|Types of Burial|
Over the course of its history, Arnos Vale Cemetery offered a range of different services. During the 19th century, particularly, it held a mirror to stiffness of the Victorian social order, where everyone - rich or poor, servant or master - was expected to "know their place" and stick to it, even in death.
For the middle and upper classes, a bereavement was an expensive business. The whole household, including the servants, would need mourning clothes. Then there was the cost of a headstone or monument. One of the listed monuments at Arnos Vale, for Thomas and Mary Gadd-Matthews, was reputed to have cost an astronomical £1,000 - almost the equivalent of 23 year's earnings for an unskilled labourer.
Then, there was the cost of the funeral itself. One reason why we associate the Victorian era with such elaborate funerals, with hearses drawn by horses decorated with black ostrich-plumes, was precisely because of the growth of out-of-town cemeteries. It was no longer possible for pallbearers to carry the coffin a few hundred yards to the parish graveyard. In the 1880s, a "first class" funeral from Lee's Reform Funeral Establishment ("The Best and Cheapest in the City") cost £5, not including fees for the church service or clergy.
There were cheaper options. Both the cemetery and undertakers offered several grades of service in keeping with the social order and incomes.
The working classes placed just as much importance on a decent funeral as the wealthier ones. Arnos Vale boasts a number of so-called "guinea graves", the lowest level of "respectable" burial, which included a small headstone, and cost a guinea (£1.05) or thereabouts. Cheapest of all was a "common interment" - burial without a headstone or any kind of memorial, in a grave with several other people - a pauper's burial.
Today, it is possible to honour family members buried in Arnos Vale, in marked or unmarked graves, by adding a tribute to our new Books of Remembrance. A grave records search service is also available.