Burial of Drowned Persons Acts 1808 and 1886

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The Burial of Drowned Persons Act 1808, also known as Grylls' Act, is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom (citation 48 Geo III c.75). The act provides that unclaimed bodies of dead persons cast ashore from the sea should be removed by the churchwardens and overseers of the parish, and decently interred in consecrated ground. This act was amended by the Burial of Drowned Persons Act 1886 (citation 49 & 50 Vict c.20), to extend its applicability to bodies found in, or cast on shore from, all tidal or navigable waters.[1]

The passage of the 1808 act was one of the consequences of the wreck of the Royal Navy frigate HMS Anson in Mount's Bay in 1807. Prior to the passage of this act it was customary to unceremoniously bury drowned seamen without shroud or coffin and in unconsecrated ground. However the burial in this manner of the many dead from the Anson, and the length of time that many of the bodies remained unburied, caused controversy and led to a local solicitor, Thomas Grylls, drafting a new law to provide more decent treatment for drowned seamen. This law was introduced to parliament by John Hearle Tremayne, Member of Parliament for Cornwall, and was enacted in 1808.[2]

A monument to the drowned sailors, and to the passing of Grylls' Act, stands near the entrance to the harbour of Porthleven. The construction of this harbour was another of the consequences of the loss of the Anson.[3][4]


  1. ^ Little, James Brooke (1902). The Law of Burial: Including All the Burial Acts as Modified Or Affected by .. Shaw. Retrieved 2009-09-04. 
  2. ^ Hitchins, Fortescue (1824). Samuel Drew, ed. The history of Cornwall: from the earliest ..., Volume 2. William Penaluna. p. 607. Retrieved 2009-09-04. 
  3. ^ Schofield, Edith (2009). Cornwall Coast Path (third ed.). Trailblazer Publications. ISBN 978-1-905864-19-5. 
  4. ^ "History of Porthleven in Cornwall". www.porthleven-online.com. Neil Smith. Retrieved 2009-09-04.