The Old Mortuary
- Original design
- Norman Scorgie, 1895
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Two sections and an elevation were drawn by Norman Scorgie, AMICE, MSE, surveyor to the vestry of St Mary, Rotherhithe in 1894.
T. White & Son, the cheapest of the eight builders who had submitted tenders for the building, were given official approval to erect a new burial ground on the site of the old one and began work on 5 June 1895.
Their brief was to erect and complete infectious and non-infectious mortuaries, a post mortem room and other buildings commensurate therewith, at a cost of £998. They only exceeded this amount by 11s 3d.
The cost of materials was as follows: foundations £53 4 2d; Scales £6 7s 7d; printing quantity and sundries £18 13s 1d and the plumber / carpenter was paid £10 6s 6d. On account of the buildings: £968 11s 3d. Scales, weights and measures were purchased for the post mortem room at a cost of £5.
On 5 November the Sanitary Committee visited and inspected the mortuary buildings which were now completed. The Surveyor's report passed the building as fit for use and he was instructed to take over from the builders.
The mortuary was opened to the inspection of the public up to and inclusive of the 9 November, and a notice was posted to that effect on the burial ground. 387 persons viewed it between 6-9 November.
It was placed in use for the reception of dead bodies on and from Monday 11 November 1895. It had taken just seven months to complete. There are no accounts in the vestry minutes of any hold-ups or mishaps and the builders seemed to have worked to schedule.
There were three sets of keys, one set for the Medical Officer of Health, one for the mortuary keeper and one for the Coroner's office. That office was not to let its set out of its possession without the permission of the mortuary keeper. Security was obviously considered of primary importance in the light of past problems.
On the 19 November the builders were placed in charge of the Sanitary Department.
Norman Scorgie reported to the vestry (in 1896) that the Non Infectious mortuary was 24ft x 20ft; the Infectious mortuary and Post Mortem rooms were 16ft x 16ft each; the Microscopic Room 8ft x 71/2ft. There was also a Viewing Lobby and Shell Room.
Scorgie said that the Mortuary was built in hard stock bricks, with band courses and arches in red facing bricks. The only external windows were on the north side, high up, and they had mullions and cills. The interiors were lined with glazed bricks for a height of 61/2 ft and with Keene's parian cement above, finished to a smooth surface. The roofs were constructed in pitch pine, stained and varnished, covered with Brosley tiles on tongued and grooved boarding, surmounted with lantern and side lights to open, fitted with approved open and closed gearing.
Floors were of cement, trowelled to a smooth surface, laid to proper falls, with perforated cast-iron channels down the centre of each, which discharged onto external siphon traps. Water was laid on to each of the rooms.
The Post Mortem Room had a rotary dissecting table, glazed slop sink and slate slab table. The Microscopic Room had a sink, slate table, lavatory basin and cupboard.
The viewing lobby was placed between the mortuaries, the walls lined with glazed bricks, the wrought iron roof with Mellowes' patent glazing and the floor laid in mosaic.
The Mortuary Yard was paved with tar macadam, surrounded with a brick wall and having entries 7ft wide on the east and south sides.
The drains were external, discharging into the the yard and connecting to a new 9in pipe laid by the vestry, which discharged into the main sewer opposite the parish church.
The original structure of the buildings remains unaltered. The iron girder, from which bodies fished from the Thames were suspended to be dried out can still be seen in the smaller meeting room (Old Post Mortem Room). The floor was a criss-cross of channels into which water drained. Probably both this and the larger, Non Infectious Disease Room, were used for this purpose.
from The Old Mortuary Rotherhithe: A brief History, Diana Rimel, Local History Librarian / Time & Talents
The Time & Talents Association has been involved in community development and social action in Rotherhithe and Bermondsey since 1887. It was started by a group of women who were appalled by the living and working conditions of women and girls in the dock areas of South London. They determined to give their time and talents to change the situation, and they and their successors fostered a great deal of innovative educational and social work from a variety of settlement and club premises over the next 100 years and more.
Today the Time and Talents Association runs a Multi-Purpose Neighbourhood Centre, open to all who live or work in the area. It is housed in a fascinating building – a former Mortuary that celebrated its centenary in 1995. The Centre's current work focuses particularly on Under-5s and over-50s, as these were identified as priorities in a market survey of community needs. It has also been acknowledged as a centre of excellence in the areas of reminiscence and local history The involvement of volunteers is an integral part of all work and projects.There is a thriving gardening project where local residents can get involved with growing their own produce & learn horticultural techniques