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Durham University

Special Collections


Letters between Sir Henry Thompson to J.C. Swinburne Hanham (CRE/P/2/F/2)

The correspondence of Cremation Society members is an interesting resource to look at the development of the Society and its goals. Each board member had specific skills and represented different aspects of Cremation from religious leaders and crematoria managers to architects. Examples include:

Letters between Sir Henry Thompson to J.C. Swinburne Hanham discuss The Cremation Society’s relationship with the Necropolis Company who owned a nearby cemetery in Woking. It was with them that the Society had to negotiate transport of coffins and mourners from London to the crematorium via a private railway. In letter from Sir Henry Thompson to J.C. Swinburne Hanham in 1891, Thompson suggests his desire ‘for harmony’ with the Necropolis when discussing terms for the use of the railway (CRE/P/2/F/2).

Typescripts of early correspondence between members of the Society, Francis Skrine to Herbert T. Herring, in 1927 regards the Society’s propaganda. Skrine writes of his belief that cremation should be compulsory, a view not shared by Herring. However, Herring does discuss the importance of emphasising the aesthetic advantages of cremation in propaganda rather than sanitation and space due to his belief that the general public care more about the ceremony and the aesthetic of funerals than the practical implications.

Father John MacDonald was pivotal in the discussions between the Catholic Diocese and Cremation Society of Great Britain and he was involved in the early campaigns to the Church. His correspondence and papers cover Catholic liturgy, funeral rites and Orders of Service.

J.M Evans (Archdeacon of Surrey) was the Anglican Church representative. As well as his paper on the Disposal of Ashes, Evans’ correspondence also refers to fees payable to ministers of religion for services at cemeteries and crematoria

Lord F. Marshal was the Chairman of Golder’s Green Crematorium. His correspondence discusses general crematoria business, from environmental committees to issues with specific crematoria.