Saturday, 11 July 2009


Mortsafes were a uniquely Scottish invention. They were invented to deter the rampant bodysnatching or graverobbing that was going on in the early 18th and 19th centuries.

The bodysnatching started as a means of procuring corpses for medical students to use in their studies of anatomy and physiology. This was a particularly heinous crime during a time of deep religious sentiment, when death was a common thing and people believed they absolutely needed their physical body intact in order to gain entrance to heaven.

The Mortsafe was invented in 1816. These huge, expensive iron cages were placed over the graves of individuals by family and friends intent on protecting their loved one's body from the horrible 'resurrectionists'.

Many of these graveyards were also equipped with watch towers, where members of the church would take turns keeping watch at night for any suspicious figures lurking in the dark near a freshly buried corpse.

Unfortunately during World War I many of these Mortsafes were destroyed by town members salvaging any scrap metal they could to assist in the war efforts. I have had the luck of coming across several wonderful examples of Mortsafes, some of which resemble bird cages, the doors now rotted off the hinges and laying in the tomb itself.

All four pictures were taken by myself on visits to various old graveyards around the country.

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