Life in Newburgh on Ythan

By Talpa

The morthouse door

This is the door to our local mort-house, an exceedingly solidly built, windowless vault, with massive walls and heavy wooden and metal doors, built to protect the dead from the 19th Century bodysnatchers and anatomists. To ensure the security of the dead within, the door had two locks, the two keys being kept by two different keyholders. To further frustrate the would be bodysnatchers, the keyholes are covered by two massive, hinged iron bands which would themselves be secured by a padlock. The padlock key would have been held by a third person!

Mort-houses are to be found mainly in the North-East of Scotland, stretching from Crail in the South to Marnock in the North. (The Irish built similar structures but referred to them as corpse-houses). Bodies were stored on shelves  in the mort-house until too decomposed to be of interest to the anatomists and were then retrieved and buried in the usual way.

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