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Mystery of The Killhope Moor Coffin

On Sunday, August 28, 1921 a farmer named Mr. Titus Harrison, was tending his sheep in Killhope near the border crossing between Northumberland, Durham and Cumberland. As Mr Harrison was wandering around, he saw the end of a large wooden box sticking out of the side of the eroded peat and, although he had passed by it many times, he had never seen anything there before, so he assumed it must be due to the recent heavy rains. . He kicks the box and is shocked to saw a human head inside.

Upon his return home he alerted the police at St John's Chapel who had come to exhume what proved to be a well-made coffin. Inside, they found the body of a man wrapped in a grey woollen army blanket. He had sandy-colored hair, was around 5ft 10" and was dressed in clothes of a bygone age - an old-fashioned army frock coat, a long waistcoat, woollen stockings, top stockings and size ten, hand-sewn boots, but neither trousers nor a kilt.

Image credit: The Northern Eco

The coffin itself was carefully crafted from pitch pine and was shaped like the roof of a house. Intriguingly, the corpse had no teeth and part of the lower jaw was missing, a bullet was also found next to the man's shoulder.

And then, they took the coffin to Cowshill for further investigation. It seems the body was from the 18th century and is of a male from Scotland. His coffin was hand made so he must have been buried and not dumped.

At the inquest on the 30th August Coroner Proud stated that the remains were “very ancient,” he recorded a verdict of “found dead” and issued a certificate to permit the body to be buried in an unmarked grave in the cemetery at Burtreeford. The belongings of the deceased were put to one side in case the land owners, the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, came forward to claim them; these included six coat buttons of lead which were removed and a photograph of them was published in a local newspaper.

The search for the identity of the mysterious man would continue for years.

Several speculations have been suggested regarding the identity of the mysterious body from the coffin. Some believed that the man could have been a despatch rider during the Jacobite rebellion of 1745. While another suggested that he was Capt Richard Courteney Lovell who never reached his destination during the 1780 anti-Catholic Gordon Riots

To this day however, no definitive answer to who he was or how he had ended up being buried in a coffin on the moor has ever been found.


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