There is currently a debate taking place in councils up and down the country surrounding their growing crisis over burial space, with local authorities planning how they can address the issue of cemeteries filling up to capacity over the next few years.

LNC building 121 Westminster Bridge Road c1902 John Clarke CollectionIn inner-city urban areas like London, space is especially tight. In some cases there is almost nowhere left to go and MPs have warned that the situation will reach crisis point by the end of the decade.

But could this problem of the future be solved using a solution from the past?

In 1854, London’s cemeteries were overflowing and more and more people were dying. London’s population had more than quadrupled in half a century. Disease was rife and cholera epidemics regular. One epidemic, in 1848, alone killed more than 14,000 people.

In an attempt to solve the burgeoning burial crisis, two gentlemen called Sir Richard Broun and Richard Sprye came up with a rather ingenious plan.

They bought a 2,000 acre plot of land 25 miles away in Brookwood, Surrey and opened a 500-acre huge cemetery, at the time the largest in the world. Then they opened a station very close to Waterloo (just south of the River Thames) and, using existing train lines, ran coffins from London into the countryside for burial.

Their company was called the London Necropolis Company and the London Necropolis Railway (LNR) was born.

Read the full story in January’s edition of Funeral Director Monthly.