Jeanette Pickersgill

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Jeanette Pickersgill (died March 20, 1885) was an English painter, born in Amsterdam, and the wife of the artist Henry Hall Pickersgill (died 7 January 1861). She was the first person to be legally cremated in the United Kingdom, at Woking Crematorium in Surrey.[1][2] She published a volume of poetry in 1827 entitled Tales of the Harem.[3] The Times described Pickersgill as "a well-known figure in literary and scientific circles".,[4] Pickersgill was cremated six days after her death.

Cremation and aftermath[edit]

The cremation took one hour and 15 minutes. The notes in the cremation register record that the remains were later taken, in the 20th century, to Golders Green Crematorium's East Columbarium. The great concern at the time was that the person may not be actually dead, and the thought of being burned alive was too shocking for the Victorians to contemplate. Due to this concern, two doctors certified that Pickersgill was dead.[5]

By year's end, only three cremations took place out of 597,357 deaths in the UK. At that time cremation was championed by the Cremation Society of Great Britain.[6] By 1901, with six crematoria established, only 427 cremations took place out of 551,585 deaths - less than one-tenth of one percent. However, by the end of the century (2000), over 240 crematoria were in use. Over 70% of the deceased were cremated (437,609 out of 611,960 deaths).[7]

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