The first known European crematoriums were built in 1878 in England and Germany. One year later, Sir Henry Thompson tested his crematorium using the body of a horse. Neighbours did not appreciate the cremation happening nearby and complained to the home secretary. In addition to the opposition of nearby residents, the home secretary feared cremation would be used by murderers to hide evidence of their crimes and forbid the practice altogether.In 1882, the council of the cremation society received a request from Captain Hanham to cremate his deceased wife and mother who had both left explicit instructions to that effect. The home secretary refused to make an exception and the society was unable to assist Captain Hanham in fulfilling his loved ones’ final wishes. Captain Hanham took matters into his own hands, building a crematorium and performing the cremation on his own estate with no consequence.
The process of legalizing cremation was further aided by a Welsh Neo-Druidic priest named William Price. After the death of his first child in 1884, Price cremated the boy’s body to avoid polluting the earth with a ground burial. He was arrested for illegal disposal of a body but created a precedent during his court case by pointing out that while the law did not state that cremation was legal, it also did not state that it was illegal.