St Bees Man

St Bees Man

coffinThe discovery in 1981 of the almost perfectly preserved body of a medieval knight, now known as ” St Bees Man”, was one of the most extraordinary archaeological burial finds in Britain in the late 20th century.

The discovery was made in a ruined chancel aisle of St Bees Priory by archaeologists from Leicester University during a dig organised by St Bees residents and historians John & Mary Todd.

The dig was searching for evidence of a pre-Norman church. What they found were many monastic and secular burials, and a large stone vault. The vault was carefully excavated and revealed a skeleton of a woman and large lead coffin (see left).

The archeologists expected a skeleton in the coffin, but it revealed a body wrapped in a shroud. It seemed to have been soaked in a resinous material and it was tied neatly with cord like a parcel. No medieval body had been found like this in modern times! When the shroud was taken off, those present came face to face with a man who had to have been buried before 1500. A post-mortem showed internal organs in extraordinarily good condition (heart, liver and kidneys) with the pathologist able to have a good idea about what the man had eaten at his last meal

More detailed information on the St Bees Man story can be found on the Saint Bees village website. 

handSt Bees History Group is very happy to talk to groups and others interested in this unique story. Contact Chris Robson (Ministry Team) A recent television programme called Knight of St Bees, produced some 25 years after the event, has made this story much better known. See Yesterday TV.