Enon Chapel

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Enon Chapel was located on Clement's Lane (today St. Clement's Lane) near the Strand in London and was built around 1823. The upper part was dedicated to the worship of God, the lower part to the burial of the dead. The two parts were separated by a board floor. In 1839 the remains of thousands of bodies were found in a vault beneath Enon Chapel. They were the collection of a corrupt Baptist minister who had promised that, for a bargain fee of 15 shillings, he could provide burials.

To do this he crammed the bodies into a 12 ft by 59 ft pit. Apparently, worshippers breathed in the noxious fumes of rotting flesh from the burial room below for 17 years before the hoard of bodies was discovered. People praying in the church regularly experienced fainting and sickness due to the stench from the decaying corpses a few inches below their feet.

This scandal contributed to burial reform in the Burial Act 1852, which closed burial grounds within metropolitan London and allowed the establishment of large cemeteries in the then surrounding countryside in the mid-19th century.

According to George Sanger's "Seventy Years a Showman" (1910), the building was licensed for burials in 1823, which continued till the minister died in early 1842, by which time 12,000 people had been buried there. After it was closed, new owners covered the existing wooden floor with a single brick floor, in turn covered in a new wooden floor, and opened the premises as a "low dancing-saloon".

An old bill shows that dancing on the dead was one of the attractions of the place;

"Enon Chapel - Dancing on the Dead - Admission Threepence. No lady or gentleman admitted unless wearing shoes and stockings".

The scene was caricatured by Cruikshank.

In 1848, a Mr George Walker, a well-known surgeon, bought the chapel and at his own expense of £100 had the bodies removed to West Norwood Cemetery where they were reburied in a single grave twelve feet square and twenty feet deep. He then sold the chapel on and George Sanger, the circus impresario, briefly took the lease (December 1850) and fitted it out as a theatre for pantomime and circus. However, after being informed by the police that George Walker had not quite finished the job and that the remains of the minister, amongst others, were still there, Sanger rapidly moved out.

According to Sanger, the Law Courts now stand on part of the site.

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Coordinates: 51°30′52″N 0°7′2″W / 51.51444°N 0.11722°W / 51.51444; -0.11722