Funeral Etiquette


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Cassells Household Guide,  c.1880s - Death in the Household

IF there ever is a time when people find it painful to attend to any business, it is when oppressed with grief at the loss of some one who was both near and dear to them. This is especially the case when that business relates to the funeral of the one whom we have lost from earth for ever. At such a time the mourner, borne down with grief, is disinclined to go abroad to seek for any information on the subject of funeral arrangements, or to adopt any of those precautions that he would have taken to secure himself from imposition in his ordinary business transactions. The consequence is that he too often falls into the hands of persons who take advantage of his affliction.

1855 Nunhead Cemetery Nunhead  bIf this is so often the case with a man, how much more often must it be so with the afflicted widow, who, being now deprived of her own and her children's support, besides being perhaps totally unfitted for business duties, is left among strangers, friendless and alone; and who, most likely, by incurring needless outlay in funeral expenses, deprives of their subsistence those who look to her - who is now their only friend - for food and shelter? The only means of guarding against this is to obtain in time sufficient knowledge of this subject, so that, if death should suddenly visit the household, it may not find the mourner unprepared. It is with the view of affording this, as well as all other information that may be required, that these papers are prepared.

IN addition to the registration of death and the selection of a place for burial, it is advisable as soon as possible to arrange with an undertaker about the character and cost of the funeral. To enable our readers to do this more readily, we shall give them as briefly as possible an insight into the manner in which the trade is sub-divided, and also the cost of burial.

Besides the persons who make the coffin, there are the coffin-furniture manufacturers, the funeral robe, sheet, and ruffle makers, the funeral-carriage masters, and funeral feather-men.

With the view to give every facility for choosing the kind of funeral, it is customary for undertakers in a large way of business to give their customers a book containing particulars of the various classes of funerals, and with a the prices printed at which they can be performed.

Funeral costing 3 5s.- Patent carriage, with one a horse ; smooth elm coffin, neatly finished, lined inside, with pillow, &c.; use of pall, mourners' fittings, coachman with hat-band; bearers; attendant with hat-band, &c.

 Funeral costing 6 6s.- Hearse, with pair of horses ; a mourning coach and pair; strong elm coffin, covered with a black, plate of inscription, lid ornaments, and three pairs of handles, mattress, pillows, &c.; use of velvet pall, mourners' fittings; coachmen with hat-bands and gloves; bearers; attendant with silk hat-band, &c.

 Funeral costing 4 14s.- Hearse and pair of horses; a mourning coach and pair, fifteen plumes of black ostrich-feathers, and complete velvet covering for carriages and horses; stout inch elm coffin, with inner lid, covered with black cloth, set with two rows all round of best black a nails; lead plate of inscription, lid ornaments, four pairs of handles and grips, all of the best improved jet and bright black; tufted mattress, lined and ruffled, and fine cambric winding-sheet; use of silk velvet pall; two mutes with 2 gowns, silk hat-bands, and gloves, eight men as pages and coachmen, with truncheons and wands, crape hatbands, &c,; use of mourners' fittings; and attendant with a silk hat-band, &c.

 Funeral costing 53- Hearse and four horses, two mourning coaches with fours, twenty-three plumes of rich ostrich-feathers, complete velvet covering for carriages and horses, and an esquire's plume of best feathers; strong elm shell, with tufted mattress, lined and ruffled with superfine cambric, and pillow; full worked glazed cambric winding-sheet, stout outside lead coffin, with inscription plate and solder complete; one and a half inch oak case, covered with black or crimson velvet, set with three rows round, and lid panelled with best brass nails ; stout brass plate of inscription, richly engraved four pairs of best brass handles and grips, lid ornaments to correspond ; use of silk velvet pall ; two mutes with gowns, silk hat-bands and gloves; fourteen men as pages, feathermen, and coachmen, with truncheons and wands, silk hat-bands, &c. ; use of mourners' fittings; and attendant with silk hat-band, &c.

What adds very much to the cost of a funeral is the amount of "new goods," such as kid gloves, scarfs, hatbands, &e., used, and which are not included in the tariff. In a large funeral, very often new crape and silk scarfs and hat-bands are used, as well as kid gloves, and retained by the mourners, the crape scarfs and band being worn by the relatives, and those of silk by the friends.

Even in those cases where new fittings are not used and kept by the mourners, but those lent by the undertaker are employed, it is customary to give "fittings" (in fact, his fee in kind) to the officiating minister. In the case of a funeral in a wealthy family he is supplied with a scarf, band, and gloves, but where economy is studied, then only, perhaps, the band and gloves, or even the gloves alone. Amongst great families the doctor is treated like the clergyman, but among the middle classes, although he may not so often attend the funeral as formerly, yet in most cases he has something sent him in the way of complimentary mourning. To friends at a distance it is an old-fashioned custom, now nearly obsolete, to send a pair of gloves, and a memorial card may accompany them.

headstonesAs the incurring of only a moderate expense in interments is often an object to the survivors, especially where they are left in straitened circumstances, we will now give information about the expense of burial in the various metropolitan cemeteries. Of course, interment in a brick vault is the most costly, and is only suited for those in comfortable circumstances. The price of such a vault at Highgate or Nunhead Cemeteries is 49 7s. 6d. If the vault, however, is only made large enough to contain six coffins the charges are:- Highgate or Nunhead, 39 2s. 6d. The cost of burial in the public vault at Highgate or Nunhead, is 8 8s.; For interment in the catacombs the lowest charges are, for Highgate or Nunhead, 17 10s. It must be remembered that additional expense attends interments in vaults and catacombs, owing to the regulations, which require lead coffins to be used. The charges for a private brick grave, seven feet in length, in a first-class portion of the ground, are- at Highgate or Nunhead, 8 10s. 6d.; For a second-class grave of the same kind the prices are :-Highgate or Nunhead, 5 7s. 6d.; For a third-class grave the charges are:- Norwood, 5 7s. 6d. For single interments the cost is considerably less, Adult single interments in third-class ground also vary considerably. The prices at Highgate or Nunhead are 2 2s.

THE blinds of the windows of the house should be drawn down directly the death occurs, and they should remain down until after the funeral has left the house, when they are at once to be pulled up. As a rule, the females of the family do not pay any visits until after the funeral. Neither would it be considered in good taste for any friends or acquaintances to visit at the house during that time, unless they were relatives of the family, when of course it would be only proper for them to do so. With regard to the time that ought to elapse after death before the funeral is performed, it may be said that in many cases - especially in the summer - the corpse is retained too long, and thus becomes injurious to the health of those living in the house. This is most especially the case when the deceased died of typhus or some other fever, and complaints of a similar infectious character. Under these circumstances, the practice is attended with danger to the neighbourhood, and should be most strictly avoided. Perhaps, as a rule, it may be said that funerals in winter should take place within one week after death, and in summer in a still shorter time.

It sometimes happens among the poorer classes that the female relatives attend the funeral; but this custom is by no means to be recommended, since in these cases it but too frequently happens that, being unable to restrain their emotions, they interrupt and destroy the solemnity of the ceremony with their sobs, and even by fainting. As soon as the funeral is over it is usual for the mourners to separate, each one taking his departure home.

While on the subject, we would caution our readers against, out of a mistaken and thoughtless kindness, offering, and even forcing wines, spirits, and other liquors upon the undertaker's man. If they were given instead a cup of tea or coffee and a sandwich, it would, in the generality of cases, be both more acceptable to them, and also keep them in the condition necessary for the proper performance of their duties.

Now, with reference to mourning, it has been customary for mourning apparel not to be put on until the day of the funeral, but at the present time it is more usual to wear it as soon as possible. The width of the hat-bands worn differs according to the degree of relationship. When worn by the husband for the wife they are usually at the present time about seven inches wide. Those worn by fathers for sons, and sons for fathers, are about five inches wide. For other degrees of relationship the width of the hat-band varies from two and a half inches to four inches. After the funeral deep mourning is worn by the widower or widow for about a year. The same is also the case with mourning for a father or mother, sons or daughter, sister or brother. Occasionally, at the end of that period, half mourning is worn by the widow or widower for about six months longer. During the period while mourning is worn it is customary to employ envelopes and note-paper edged with a deep border of black. It is also usual for friends when writing to them to employ black-edged paper and envelopes, but in this case the black border must be extremely narrow.

For uncles, aunts, nephews, nieces, cousins, and other relations, the mourning is usually worn for a period varying from six to nine months. The black edge on the stationery is also narrower than that used for nearer relations.

It is usual to present the relations and friends of the deceased persons with what are called memorial cards, stating the name, age, date of death, where interred, and date of interment, and also a verse of Scripture appropriate to the occasion.

 It is now proposed to give some information on the subject of monuments and grave-stones. Before a monument or grave-stone of any description can erected, or the ground even enclosed, it is absolutely necessary that the exclusive right of burial in the grave over which they are to be erected shall have been purchased. With a view to give as much information as possible as to the cost of erecting monuments, illustrations, showing four different kinds, are given. They were all constructed of the best stone, Portland or York, and some of them were enclosed with railings. The total cost of Fig. 1 was 7 ; of Fig. 2, 9 9s. Fig. 3, 20; while the expense of Fig. 4 was 22. But if marble had been employed for this purpose, the cost would, of course, have been greater.

When death occurs in a family living in one or two rooms in a crowded neighbourhood, the necessity of retaining the dead corpse in rooms in which the living have to eat and sleep, is often attended with serious consequences to the health of the inhabitants. To meet this evil, some of the cemetery companies have places set apart, where, without paying any extra fees, the coffin containing the corpse may be privately conveyed, and kept in safety until the time appointed for the funeral. At the time of the funeral the mourners assemble here, instead of at the house from which the corpse was removed. By adopting this course, much of the expense of the funeral is saved, as all the cost attending the procession from the house to the cemetery is avoided. It need not be said that there are many cases, as, for example, that of a widow with a young family, left nearly destitute by the loss of her husband, in which this saving of expense may be a matter of serious consideration.

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