Bodysnatching mystery deepens

A mystery about who robbed a coffin in a vault in the crypt at St Mary the Virgin in Overton Drive has deepened after visitors were once again allowed to go beneath the church.

One of the vaults, pictured above,  was believed to have been robbed in the 1950s, probably for the thick lead which was placed around the 19th century coffins. But a visitor to the crypt during the Open House London event on Saturday told church officials that he had been a chorister at the church in the 1950s, and said that the vault had been long-robbed by that stage.

This raises the possibility that the robbery happened much earlier than had been thought, and possibly even closer to the time of the original interrment. Bodysnatching was known to occur, as is indicated by the presence of a watchman’s sentry box in the churchyard.

So the question remains whether there are any remains in the coffins. Further investigations may now take place.

There are more opportunities to visit the church and crypt on Sunday as Open House London continues.

  • While the threat of partial closure of St Mary’s remains strong – a proposal which would mean an end to 800 years of weekly worship on the site – attendance at services has increased to more than 60 over the summer. This figure puts it at or near the average figure for Church of England congregations, and would appear to deal a blow to the argument that weekly services should cease. Parishioners are keenly fighting the proposal.

7 Comments on "Bodysnatching mystery deepens"


  1. I’d be sad to see the closure of St Mary’s. Not that I care about the Christian church or any of its monuments, but one of my dearest friends (now deceased) was married there back in the early sixties, and I can still see her in my mind’s eye in her white dress, walking up the aisle on her father’s arm, with her little sister, who resembled her closely, following in a dress identical in design but bright primrose yellow.


  2. Apparently they open the crypt to visitors every five years. I spotted it by chance, three years ago as I’d decided to walk to Leytonstone. I had seen posters for it but had actually forgotten. It was very interesting.
    It would be a terrible shame if they closed it as it’s part of the history of Wanstead & a Grade II listed building, built in the late eighteenth century. From where I live, I can hear the bells ring, every fifteen minutes, & it’s evocative of a bygone eta. That part of Wanstead feels like the countryside, & you can really forget you’re in Greater London.

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