Nostalgia: The body snatchers

PUBLISHED: 11:54 29 March 2007 | UPDATED: 11:43 06 May 2010

77 High Street and the site of Carrington’s Yard; in 2005, just before demolition of the corner building.

77 High Street and the site of Carrington’s Yard; in 2005, just before demolition of the corner building.

BODY snatching was prevalent in the 19th century to provide corpses for anatomists and surgeons necessary research to understand how the human body works. Courts were often lenient, recognising the need for this research. In Biggleswade, there was an

St Andrew’s Church 1849

BODY snatching was prevalent in the 19th century to provide corpses for anatomists' and surgeons' necessary research to understand how the human body works.

Courts were often lenient, recognising the need for this research.

In Biggleswade, there was an attempt made to snatch a body in 1826.

The vicar, the Rev Robert George Sucklin Brown, conducted a funeral in St Andrew's churchyard on December 6.

On the same day three people visited William Carrington, a carrier, to enquire what time his wagon would set off for London.

They said they would have two boxes to send and would have them ready for 4.30am the next morning.

William was suspicious and contacted the vicar, who, with other neighbours and the watchman, agreed to wait for the men.

The suspects arrived at 4.30am with a large deal box which was corded and screwed.

As soon as they entered William's yard he ordered the gates to be locked and would not allow the box to be put in the wagon unless it was opened in his presence.

When they refused, he began to uncord the box.

As this happened, Mr Webb the watchman saw two of the men jump over the yard paling and escape.

Two men were caught and taken to the Catherine Wheel public house on The Market Square by a constable.

They were then both taken back to the yard, and as soon as it was daylight the parish constable opened the box.

Inside was a corpse in a fresh and perfect state, which appeared to be recently disinterred.

There was a quantity of sawdust.

George Lester and William Smith, both labourers, were convicted at Bedford Assizes "for entering the churchyard at Biggleswade, and breaking open the grave of one John Cooper, lately interred, and carrying away the body."

They were sentenced to pay a fine of £10 each, and to be imprisoned in the common gaol for three months.

Carrington's Yard was in Rose Lane behind 1-5 Stratton Street (now 77 to 81 High Street).

It is a relatively short distance from St Andrew's churchyard and the box containing the body could have easily been wheeled there on a barrow.


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