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Rothwell, England

Rothwell Bone Crypt

Under a church hides a forgotten 13th-century ossuary containing the remains of around 2,500 people. 

The Holy Trinity Church in Rothwell, England is hiding a secret. It sits atop a small and mysterious 13th-century ossuary packed with the remains of around 2,500 people.

According to local legends, the crypt beneath the unassuming church was forgotten for centuries. It was allegedly rediscovered in the 18th century by a clumsy gravedigger who fell through a window and plummeted 12 feet in utter darkness before landing among the piles of bodies.

Though the crypt dates from the 1200s, the bones that fill it are from later centuries as well. People aren’t quite sure where the skeletons came from, or why they wound up there. It’s most likely they came from a nearby graveyard, but that didn’t stop some from conjuring up theories about medieval Danes slain in battle or a mass grave of plague victims.

The bones have recently been catalogued and organized by academics from the University of Sheffield. You can now see labelled skulls lining the shelves around the edges of the crypt and large piles of thigh bones in the center of the room.

The crypt is accessed through a spiral staircase at the side of the church. It’s open to visitors most Sunday afternoons in summer months and is staffed by a team of volunteers, who are mostly members of the church congregation.