Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Holy Trinity Church Rothwell - Bone Crypt

Deep under the floor of the church, near the south door exists Holy Trinity’s crypt or Charnel House or even an ossuary if you prefer? This 13th century crypt lies beneath the south aisle and the nave and measures 9 metres by 4.5 meters and 2.5 metres high. It is believed to have been discovered around 1700. Local legend suggests that little was known about its existence until the day a hapless gravedigger fell into the crypt whilst working in the church many years ago.Falling some twelve feet through pitch darkness into a mass of bones was too much for the individual to bear, and it is reputed that he lost his mind through the incident, remaining that way until the day he died. More latterly, the crypt has been reorganised such that the skulls are now displayed on shelves around the walls, and the thigh bones displayed in two large square piles in the centre. The 13th century crypt contains the remains of around 1500 individuals.It is thought some were first buried in the churchyard and then moved at a later date.A second burial within the crypt possibly took place around 1580 when the adjacent Jesus Hospital was built on what was perhaps an old burial ground.

There are several theories made about the origins of the bones including;
  • They are from Danes slain in battle by the Saxons.
  •  Bones of men slain at Naseby battlefield in 1645 (eight miles away).
  • Bones of men slain at Bosworth battlefield 1485 (thirty miles away).
  • Remains of a monastic burial place.
  • Victims of a plague epidemic.

Pretty much all of these theories have been debunked by historians and researchers. The skulls do not show any injuries from the battlefield. Also in times of poverty and hardship who would spend money transporting dead bodies from the battlefield. Also there are know sites of mass burials at the battles mentioned above. Nobody with any sense would move plague victims bones from a lime pit into a Church crypt. Anyway the quantity looks much to large for a monastic burial even over several centuries.

Whatever the explanation and I very much doubt it is a sinister one, they do provide an extremely interesting experience.