Diary of a Resurrectionist, Friday 6th December 1811

Friday 6th
Removed 1 from Barthol. to Carpue. At night went out and got 8, Danl. at home all night. 6 Back St. Lukes & 2 Big Gates : went 5 Barthol, 1 Frampton 3 St . Thomas’s, (1 Harnig??) 3 Wilson. J

Miss M. A. Trowser

Distributed 1, raised 8, distributed 12 bodies. Danl (Butler) did not go out; was home all night, Removed one from St Bartholomews to Carpue.

Took one of the bodies in store to Carpue; Joseph Constantine Carpue was one of London’s top surgeons. He had a private anatomy school on Dean Street in Soho, where he continue a course of lectures into the 1830s, and he was associated with St George’s hospital. Carpue was an interesting, eccentric man who had had many prospective careers before he settled on doing surgery, such as the Catholic priesthood, book selling and acting (he was a great Shakespeare enthusiast and campaigned for a great statue of Shakespeare to be erected at the mouth of the Thames). It was partly Carpue’s eccentricity and partly his position as a private lecturer which often left him excluded by his peers

In surgery, he is probably most famous for his successful demonstration of the Indian rhinoplasty in London and his publications on the subject of the reconstruction of the nose. However, he is also famous for aiding in the settling of a debate between Royal Academy artists Benjamin West, Thomas Banks and Richard Cosway concerning the realism of anatomical depictions of crucifixtion. Carpue and Banks took the still-warm body of executed murderer James Legg, hung it from the cross and let it settle into position and cool; then Carpue flayed it and Banks made a cast of it.

The cast can still be seen today in the collection of the Royal Academy schools and was part of an exhibition of anatomical art ‘Spectacular Bodies’

Back St Lukes; James Blake Bailey proposes that could have referred to St Luke’s Church which was in Old Street. Isabella Basil Holmes agrees, and ‘back’ might have referred to the additional portion of the burial ground in the churchyard in Old Street.

St Luke’s originally opened in 1733, it was eventually absorbed back into the parish of St Giles-without-Cripplegate, which it had been created to relieve, in 1959 and it was finally closed in 1964. In 2011, it is a concert venue belonging to the London Symphony Orchestra. A 2001 documentary ‘Changing Tombs’, featuring the work of the London Necropolis Company concerns the exhumation of the burials from St Luke’s crypts and their removal to Brookwood during it’s restoration for the LSO.

A second location proposed by James Blake Bailey and Isabella Holmes is the poor ground at the back of St Luke’s Hospital for Lunatics. Opened in 1750 and also located on Old Street by the 19th century, the hospital had a magnificent facade and was not far from St Luke’s church.

Both would make sense; both St Luke’s have a burial ground at the back – it isn’t possible to definitively say which Naples meant.

However, there was also a St Luke’s Workhouse in the same area, and on January 28th 1805, the Times reported that a gang of some seven Resurrectionists (only one of whom was apprehended), were disturbed while working the old Pest House Burying Ground on the night of the 22nd January, the ground being then used by the workhouse.

The name of the man who was caught was William Lyons (according to the charges against him in the sessions rolls) and it is not a name associated with those in Naples’ circle or given by any of the surgeons who talked about resurrectionists. But it could have been a psudenom. A gang of seven is considerable, and given the date and the location, it’s not impossible that Naples and the rest of the Borough gang could have been the mysterious ones who got away. It can never be known.

Big Gates; unidentifiable

5 to Bartholomew’s; St Bartholomew’s Hospital

Frampton is Dr Algernon Frampton (1776 -1842) , one of the physicians of the London Hospital.

3 bodies went to St Thomas’s (which would have been to Cline or even Cooper)

and 3 went to Wilson; James Wilson (1765-1821) was one of the surgeon anatomists teaching at the Windmill Street School (the school which had in their lifetime been John and William Hunter’s school). In 1862, the BMJ (in it’s life of Benjamin Brodie, another great man who had been a pupil of Wilson’s) described Wilson as “one of those great teachers of the early part of this century…” A quote from a lecture found in the back of a manuscript of the lectures of Willaim Cruikshank and Matthew Baillie, by William Clift, has Wilson giving advice to students on how to conduct an autopsy; repeated in ‘With words and knives: learning medical dispassion in early modern England‘  By Lynda Ellen Stephenson Payne;

“…If the cavities have water in them or you have taken any part out, should fill up again with bran or sawdust to prevent them [relatives] from thinking you have taken away any part”…

By 1800, Wilson was the sole proprietor of the Windmill Street School, but by 1811, the year of the diary, he had (due to the growing scope of his actual surgical practice) sold a stake in the school to his pupil Brodie, and they shared the lecturing.

After ‘St Thomas’, the apparent words 1 Harnig (very hard to read correctly) are crossed out with a single stroke, as is the lady’s name (which is the first of many of these to appear). The woman’s name is hard to read as the apparent ‘g’ of ‘Harnig'(?) runs down into it. Harnig (Hornig/Harnige) is later identified as a demonstrator at St Thomas’s.

On many of the pages in the early entries, Naples wrote women’s names, and then crossed them out. It is  impossible to read many of them as he was quite thorough, but I have done my best at guessing at them. No one knows, or can know now, who the women were, or why their names are in the manuscript…but there are a lot of different ladies.


About theresurrectionists

My name is Kirsty Chilton. I am a Medical Historian working in London and relentlessly searching for the body snatchers of 18th and 19th century London. Currently, the content of this blog is a personal project to repost and comment on the diary of 19th century Resurrectionist Joseph Naples 200 years from the time it was written.
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2 Responses to Diary of a Resurrectionist, Friday 6th December 1811

  1. Carla says:

    Hi, I’d really like to get in touch regarding you giving a talk at our pathology museum in London – could you get in touch at all? Thanks, Carla

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