From 1801 to 1851, the population of London grew from less than one million to 2.25 million. A key issue was the disposal of the dead at a time of high mortality and when cremation was regarded as a peculiar foreign custom.
Coffins were stacked in 20ft shafts. Bones were sometimes visible between tombstones and smashed coffins were sold to the poor for firewood.
Parliament looked for innovative solutions to this problem. In 1829, architect Thomas Willson prepared a blueprint of what would come to be called the Metropolitan Sepulchre.
He proposed a giant pyramid to be built on Primrose Hill, North London. Its base of 18 acres would be bigger than the Great Pyramid at Giza, which is 13 acres.
At 94 storeys high, it would tower four times higher than St Pau1's Cathedral. The vast pyramid was to be constructed of brick with granite facing and would have a capacity for five million bodies.
The project was fully casted out. The Pyramid General Cemetery Company would sell shares to investors, realising a profit in the order of £11 million based on 40,000 bodies annually. It was never built.
Lawyer George Frederick Carden had a better idea. He proposed cemeteries modeled on the garden graveyards being created in France.
In 1832, Parliament passed a bill encouraging the establishment of private cemeteries outside London.
Over the next decade, seven were established: Kensal Green in 1832; West Norwood in 1836; Highgate in 1839; Abney Park, Nunhead and Brompton all in 1840; and Tower Hamlets in 1841.
While the pyramid scheme may seem fanciful, other countries faced with similar population and land constraints have constructed edifices to the dead.
Israel has started construction of 30 large burial buildings. Oslo is considering skyscraper sepulchres and Santos, Brazil, has been burying its citizens in a 32-storey cemetery for decades.
Found in the Daily Mail's "Answer to Correspondents" column, Thursday, 18th October, 2018, contributed by Norman Walker of Gravesend, Kent.
Architect Thomas Willson was proud of the 94-storey pyramid to the dead he designed, mentioned in a previous answer.
He described it as a 'coup d'oeil of sepulchral magnificence unequalled in this world'.
Architectural historian N. B. Penny gave an alternative view, calling it a 'nightmarish combination of megalomaniacal Neo-Classicism and dehumanised Utilitarian efficiency.'
Found in the Daily Mail's "Answer to Correspondents" column, Saturday, 27th October, 2018, contributed by R. Parsons of Chester Cheshire.