St Bees Man

The 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 historians John & Mary Todd.

The dig was searching for evidence of a pre-Norman church, but 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 right).

The archeologists expected a skeleton in the coffin, but instead it revealed a body wrapped tightly in a shroud, neatly tied with cord like a parcel. It was taken to the local morgue, unwrapped and examined by a team led by a forensic pathologist.  They soon realised they were working on the only preserved medieval body to be found in modern times.

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There is an extensive history display in the Priory where the St Bees Man story is told and the shroud can be seen.

Ad-hoc guided tours of the Priory and the displays can be arranged, Contact Chris Robson on 01946 822468 (email:

 Watch the St Bees Man documentary on Yesterday TV
“Medieval Dead – A Knight of St Bees”


Opening the lead coffin
St Bees Man
The face of St Bees Man
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