A building used to store dead people before they were buried has received Grade II listed status.
The 19th century reception house at Margravine Cemetery in Hammersmith was awarded the listing by Heritage Minister Tracey Crouch today (Friday, October 28).
The building was used to address the repeated cholera outbreaks in London between 1832 and 1866, and is the only one of its kind remaining in London.
Ruth Savery, secretary of The Friends of Margravine Cemetery, is delighted with the accolade. She said: “We’re proud to have this fascinating piece of local history in Margravine Cemetery to add to our three listed monuments.
“It’s remarkable how well the reception house has survived and we’re delighted it is gaining this recognition.”
The reception house was built following a review of sanitary conditions of the poor by Edwin Chadwick, secretary to the Poor Law Commission.
He found that most families could not afford a funeral. As a result a cadaver was often left on a table in the house while money was raised for a funeral, but this contributed to the spread of cholera throughout London.
Chadwick called for reception houses to be built to house coffins between death and the funeral to prevent the spread of disease.
The reception houses also addressed a common fear at the time of being buried alive, with "waiting mortuaries" common across continental Europe, where bodies would be held until signs of decomposition were evident.
Heritage Minister Tracey Crouch said: “This reception house gives us a glimpse into how cholera outbreaks changed Victorian attitudes to burials and public health standards. It’s an important part of London’s history and I’m delighted that it will be listed.”
The Margravine reception house survives in its original condition with its interior remaining largely untouched, and still contains stone slabs on the walls to hold the coffins.
The decision to list the building was based on its rarity, architectural interest and for adding to the understanding of Victorian funeral practices and improvements in public health.
Roger Bowdler, Director of Listing at Historic England, said: “The history of death is the history of life as well: of how we remember, how we improve public health, and how we separate the living from the dead.
“Nowhere tells this as eloquently as a cemetery, and Margravine Cemetery contains some truly eloquent reminders of the London way of death.”
A total of nine reception houses were built in the capital, but they became unnecessary with the introduction of undertakers in 1880s.