January 18, 1828

18/01/2019 all-day

A ‘resurrection man’ was shot in Bacton churchyard by a party of grave watchers. The ironically named Resurrection Men were known to raid churchyards for freshly buried corpses in order to supply them to doctors engaged in medical research.

This murky criminal trade came about as, by law, only the bodies of executed criminals could be dissected.
By the late 1820s it had become a serious issue in Norfolk. Groups of men would each night guard the graves of people who had recently been buried.

As the Norfolk Annals goes on, the grave robber “was in the act of disinterring the body of one James Howlett, who was accidentally killed a few days previously. The resurrectionist, although badly wounded, effected his escape in the darkness.”

In 1832 an Anatomy Act was passed. This made it legal to dissect unclaimed bodies and those donated by relatives to be used to study anatomy by licensed doctors. Among the first to volunteer his body was the utilitarian philosopher Jeremy Bentham. The resurrection trade ended almost overnight.