Buried in the loft: The legend of Henry Trigg and the Old Castle Inn

A story from the High Street

By John Birch

Henry Trigg's Coffin in the rafters of the barn behind the former Old Castle Inn
Stevenage Museum

In the early eighteenth century, Henry Trigg was a wealthy grocer, living in Stevenage. He was also a church warden at St Nicholas Church and, according to legend, one night he and two of his colleagues were passing the church when they were attracted by noise, and flickering lights coming from within the church grounds. Making their way to the surrounding wall they looked over and saw body snatchers, removing the remains of the newly-buried corpse for sale to surgeons and students in training at a medical school.

Such an effect

The sight had such an effect on Henry that he decided he would take all possible steps to ensure that such a fate did not befall him after his own individual death.

So, in his will Henry bequeathed all his earthly wealth to any friend and relatives on one condition however – his body must be “decently laid there [in the recipient’s house], upon a floor in the roof”.

After his death in 1724 his brother, The Rev Thomas Trigg, took on the responsibility and agreed to fulfil Henry’s request. Henry’s remains were sealed in a coffin and placed, on full view, among the rafters of the barn at No 37 High Street.

In 1774 the house became the Old Castle Inn – but Henry remained in place. In 1831, a new landlord Mr Bellamy, took over. His first task was to inspect the coffin. Henry, he confirmed, was still inside. A further check was made in 1906 when members of the East Hertfordshire Archaeological Society were allowed access to it. Their report shows that the coffin contained about two thirds of a human skeleton.


It is rumoured that during the First World War soldiers were stationed in the area and some may have taken home bones as souvenirs – or sold on some locals. The coffin, however, stayed in place – and was not totally empty, it seems, because in 1999 the new owners – the National Westminster Bank – demanded the removal of his bones, and it was reported that they were given a proper burial. The (now empty) coffin remains in place, however – and a Blue Plaque has been erected on to commemorate the story.

This page was added on 12/09/2012.

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  • During the war I lived with my grandparents on Haycroft Rd for a time. I was always told there was a body in the rafters of the Dun Cow pub on Letchmore Rd.
    I also attended a nursery school on Albert street.
    The land behind our cottage on Haycroft Rd was owned by a man we kids called Corkey and we were rather scared of him. There was a blacksmith on a footpath leading from Letchmore Rd to the back of the High St. Are there any photos? I am age 83.

    By a j oshea (23/10/2020)
  • That’s so interesting. I never knew about this when I lived in Stevenage. Peter Serle are you related to Maurice Serle who lived in The Dell as a boy in the early 60’s. In the New town.

    By Jan Wright nee Casey (28/03/2020)
  • Have just found this site, and was sad to read that Nat West is closing the Old Town branch in October 2015. I worked there during the 1990’s and have to say it was the best branch for staff and customers I experienced in my 28 years in the Bank. Many happy memories including when the bookies next door flooded and we had to supply them with dry notes while we took their sodden ones and hung them on our radiator pipes to dry. I hope the building is put to good use and Henry isn’t too upset.

    By Peter Searle (08/10/2015)
  • That was an interesting comment from David Trigg 

    I started my working life in this building Jan 1st 1962 .. It was Westminster Bank in those days … Later to become Nat West Unfortunately this branch is being closed in October 2015 …. This will be a very sad day for all of us who spent many years working there also the customers. In fact a sad day when it comes for Stevenage Old Town . The coffin is still there in the rafters of the barn out the back….. What will happen once the Bank has closed “remains” to be seen .! 

    By Barbara Cowan (21/08/2015)
  • Have an original unused postcard `as shown` on your page, noticed you have written TWIGG on the blurb, needs altering to TRIGG. My Grandfather John.W.Trigg was born in Sheffield, (he had witnessed as a child Queen Victorias visit to the Town Hall of that city) felt he had a family `link`with the Trigg in question, and obtained the postcard just after the First World War CYCLING from Bilsthorpe (Nottinghamshire) where he then lived, to Stevenage, and according to my own father (Richard Trigg) he stayed in a room in the pub in question, and viewed the remains. My own father, ( who died 9 years ago aged 93) continued the Trigg tradition of cycling on that very same `Trigg coffin Sunbeam cycle,` and cycled around Germany in 1938 staying in Youth Hostels, on the very same coffin bike as his father had used to visit Stevenage. He continued the tradition of buying postcards, and because he was abroad posted them home. War in Europe was looming in mid-1938 as he cycled around, staying in Youth Hostels. He witnessed `the night of glass` and had other memories. He arrived back in England via Harwich and the same bike then got him home to Bilsthorpe almost as War was being declared, a very near thing. The postcard which I have is dated 30th August 1938 with a Deutfches Reich 15 stamp and postmarked Kampraf, it reads ; “FROM SOMEWHERE IN GERMANY – HAVING THE TIME OF MY LIFE TOURING. THIS COUNTRY IS THE CYCLISTS DREAM, CASTLES, MOUNTAINS GOOD FOOD WINE AND BEER WITH LAUGHTER AND SONG.” He met my mother in 1941, and was married in 1942, I (David Trigg) was born a year later in Langold (Nottinghamshire), my father still rode the bike, and eventually I witnessed its sad departure when (then living in Saltburn-By-The-Sea (Yorkshire) he gave up cycling, and its sad last journey was from his home in Skelton-in-Cleveland when he rode it 2 miles to Saltburn Salerooms (and then got the bus home) The bike sold for 12/6d !!!!!

    By david trigg (07/04/2014)