An Account of the Watch-houses, Mortsafes, and Public Vaults in Aberdeenshire Churchyards, formerly used for the Protection of the Dead from the Resurrectionists

James Ritchie (Author)


Keyword(s):
Vaults, Public Vaults, Graves, Iron Latticework, Coffin, Vault
Period(s):
1832

Abstract


An account is given of the activities of the resurrectionists, the prevailing attitudes towards them and some of the measures taken to prevent the theft of corpses. A number of surviving or recently demolished watch-houses, mortsafes and public vaults and some of the legends attached to them are described. Watch-houses were shelters used overnight by those guarding newly dug graves. The simplest form of mortsafe was a heavy stone placed on top of a coffin. A more effective form of mortsafe was a coffin-shaped stone with iron lattice-work to a depth of about 18 inches all round it on the lower side, which effectually prevented interference with the coffin. In addition, strong vaults were built in some of the churchyards, where the coffins could be stored until it would be safe to lay them in their final resting-place in the churchyard. The regulations for the management of a vault at Udny are reproduced. The watch-houses, mortsafes and vaults gradually fell out of use after the passing of the Anatomy Act in 1832.

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Published
30-11-1912
How to Cite
Ritchie, J. (1912). An Account of the Watch-houses, Mortsafes, and Public Vaults in Aberdeenshire Churchyards, formerly used for the Protection of the Dead from the Resurrectionists. Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, 46, 285-326. Retrieved from http://journals.socantscot.org/index.php/psas/article/view/7240
Section
Articles