Bury St Edmunds: 630-year-old skull is West Suffolk Hospital’s ‘oldest patient’

IT was a tense moment as forensics professor Caroline Wilkinson of Dundee University lifted the skull of Simon Theobald of Sudbury out of his cubby hole in St Gregory’s Church last night.

IT was a tense moment as forensics professor Caroline Wilkinson of Dundee University lifted the skull of Simon Theobald of Sudbury out of his cubby hole in St Gregory’s Church last night.

In the 630 years since his brutal beheading at the hands of Wat Tyler’s Peasants Revolt this was only the third time the mummified head had left the Sudbury church.

And there was an odd sense of relief for church members present in the room as Mrs Wilkinson pointed to the axe marks in the back of his head – further proof to any doubters the head is that of the former Archbishop of Canterbury.

In the space of half an hour Simon was transported from his old resting place to the 21st Century surroundings of the CT scanner room in West Suffolk Hospital, Bury St Edmunds, to begin the process of reconstructing his face.


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As radiographers moved Simon’s skull through the scanner, the details of their ancient patient appeared on the screen: Simon Sudbury. March 16 2011. Male patient no 160311. Date of birth 1318.

“He’s certainly the oldest patient I’ve ever treated at the hospital,” said imaging services manager Nigel Beeton.

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Reverend Jenny Seggar, assistant curate at St Gregory’s, said: “It’s utterly surreal to see him here surrounded by all this modern technology it seems so out of place.”

West Suffolk Hospital’s oldest patient was being scanned as part of a joint church and Dundee University project to reconstruct the face of Simon by the forensics team.

Under the guidance of Mrs Wilkinson, masters student Adrienne Barker will be given the task of piecing together the CT images to construct a model of his head.

Ms Barker said: “It’s incredibly exciting and quite daunting.

“Until recently I had no idea he was such an important historical figure. I really can’t wait to get started.”

Simon was Lord Chancellor of England in 1381 when he was identified by Wat Tyler with the introduction of the unpopular poll tax brought in to pay off the country’s massive debts.

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