Death and community in rural settlements: changing burial culture in small towns and villages, c. 1850-2007

Professor Keith Snell

ESRC Research Grant (£256,277)

April 2008-September 2011

Professor Keith Snell is working with Dr Julie Rugg (University of York) on an 3-4 year ESRC funded project from January 2008, entitled 'Death and community in rural settlements: changing burial culture in small towns and villages, c. 1850-2007'.

Modern cemetery history has been dominated by urban themes such as rapid population growth, public health and secularisation. This study will, for the first time, examine change in rural locations, and in doing so explore the local impact of national burial legislation in the second half of the nineteenth century; the religious politics of burial in smaller settlements; and the endurance of ‘traditional’ funerary practice.

The research will focus on rural settlements in Leicestershire and Rutland, and in Yorkshire, and has three substantive stages.

First, information will be collected on change in burial provision in smaller settlements in the two case study regions, so establishing a robust chronology.
Second, thirty case study cemeteries will be chosen for more detailed investigation using a range of local documentary sources: this stage will establish a ‘cultural history’ of the selected cemeteries.
Third, in ten of these sites, oral histories will be completed with local clergy, residents, funeral directors and parish officers to understand the contemporary meaning of burial space in rural communities.

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