Charnel practices in medieval England: new perspectives

Dawn Hadley, E Craig-Atkins, Paul Barnwell, Jenny Crangle, Allan Adams (Illustrator), Ian Atkins (Illustrator), Jessica-Rose McGinn, Alice James

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Studies of English medieval funerary practice have paid limited attention to the curation of human remains in charnel houses. Yet analysis of architectural, archaeological and documentary evidence, including antiquarian accounts, suggests that charnelling was more widespread in medieval England than has hitherto been appreciated, with many charnel chapels dismantled at the sixteenth-century Reformation. The survival of a charnel house and its human remains at Rothwell, Northamptonshire permits a unique opportunity to analyse charnel practice at a medieval parish church. Employing architectural, geophysical, and osteological analysis, we present a new contextualisation of medieval charnelling. We argue that the charnel house at Rothwell, a subterranean room constructed during the thirteenth century, may have been a particularly sophisticated example of an experiment born out of beliefs surrounding Purgatory.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)145-166
Number of pages22
Issue number2
Early online date15 May 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2019

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