For the sake of 10 minutes…

Cobbled entrance to High Bradfield Church

At one o’clock in the morning on 6th February 1820, Charles Greaves was called out of his bed to investigate suspicious movement in the churchyard at High Bradfield.  

The sight of a carriage standing 200 yards from the church would have aroused enough suspicion in itself, but on entering the churchyard, Greaves noticed a man standing in the recently filled grave of Joseph Fox.

The body snatcher, identified as Joseph Hall, was seen throwing soil out of Fox’s grave in an attempt to disinter his body.  Being noticed, Hall fled the scene throwing the tools of his trade into a neighbouring field. 

Hall’s accomplices escaped that night, but Hall was caught, having been overtaken and secured no less than 60 yards away from Fox’s grave. Upon being seized, Hall stated that ‘if they had been 10 minutes later, he would have had the corpse out of the grave and got off with it.

The exposed churchyard at High Bradfield 

Two witnesses confirmed that they had seen Hall standing by the grave side during the internment. Perhaps this was when Hall noticed that owing to an overly large stone, the depth of the grave was unusually shallow – not more than four feet in depth. 

At the Pontefract Sessions, Joseph Hall was found guilty of attempting to disinter the body of Joseph Fox and sentenced to six months imprisonment. 

It is not known what Hall was planning to do with the body of Joseph Fox. The medical school in Sheffield, less that 7 miles away, would probably have welcomed a ‘fresh’ cadaver to work on, but then again, what was stopping the body from being boxed and shipped out to the medical students in Edinburgh or London…