Occasional posts on subjects including field recording, London history and literature, other websites worth looking at, articles in the press, and news of sound-related events.

23 July 2009

1892: Grisly sounds in a London church

FROM AN ARTICLE in the London Daily News, dated November 1892:

The Church of St. Mary Woolnoth, which stands out conspicuously at the King William Street corner of Lombard Street, was closed ten months ago, and it is clear from the statements of the rector that the step was not premature. It has been his unhappy lot to be often startled in the course of his services by a loud yet muffled sound, evidently issuing from the vaults under the church. As these vaults are now “hermetically sealed”, the phenomenon may well have excited the imaginations of timid members of the congregation.

Mr. Brooke, however, recognized the noises only too well. They were caused by the falling of leaden coffins, sometimes from a height of ten or twelve feet, in consequence of the moldering away of the coffins of oak and elm on which they had been piled. It would be well if the evils of this relic of our old barbarous system of intramural interment had ended here. Unfortunately, the process of “hermetically sealing”, according to Mr. Brooke’s evidence before the Consistory Court of St. Paul’s Cathedral, has been anything but “hermetical”.

Mr. Brooke declares that for years nearly every official has died from the effects, direct or indirect of the unendurable smell.