Resurrectionists at Work
This incident happened at a time when anatomists found it difficult to get human bodies for medical research. This happened in the same year that William Burke was hung for murdering 15 people in Edinburgh in order to get fresh bodies ...
EXHUMATION OF A DEAD BODY.
...James Finder, a labourer, residing at Harpenden, deposed that he had left home at about five o'clock in the morning to go to Mr. Fowler's, at Simberlock-green. When he reached the St Alban's road, from Staker's-lane, he observed a cart, driven by the prisoner Jerome, and behind which the other prisoner Holloway was walking. He had not long proceeded down the road, when the smell of something offensive came towards him, as from the cart; he thought it that of a putrid corpse, and suspected the prisoners to be resurrection-men.
Shortly afterwards he was overtaken by his brother Thomas [Finder], to whom he communicated his suspicions. They increased their pace until they arrived at Mr. Fowler's, where they were going to work. They informed Mr. Fowler of the circumstance, and when the cart came up the gentleman told the men to stop; they refused, but witness and others took hold of the horse's head. The cart was then searched, and a male corpse (that of a very elderly man) was found in a sack under a quantity of straw. Witness assisted in conveying the corpse to St Peter's workhouse [St Albans].
Thomas Foster, an elderly man, deposed that he was sexton of the parish of Luton; saw Mr. John Deacon that morning in the church-yard, and observed that a grave had been disturbed in the night; the body of William Gilman was buried there on the 2nd instant (13 days since); the grave was not much disturbed; should have thought the cows had trampled over it, cows being allowed to graze in the church-yard; has seen the corpse since it has been in St Peter's workhouse; knows it to be that of the late William Gilman, with whom he had been acquainted for upwards of 45 years; the shroud and coffin were left behind; the lid of the coffin was taken entirely off, and all the screws taken out; it had been forced open at the shoulders; is sure he had never seen the prisoners before; nor ever received any money from them.
The witness Finder and his brother stated that they saw the prisoners about the same spot three or four days back. They were driving a cart very heavily loaded, and the smell was then offensive. The repetition of this circumstance prompted them to act as they had done. Mr. Yardley observed that their conduct should not go unrewarded.
The Times of 25th November 1823, reprinted from the County Chronicle
<<< Back <<< Index >>> Next >>>
If you can add to the information given above please tell me.
Virginia Kennington (virgini.kk @t virgin.net) of Hemel Hempstead writes: I am a Blue Badge Guide to the city of St. Albans and am currently creating a crime & punishment walk, for the Museum of St. Albans which will be putting on an exhibition next January. I am interested in the account from the Times newspaper dated 25th Nov 1823. John Jerome & Holloway were apprehended with a 2 week old body. Do you have any further info,
The above extract is only part of the published account, and you should be able to see the full report in The Times on microfilm at the Hertfordshire County Council's Library Store at New Barnsfield, Hatfield.
Hertfordshire County Records (Volume 4) records that during the Epiphany Sessions 1824, in the Liberty of St Albans Division, John Jerome and John Holloway were ordered to be sent to Bedford for trial - and there are relevant records at HALS.
There may well be records of the trial at the Bedfordshire Records Office.
There is a grave board recording another case of grave robbery at St Giles, Codicote.
The following report of the case was reported on the soc.genealogy.britain newsgroup on 4th December, 2010
The Morning Chronicle, Tuesday, November 18, 1823
EXHUMATION OF A DEAD BODY
At a weekly meeting of the Magistrates of the
Borough of St. Alban's, and the County of Hertford, in the Town
Hall of that place, on Saturday last, present - the Earl of
Verulam, Sir William Domville, Bart., Rev. Dr. Bowen, Rev. Mr.
Gape, Mr. Brown (Mayor), and Mr. Kinder.
William Gilman, aged 75, was buried 2 Nov
Page updated May 2007