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Overcrowding and inadequate sanitation in Victorian London resulted in frequent outbreaks of cholera and dysentery. With a very high level of mortality, the appropriate disposal of large numbers of the dead became imperative and a major programme of cemetery construction began. In this talk, Anna Ellis will explore how between 1833 and 1841 seven non-denominational garden cemeteries – known as the 'Magnificent Seven' – were developed in London. No longer were the grim realities of the grave and death starkly evident: the garden cemeteries were specially designed with wide paths, landscaped gardens and high walls which brought a sense of peace, beauty and security. Anna will speak about the changes in burial practice: mourning etiquette was rigid and strong commercial interests forced people to spend large amounts of money on funerals. There was a big demand for mourning ephemera and widows in particular were the focus of much social pressure. Indeed, women wearing black widows' weeds are often seen as an iconic symbol of the Victorian era.
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