Anti-bodysnatching grill, Saint Joseph's Cemetery


Anti-bodysnatching grill

In the early 1800s many people in Ireland and Britain feared the activities of grave robbers who stole the bodies of the recently buried. The body snatchers were known as 'resurrection men'. Some of the grave robbers were looking for valuables which might have been buried with the corpses but many stole the bodies to supply doctors who were interested in human anatomy. The anatomists were frustrated at the lack of bodies for their investigations.

Different means were used to thwart the activities of the 'resurrection men'. They included burying bodies in backyards or in cellars until the corpses could no longer be used for anatomical research, mounting armed guards over recently buried bodies, or erecting anti-bodysnatching grills over graves. The photo shows an example of such a grill in Saint Joseph's Cemetery in Ballyphehane.

The Anatomy Act of 1832, which allowed the bodies of paupers who died in workhouses to be used for anatomical research, helped to end the activities of the body snatchers.

Burke and Hare, the two most notorious grave robbers, were active in Edinburgh in the 1820s. They eventually turned to murder rather than grave robbing to supply the anatomists with bodies.

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