A scary tale of cemeteries and coffins unearthed by the storm

This strange tale is just one of many which I have found in a little gem of a book entitled “The Date-Book of Remarkable Memorable Events Connected With Nottingham and Its Neighbourhood, 1750-1879”. Its author was  John Frost Sutton, and I have tried to make his account read a little bit more easily for the modern reader:

“December 1792
An extraordinary occurrence is stated to have happened this year at St Mary’s Church.

st mary engrav

It was necessary to improve the passageway at the side of the churchyard leading down towards the County Hall. This could not be done without taking down some houses, and the churchyard wall on the south side of the building; in order to widen the road, it was also necessary to dig away a part of the churchyard. The cemetery was much higher there than the street and when the wall was removed,  one night, a heavy shower of rain, washed away a considerable portion of the earth from the churchyard. In consequence of this, several coffins were left almost completely uncovered, and two or three of them fell out.

Here is a modern cemetery in South Carolina where exactly the same problem has occurred:

washed out graves

Back to the story:

Among these coffins was one which contained the remains of Mr William Moore, for some years landlord of the Black Swan public house, situated near the church. He had been dead for about twelve years.

The Black Swan used to stand in Goosegate. It was closed as a public house, and became a shop. This is the most recent picture of it that I can find:

black swan pub

Here is Goosegate, indicated, as always, by the orange arrow.  St Mary’s Church is indicated as a “Place of Worship” by the letters PW on High Pavement, towards the bottom of the map:


And now, back to the shattered coffin:

“The coffin being broken, there was observed in his remains a concretion not unlike a pumice stone, but rather whiter, and as large as the liver of an ox.”

It took me a very long time indeed to find out the weight of a complete ox liver, but I eventually decided that a pound, sixteen ounces or half a kilo would be roughly right:

“Mr William Moore, the landlord of the Black Swan, was a remarkable man for having a very large belly, which projected more on one side than the other:

He had often said to his friends, that he thought a hard substance was beginning to form within him when only 22 years of age, and this continued to grow slowly until the day of his death He died about the age of 70. He had also been heard to say that it gave him little pain, though he found it troublesome; and it is worthy of remark, that the ribs on the side of the concretion bowed very much outwards.

Three local Doctors, Dr Hodges, Dr Neville and Dr Ford had examined Mr Moore several times and he had promised that whichever of them survived him should have permission to perform a post mortem on his body. But as Mr Moore survived all three of the doctors, no post mortem examination was ever made. Nothing therefore but an accident could possibly have brought the concretion to light.”



Filed under History, Nottingham

19 responses to “A scary tale of cemeteries and coffins unearthed by the storm

  1. A most perplexing mystery. Hepatomegaly, perhaps caused by hepatitis? That would explain the discomfort in his belly, however, often in extreme cases such as this, one might expect to see jaundice, fatigue and weakness, nausea and weight loss. But not in all cases. The fact that he outlived his physician’s is somewhat ironic. Thanks for another interesting post John.

  2. An oddity of nature. There’s so much out there we know so little about. Unusual condition.

  3. Another interesting oddity from good old Nottingham.

  4. I knew an old lady who swallowed a fly, I don’t know why she swallowed a fly, perhaps she’ll die?

  5. There is a condition in medicine (and darn if I cannot recall the name right now) which is caused by too much alcohol and as a result the belly is very big. Many with this condition go into liver failure. Fascinating story, John. ❤

    • Thanks a lot for that, Amy. I hadn’t realised that. Alcohol is a huge problem over here nowadays with a long queue for liver transplants. What a foolish waste of your life!

  6. Ted

    I haven’t known many pub landlords, but he few I have run across all had beer bellies. Guess it goes with the job 😉

  7. Interesting story, made considerably better by the landlord outliving the doctors! 😉

  8. Funny and ironic story, Researching for the Ox liver weight – that is where I laughed out loud because that is something I would do too 🙂

    • Absolutely! I can’t really say though, that 16 oz of ox liver would be my idea of a wonderful meal. Actually, as I get older, I am finding that I want to eat meat less and less.

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