Evidence of grave robbery found in the Midlands

Archaeologists survey their findings Credit: Sandwell Council

Evidence of grave robbery has been discovered in the Black Country, after a 19th century burial ground was excavated in West Bromwich.

Archaeologists studying the site of the former graveyard in Sandwell Road found a mortsafe - a metal contraption placed around a coffin to stop grave robbers stealing a body.

It is thought to be the only example of a mortsafe recorded in the Midlands.

Empty coffins and one filled with scrap metal were also discovered - presumably victims of the bodysnatchers.

It has been conserved and is now in the collection of Sandwell Museums.

Grave robbery was common in the 18th and early 19th century when the corpses were sold for dissection in medical schools.

Bodies were needed to learn about anatomy - and the gruesome trade led the so-called "resurrection men" to target grave yards.

West Bromwich would have been a prime target for the grave robbers supplying the anatomy and medical schools that were being set up in Birmingham in the late 1700s.

After the excavation, the remains from the 148 graves were removed and given a Baptist burial in Heath Lane cemetery.