East Mersea Witch or Innocent Girl?
In the cemetery of St Edmund’s Church in East Mersea there lies an unusual grave…..
The grave of Sarah Wrench has an iron cage placed over the top. Local legend has it that the cage was positioned across her remains to stop her, an alleged witch, from escaping back into the world of the living.
The grave located on the north side of the church is where Sarah Wrench is buried. Little is known about Sarah who was fifteen years and five months when she died in 1848.
It has been thought that because her grave is on the north side of the church which is often the unconsecrated part where felons and suicides were placed, that Sarah was a witch. There are a few other unproven theories surrounding her death, one was that she had an illegitimate child or committed suicide. It is claimed that in life she was so feared that locals felt compelled to place an iron cage over her to stop her leaving the grave and troubling East Mersea residents.
The cage that covers her grave is called a mortsafe, this protects the grave from being dug up by resurrection men. Resurrection men otherwise known as body snatching is the secret disinterment of corpses from graveyards or other burial sites. A common purpose of body snatching, especially in the 19th century was to sell the corpses for dissection or anatomy lectures in medical schools.
A mortsafe was a contraption designed to protect graves from disturbance. They were more commonly used in Edinburgh mainly due to Burke & Hare’s notorious actions. After the 1832 Anatomy Act was passed meaning that other corpses could be dissected, with permission from the family or workhouse.
Sarah Wrench’s grave position and mortsafe is still shrouded in mystery and to this day has lots of people asking the same questions who was she and why is there an iron cage on her grave?
Information from various sources including Myths and Legends of Britain and Ireland by Richard Jones, Wikipedia and Kate Hardy’s Blogspot
This post has been categorised under: History.
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