This is a grave from the Victorian age when a fear of zombies and vampires was prevalent. The cage was intended to trap the undead just in case the corpse reanimated.
I have a feeling that I’ll be buried beneath one of these.
Whilst there was undeniably an interest in all things ‘vampiric’ during the late Victorian period, these cages are called mortsafes and were designed, by and large, to protect against ‘Resurrection Men’ - nocturnal gangs of grave-robbers.
These unscrupulous characters dug up freshly-interred corpses and sold them on to anatomists for dissection. The burgeoning science had created a market in dead bodies, with demand regularly outstripping supply. Interestingly, the theft of a body was not considered a criminal offence, unless the shroud in which the body had been wrapped had also been taken!
Invented in c.1816, the cages were put in place by relatives of the deceased so as to guard against the disturbance of the body at a time when many people believed in its literal resurrection on the Day of Judgement - to be dissected was therefore to put the very soul in jeopardy. They are most common in Scotland, which was rife with body-snatching, as illustrated by the infamous case of Burke and Hare.
Rich families could afford their own mortsafes, but others clubbed together to form societies that would purchase a mortsafe that would be used temporarily until a body had reached a suitably decomposed state that would render it useless to anatomists. The mortsafe could then be reused by another family.
The introduction of the Anatomy Act in the 1830s finally secured a steady, legal, supply of bodies for the purposes of anatomisation - through the corpses of executed criminals and others on the margins of society, most notably the insane, prostitutes, suicide victims and orphans. The use of mortsafes therefore waned as fear of the Resurrectionists subsided.