Becoming a Resurrectionist


James May now under sentence of Death in Newgate – About six years ago I began the business of resurrectionist. I was then out of a situation and using the Alfred’s Head [pub] near Elephant and Castle and several of them used to use it – I got acquainted with them there- One of them asked me to go to Woolwich after a Convict that had been buried in the marshes. I agreed to go and went with this person but I don’t recall his name – We got the body and to the best of my recollection sold the body at St Thomas’s for 8 Guineas. […]


Patrick Murphy has become rich by the business beginning from a Labourer or Porter and by means of his money is able to go to the Keeper of different grounds and pay them handsomely for the run of the grounds.


He used to have a man of the name of Richard Wilds and Joseph Naples with him they used to do the work and he looked out for the grounds and as they term it made a place right- I have been at Hospital grounds but at no others than Thomas’s or Guys – They have a watch-man there now a trustworthy one but we can’t get over him because I have watched him so narrowly I have asked him to have something to drink it won’t do to give money first but he won’t drink with no body- before he came there we had a man there he was right and we could do as we liked.



‘Out of a situation’ – out of work, possibly homeless.

Guinea – A pre-decimalised coin. 1G = £1 1s (or £1.05) Guineas were generally used for professional fees or prices of major goods at this time having been replaced by pounds as the main unit of currency in 1816.

8 Guineas = 42 days wages for a skilled tradesman at the time. Approx. £570 today.

Thomas’s or Guys – Hospitals in London which held public lectures on anatomy for medical students.

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Becoming a resurrectionist:

  • What is a resurrectionist?
  • How and why did May become a resurrectionist?
  • Why does he discuss Patrick Murphy?
  • What do the hospitals think of resurrectionists?