The suicides' graveyard

Entrance to the General Cemetery

OF all the thousands of people who daily pass through the busy and bustling open space opposite to the entrance to the General Cemetery at the top of Derby-road there are probably few who realise that in olden times these cross-roads were selected as a suitable place in which to bury suicides!

The interment was usually performed hastily and at night, without any form of religious ceremony.

There are a considerable number of such burials noted in the records of Nottingham, amongst which perhaps the most interesting is that of Thomas Morris, who died in 1787, and who was the first Sunday school teacher in Nottingham. Poor fellow! The good that he had done during his lifetime was allowed to mitigate to some extent the indignities to which his body was subject after death, for, contrary to the usual custom, he was permitted a coffin, and this coffin together with his remains were discovered in 1840.

Burial customs and beliefs are very curious, and if it were not so gruesome, and if it did not awaken heartaches in most of us the subject would be a very interesting one to study.

For example, the wearing of black during the period of mourning is a strange survival. The primitive belief was that after death the spirit still, for a time, haunted its earthly tabernacle, and as long as the body were allowed to remain in its accustomed surroundings the spirit was more or less content.

But when the body was taken elsewhere for burial the spirit became homesick and fretful and vented its spite upon the relatives who had torn it from its accustomed scenes ; and to escape this resentment it was necessary for the relatives to disguise themselves— and to do it pretty thoroughly.

Gradually the belief in the resentment of the spirit evaporated, but the ‘custom of disguise remained and has come down to our days in the form of wearing mourning clothes of unaccustomed black, and, in the case of widows, of unaccustomed shape.