Iron mortsafe lid, unsigned, British, 1801-1822
Bodies for dissection were in short supply in the early 1800s as only executed criminals could be dissected legally. In the United Kingdom, body-snatchers – also known as ‘resurrectionists’ – robbed the graves of the newly deceased, often in the middle of the night, and then sold the corpses on to anatomists.
Those that could afford them might have chosen to use heavy iron mortsafes such as this one to protect coffins and their occupants. First appearing around 1816, they came in a range of designs. In this example, the sheer weight of the lid was expected to put off even the most desperate body-snatcher.
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