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Dealing with a corpse in Victorian times

Printed From: WorldHistoria Forum
Forum Name: Australia, SE Asia & Pacific
Forum Description: Discuss the history of SE Asia: Australia, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore etc..
Printed Date: 06 Dec 2021 at 05:23
Software Version: Web Wiz Forums 12.03 -

Topic: Dealing with a corpse in Victorian times
Posted By: Guest
Subject: Dealing with a corpse in Victorian times
Date Posted: 31 Mar 2018 at 15:15
I've struggle to find answers for this searching online while researching a novel I'm writing. 
I have a situation where a magistrate has died of a heart attack while visiting a wealthy landholder's property in the Australian countryside in the 1860s. It has happened at a time that makes it impossible to take the body into town until the next morning.
I'm wondering what would have been done with the body overnight.
At the moment, I've got them taking the body to the kitchen and placing it on the table to clean it and wrap it in blankets (on the basis that I've read about medical procedures and surgery happening on kitchen tables), but I'm not sure where they set it out to keep it overnight. Would they opt to use a spare bedroom, or keep it in an outer building like a stables or shed (my concern with the outside option is that scavengers might go for the body).
Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Posted By: Guest
Date Posted: 31 Mar 2018 at 19:08

You're not too far off the mark.

If the death occurred on a cattle or sheep station in the outback, the body would probably have been wrapped and taken to somewhere cool, like a secure shed-not too sure about the kitchen though!

As soon as possible, arrangements would have been made for it to be taken to a large town or city, where an autopsy or post mortem examination could be conducted, and arrangements made for burial.

In Tasmania, as recently as the 1960's/'70's, a provision of the Coroners Act made it compulsory for a room to be made available in licensed premises for storage of the body, until it could be taken to a city etc as mentioned above.

Going back to the first paragraph, if the death was too far from a town or city, it could possibly have been buried on the property, and the nearest trooper advised of the death when possible. A lot would depend on whether it was early in the period or later, where the death took place and so on.

Posted By: Guest
Date Posted: 31 Mar 2018 at 20:47
Thanks Toyomotor, that's really helpful.

Posted By: Guest
Date Posted: 01 Apr 2018 at 10:54
Your story is about a Magistrate who visits a wealthy landowners property.

Was he there in his official capacity?

Was he there as a friend of the property owner?

In either case, I don't think that he would have been too far from a big town or city, so if you ran with an overnight storage and conveyance to the town or city the following day, you'd be pretty close to the mark.

Good luck with the story.

Posted By: Guest
Date Posted: 01 Apr 2018 at 15:56
He's there in an official but corrupt capacity. The property is just out of the Blue Mountains town of Blackheath. In the story, the landowner plans to take the body to the army barracks in a town called Springwood, about an hour and a half away by horse and cart.

Posted By: Guest
Date Posted: 07 Apr 2018 at 16:05
When he hands the body over, if the troopers can't get a doctor to certify the cause of death, they might just bury him-if it's summer, he'll go off pretty quick.

Now, how about the cause of death? 
1. Did he just drop dead (Heart Attack/Stroke)? 
2. Was he poisoned? 
3. Was he stabbed or shot?

If it was 2 or 3, who is the offender?

If it was 1 then that makes things a bit harder for you and your story.

Now, if he was there to have his way with an underage Aboriginal girl, could one of the tribesmen have killed him?

Keep in touch, I'm interested. 

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