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.