It’s hard to conceive, but 1848 was an even worse time to be dead than usual.
A cholera outbreak had recently swept through London, killing almost 15,000. Burial space was non-existent; as little as 300 acres had been allocated for the capital’s needs and space was tight even without an epidemic. During the winter of 1848, the graveyards reached saturation point...
... By the time the 1848 cholera epidemic came along, it was clear something needed to be done: the city needed a cemetery to suit the times, operating on an industrial scale. It was at this time the problem came to the attention of Sir Richard Broun.
Broun was fascinated by the recently-emerged technology of steam trains. In 1848, Waterloo Station had only just been opened, and the railways themselves were still considered something of a novelty. Broun, along with his partner Richard Sprye, concocted a plan to ease the overcrowding issue with the help of this new invention. Buying up a 1,500 acre site outside Woking, they proposed the creation of a dedicated railway of the dead: a line (serviced by London & Southwest Rail) used for the sole purpose of transporting the deceased from London to ‘Brookwood Cemetery’ for burial.