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Olde England Northampton

Rothwell

Rothwell Holy Trinity ChurchDeep under the floor of the church, near the south door exists Holy Trinity’s crypt or more correctly known as an ossuary or charnel house.
Local legend suggests that little was known about its existence until the day a hapless gravedigger fell into the crypt whilst working in the church many years ago.  Falling some twelve feet through pitch darkness into a mass of bones was too much for the individual to bear, and it is reputed that he lost his mind through the incident, remaining that way until the day he died.
More latterly, the crypt has been reorganised such that the skulls are now displayed on shelves around the walls, and the thigh bones displayed in two large square piles in the centre.

The secret of a 700-year-old bone crypt under a village church, which is stacked with hundreds of skeletons, has been solved by a team of scientists.

The 13th Century charnel chapel, one of only two in the UK, contains the remains of around a thousand people and has been shrouded in mystery for more than seven centuries.Rothwell Crypt Bones

Villagers have long believed the disarticulated skeletons at the Holy Trinity Church in Rothwell, Northamptonshire, were victims of the plague or soldiers from the nearby battle of Naseby.

Now research by experts at the University of Sheffield's Department of Archaeology suggests the crypt, which looks like something from a Hollywood horror film set, was a medieval monument for pilgrims and villagers who prayed among the bones of their ancestors.  Many people believed Rothwell Crypt Skullsit was used as a sort of rubbish bin to get rid of unwanted human remains, such as plague victims.

At one time there is believed to have been hundreds of bone crypts all over Britain, but they were lost during the Reformation. Since then stories have grown about who the skeletons are and why they got there.  The theories stemmed from 1700 and using modern scientific techniques to solve the medieval mystery, which include 800 human skulls.  The bones did not belong to soldiers as they are a mix of men and women and the marks which people thought were battle scars were actually made after they were dead and they are unlikely to have been plague victims as people who died from the plague were given the same burial rights as everyone else and no one would have wanted to dig them up and move them.   There had also been a rumour that the crypt only contained femurs and skulls, but in fact it contained complete skeletons at one time.Rothwell Crypt Skulls and Bones

There would probably have been hundreds of these crypts around the country at one time and they were a place for people to visit and pray for the dead.  The bones were probably moved into the crypt from graves, but they could have come from lots of different cemeteries.'

For hundreds of years people have had the wrong impression about the crypt and seen it as a horrible place, but for medieval people it would have been a religious place to visit, much like going to a grave today.