The Watford Observer has teamed up with Watford Museum and its curator Sarah Priestley to take a journey back to the town’s past through items or places of historical significance.

The sixth item in ‘a history of Watford in 50 objects’ dates back to a little known but grisly period in the town’s past when it had a terrible reputation for bodysnatching.

This involved the secret removal of corpses from burial sites. The purpose of this, particularly during the 19th Century, was to sell them for dissection or anatomy lectures in medical schools.

The notice above is taken from a calendar of the East Quarter Sessions in St Albans in 1822 that was recently donated to the museum. It details the trial of a ‘Resurrection Man’ who was convicted of stealing a body from a Watford churchyard.

Sarah said: “Watford was notorious because of its close proximity to London and transport links.

“We were a stagecoaching point with travellers and parcels constantly passing through the town, so it was relatively easy to commit the crime to serve the growing need for bodies of the London medical colleges.

“So fearful were the people of the theft of their loved one’s remains that if they couldn’t afford a heavy cover for a fresh grave they often paid someone to still be in the graveyard all night to keep guard.”

Watford Museum has reopened to the public. You can visit on Saturdays at present with pre-booking essential. Housed in the former Benskins Mansion, the Grade II listed building holds treasures of Watford history from Cassiobury to printing to Watford Football Club. To find out more, visit