Iron mortsafe lid

Made:
1801-1822 in United Kingdom
maker:
Unknown

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Iron mortsafe 1801-1822. Full view, 3/4 gallery shot.
Science Museum Group Collection
© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

Iron mortsafe 1801-1822. Side view, gallery shot.
Science Museum Group Collection
© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

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.

Details

Category:
Anatomy & Pathology
Object Number:
A600162 Pt1
type:
mortsafe
status:
Loan: Wellcome Trust

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