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:
An extraordinary occurrence is stated to have happened this year at St Mary’s Church.
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:
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:
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.”