A COUPLE of weeks ago, due to the wonders of modern technology, the Saturday nostalgia column I wrote about Worcester Tricycle Club and the unlikely part it played in the historical photographing of Worcestershire appeared in the street paper but not on the website.

It was somehow replaced by one I produced several years ago on Worcester’s plague pits.

No idea why. Hope a similar malfunction does not affect our nuclear button. However, there is a silver lining to all this because in the comments on the plague pits story there was one from a reader recalling the 1990s when building work on St Martin’s Gate car park foundations in Worcester was halted because lead coffins were suddenly uncovered.

And this was nothing to do with a plague pit. Different story.

Lacking space for a churchyard in which to inter deceased parishioners, many town centre churches were used as charnel houses with coffins lying about the crypt unburied.

In fact St Martin’s in The Cornmarket was the scene of something that might occupy your worst nightmares.

At the beginning of the 19th century, on an unexceptional day, a regular service was in full flow when part of the floor suddenly gave way and a lady worshipper disappeared downwards through it to land among a vault full of coffins and decaying bodies.

Whether the shock caused her to join them is not recorded but the incident certainly unearthed some clerical shenanigans.

Although the parish had considerable properties bequeathed to it specifically for church maintenance, no one, when they thought about it, could remember any being done. It turned out the parson had been diverting the funds to supplement his income. Very Christian.

Sitting in a stone cold stone building, as churches can be, is not the best experience but the temperature was not always the problem. In centuries gone by it was the whiff of the dead.

According to noted historian John Noake: “In mid-Victorian times the smell of bodies in St Swithun’s Church, Worcester, was intolerable. Below one of the pews was a whole family of parents and 10 children and only the floorboards separated the congregation from their predecessors.”

Therein lay one of the problems of trying to bury bodies within the confines of a church, you couldn’t go very far down. St Swithun’s was not exceptional among Worcester churches and, with shallow graves and only rarely-ventilated buildings, the atmosphere in most of the older ones was horrible. It was a test of faith to stay inside for any length of time.

The crypt of St Peter’s in Sidbury was full of bodies and had long been a charnel house while the great crypt of St Nicholas on The Cross (which is now a restaurant!) was full of rotting coffins and unburied corpses.

Meanwhile, out in the country in the village of Broughton Hackett just east of Worcester, the curate, a Mr Grice, was once late for his Sunday lunch because he had spent the morning chasing out a herd of pigs that had taken up residence in his little church.

After several circuits around the pews and up and down the aisle a few times, he returned home very hot and bothered and not at all concerned about the building’s temperature.