Grave Robbing and Riot

On 3rd June 1862, a riot broke out Wardsend Cemetery after a crowd found a large hold in the ground containing coffins, both with and without bodies. Mr Isaac Howard, the sexton, was suspected of unearthing and selling bodies. Howard fled is home, whilst his house was set ablaze by the angry crowd.

During the inquiry that followed the riot, it was discovered that the Sheffield workhouse had been supplying the medical school with bodies for dissection, something that was legal at the time. They were, however, transporting the corpses in sacks, and the law required that coffins were to be used. After the corpses had served their purposes, the medical school was then disposing of the dissected bodies by sending them to Howard to be buried in wooden boxes.

Reverend John Livesey had also made false entries into the burial register, including the body of a young boy named James Greatorex. Livesey was sent to the York Assizes and bail was set at £750. Howard testified that he had indeed removed the bodies of some children from their graves but said that he was told to do so by Livesey. Livesey was then convicted and given one week imprisonment at his trial that same August. Howard was also found guilty and sentenced to a three month sentence. Livesey was subsequently pardoned by the Queen.



Profile Researched by Friends of Wardsend Cemetery and Leona Awoyele

Profile Written by Leona Awoyele