East Mersea - Sarah Wrench
Grave of Sarah Wrench on north side of East Mersea Church. She died 6 May 1848, aged 15 yrs 5 months. The grave is protected by an iron cage or mortsafe, which is normally used to stop grave-robbers. The grave is on the north side of the church - which in earlier centuries had been regarded as the 'Devil's side', used for the burials of excommunicants, suicides and the unbaptised. A story has evolved that the poor girl was a witch and that the cage was there to stop her leaving her grave after death. Although the last person to be incarcerated for witchcraft in Great Britain was in 1944, the witchcraft accusation seems to be a fanciful urban myth. A more likely explanation is that when she died (cause unknown), her body was given a place alongside the many relatives from the family Croyden who lived at East Mersea Hall and are interred in the same part of the church-yard. The description of the cage as a mort-safe is also suspect. The Anatomy Act of 1832 had obviated the need for grave-robbing - allowing medical schools to get legal supplies of cadavers from the workhouses. As a durable strong material, iron was in fashion in Victorian times, and is frequently seen in local churchyards as gravemarkers. It is possible that this unusual iron construction was simply a 'modern' form of monument in the shape of the traditional bodystone.