The mysterious coffin of Stokesley Church

When the nave of Stokesley Church was restored in 1771, a coffin was unearthed and, as it was found broken, it was opened1Cook, Hugh W. “Cleveland Re-Visited | Cleveland Standard | Saturday 17 December 1932 | British Newspaper Archive.” Britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk, 2022, www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/bl/0003490/19321217/141/0008..

It was completely empty; there was nothing inside except “sawdust and shavings“.

The coffin was supposed to contain the mortal remains of “Elyzabeth Hornsby” as recorded in the parish register books:

“Buryed thys 30th daye of August. 1739. Elyzabeth ye daur off Richarde Hornsby, master mariner.”

Was Elyzabeth ever actually buried? Was her body stolen? Was this all part of some elaborate ruse to disguise her disappearance? It remains a mystery to this day.

Stokesley Church is actually on the site of one of the oldest churches in Cleveland as attested by the Domesday Book2COOK, HUGH W. “Cleveland Re-Visited Stokesley | Cleveland Standard | Saturday 24 December 1932 | British Newspaper Archive.” Britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk, 2022, www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/bl/0003490/19321224/002/0001.. Of course it’s been rebuilt, restored, and added to many, many times in the intervening centuries.

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