The Caged Lair

The first word in luxury when it came to protecting your loved ones against the work of the resurrectionist, the caged lair is essentially an iron cage which surrounded the final resting place of the rich.


Ramshorn Kirkyard, Glasgow. The caged lair of paper manufacturer James Russell, 1798. 

The sturdy iron barred fortress of the caged lair darkens the landscape of many kirkyards throughout Scotland. Examples consisting of iron bars fixed atop a stone framework have also survived, some in a better state than others.

Lairs line the kirkyard wall at St Cuthbert’s in Edinburgh and at the most famous kirkyard of them all – Greyfriars. The observant among you will spot the caged lair of William Inglis, Surgeon who died in 1792. Not that he was concerned about ending up on the dissecting table you understand!

Greyfriars, Edinburgh – Final resting place of a nervous surgeon perhaps?

Head out of the cities and you’ll find examples of caged lairs dotted through the Scottish landscape. Fenwick, in Ayrshire has a sorry looking example tucked away in the back corner of the kirkyard.

Fenwick Kirkyard. The sad, dilapidated caged lair that may soon be no more.

While the caged lair that survives in the East Lothian town of Dunbar is in a slightly better condition.

Dunbar Kirkyard. Sturdier than it looks, this really is quite an example.

This form of bodysnatching prevention will certainly send a chill down your spine when you see one. Head to Glasgow’s Ramshorn Kirkyard for the best examples, and while you’re there, spare a thought for poor Janet McAllaster who was snatched from her grave in 1813 and sent to the dissecting rooms in College Street, just round the corner from where you are standing.