This is a watchtower in Dalkeith Cemetery, near Edinburgh, Scotland. It was built in 1827, when folks—particularly in Scottish communities near the medical schools in Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Aberdeen—felt a real need to have their dead protected, and those with enough money were able to do something about it.
The well publicized crimes of the Williams Burke and Hare in 1827 and 1828—men who escalated body-snatching from mere grave-robbing to actual murder—didn’t help, either. Some communities built structures called morthouses to temporarily house the dead as they made their journey from freshness to putrefaction. This one is in Udny, in Aberdeenshire:
This particular morthouse is unique because of its clever design. Inside was a sort of lazy Susan for the dead. From Geograph:
This circular stone building houses a revolving wheel upon which a coffin would be placed and kept securely under lock and key. When another body was deposited, the wheel would be turned slightly to accommodate the new coffin. Eventually, when a coffin had been rotated one full revolution, it could safely be buried because the corpse would be sufficiently decomposed as to be of no use to the body-snatchers.
Only a few of these structures still exist. Here’s a recent article
about plans to restore a deteriorating morthouse in east Perthshire, Scotland.
Top image: Photograph by Kim Traynor, via Wikipedia.
Bottom image: Lynette and Malcolm Johnson, via Geograph.