Increasingly, photographs of the dead were taken as a way to create the last visual remembrance of the person.These were frequently displayed in the drawing room.
  13. 13. Green Burials • Green burials have become popular in the UK, particularly since 1990 when a funeral director in Carlisle called for the government to react to the United Nations' Environmental Program Local Agenda 21, which focuses on environmental sustainability.
  14. 14. For more information about planning your funeral, please visit http://www.cpjfield.co.uk/ 01444 230 430 @CPJField