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The 1853 Burial Act introduced changes that would affect every English town and village outside London.


New cemeteries looked set to replace the centuries-old churchyard, removing the dead from the heart of the community and reinventing burial as a scientific rather than a spiritual concern.


The secularisation of burial has been regarded as an essential symbol of modernity, but was this process so straightforward?


This text takes the unusual step of reviewing English cemetery history through the lens of rural towns and villages, using North Yorkshire as its case study and ranging from 1850s to the 1970s.


The research shows how the government’s Burials Office extended its operations into the very heart of scattered rural settlements, as burial became a battleground for Anglican and Nonconformist politics.


As this surprising book demonstrates, reviewing churchyard and burial history in tandem shows that one did not in any straightforward way replace the other.


Rather, both were subject to the play of new expectations for burial space to guarantee that families could be buried together, with the opportunity for formal commemoration. Population declined, but over 40 new cemeteries were laid out and many dozens of churchyards were extended.


The study is based on detailed research on over 250 churchyards and cemeteries in Harrogate, Hambleton and Ryedale and is an essential text for anyone seeking to understand a rather overlooked element of local history, and the passions it provoked.




'Well-conceived, meticulously undertaken, rich and highly nuanced.'

'Anyone bent on writing seriously about almost any aspect of burial ground provision in England and Wales from the 1850s onwards will ignore this book at their peril.'

Stephen White, Ecclesiastical Law Journal.

‘The best recent history of burial and graveyards’

Frances Knight, Mortality.


'Rugg has an established research reputation in death studies regarding the history of ownership and management of burial space. … Churchyard and Cemetery: Tradition and Modernity in Rural North Yorkshire reinforces and expands her status as one of the foremost thinkers in this area.'

Ruth Penfold-Mounce, Department of Sociology, University of York, Mortality.

Julie Rugg - Churchyard And Cemetery:Tradition And Modernity Rural N Yorks (HB)

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