Ye Olde Mitre Tavern, Ely Court, EC1. Photo © Roger Dean 2012
London by Day and Night – David W. Bartlett, 1852:
A church, called Enon Chapel, was built some twenty years ago, by a minister, as a speculation, in Clement’s Lane [now St. Clement's Lane] in the Strand, close on to that busiest thoroughfare in the world. He opened the upper part for the worship of God, and devoted the lower – separated from the upper merely by a board floor – to the burial of the dead. In this place, 60 feet by 29 and 6 deep, 12,000 bodies have been interred! It was dangerous to sit in the church; faintings occurred every day in it, and sickness, and for some distance about it, life was not safe. And yet people not really knowing the state of things, never thought of laying anything to the vault under the chapel.
But perhaps the reader will exercise his arithmetical powers, and say that it would be impossible to bury 12,000 persons in so small a place, within twenty years. He does not understand the manner in which the speculating parson managed his affairs. It came out before the Committee of the House of Commons, that sixty loads of mingled dirt and human remains were carted away from the vault at different times, and thrown into the Thames the other side of Waterloo Bridge. Once a portion of a load fell off in the street, and the crowd picked up out of it a human skull.
[ This scandal led to the Burial Act 1852 which closed the city's burial grounds and purpose built cemeteries were established on the fringes of the metropolitan area.
Ye Olde Mitre is one of London's classic old pubs, tucked away in an alley off Hatton Garden, EC1. Hard to find but well worth the effort. R.D.]