The Library of Nineteenth-Century Photography

 
 
 
The ossuary at St Leonard's, Hythe

The ossuary at St Leonard's, Hythe


An albumen print showing a view of the ossuary, or charnel house, in the crypt of St Leonard's church in Hythe, Kent.

The church claims to have 'the largest and best preserved collection of ancient human bones and skulls in Britain'. Quite how they came to be there, no one is certain and various theories have prevailed over the years. According to a drawing dated 1787, the bones were supposed to be those of 'Danish pirates slain in battle, while a handwritten footnote on an 1860s illustration referred to them as 'men who fell in the battle of Hastings'. Another theory claimed that they were Anglo-Saxons killed in battle; it has also been suggested the remains might be those of victims of the Black Death. None of these theories are supported by any other evidence and it is now thought the bones are those of Hythe residents who had been buried in the churchyard over a period of many years but were exhumed when the church was extended in the 13th century.

Photographer unidentified.

An inked inscription recto in the lower margin reads 'Crypt of Hythe Church / Danish sculls' [sic].
 

Code: 125599
 
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© Paul Frecker 2018