Sunday, 25 March 2012

Tower Bridge mortuary

Today, about 50 bodies a year are recovered from the Thames. In the Victorian period, the number was much higher: more river activity and fewer people able to swim meant more drownings, the river was a popular spot for suicides, and there are suggestions that people too impoverished to bury their relatives might throw the corpse into the river instead. 

Tidal movement meant that bodies tended to wash up at certain spots on the river, and one of these was Dead Man's Hole alongside Tower Bridge. It was logical, then, for the bridge to contain an unusual facility: a mortuary, in the north pier. With the tide lapping at the steps, and the bulk of the bridge looming overhead, it must have been a fairly sinister location for those identifying the dead. 

Although it is no longer in use, the entrance to the mortuary is still visible. It is now used as a storage space; bodies are taken to Wapping Police Station a little way down the river. 

1 comment:

HughB said...

50 bodies a year? That's quite a number. It sounds as though it is still possible to make a living fishing bodies out of the river as in "Our Mutual Friend"!