'Enon Chapel and Dancing Saloon' from The Poor Man's Guardian, 4 December 1847


This report from Enon Chapel in St Clement’s Lane near the Strand in London is a window into one of the city’s more peculiar and perverse entertainment venues. The Enon Chapel was an ordinary Baptist church that obtained a licence as a burial venue in 1823 and began to offer cheap burials to the poor. Beneath the chapel floor was a narrow pit some sixty feet in depth. Between 1823 and 1842 (when the presiding minister died and the pit was uncovered), an estimated 12,000 people had been buried there – one on top of the other; sometimes in coffins, sometimes not. The chapel was converted into an entertainment venue in 1843. Indeed, contemporary advertisements make merry reference to ‘Dancing On The Dead – Admission Threepence - No lady or gentleman admitted unless wearing shoes and stockings.’ In 1848, partly in response to shocked reports such as this one, a South London surgeon called George Walker paid for all the bodies to be moved out of the building and reburied in West Norwood.

In the article, Charles Cochrane writes:

The scene which presented itself, as I cast my eyes around this mortal despository, beggars all description. Coffins of all sizes and shapes in various positions were heaped around and about in admired confusion; most of them, although in a high state of preservation… were generally empty, some without lids, others without bottoms; some with entire skeletons within, exposed to the view, and others with skeletons in an imperfect state, bearing on them the evident marks of great violence, from the rude hand of the grave-differ, whilst acting under the orders of his mammon-worshipping employer, in order to procure more space for fresh coffins.

Full title:
'Enon Chapel and Dancing Saloon'
4 December 1847, London
Newspaper / Ephemera / Illustration / Image
The Poor Man's Guardian
© Sourced from the British Newspaper Archive
Held by
British Library

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