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St Mary’s Church, Wanstead


The current St Mary’s dates from 1787 and is a Grade I listed building designed by Thomas Hardwick. The earlier church stood 70’ south of the present building and was demolished when the newer church was completed in 1790. The later church does have some monuments inside it that were originally from the older one and according to tradition it may have a few apparitions as well.

I don’t know of any actual witness accounts detailing experiences at St Mary’s and I suspect, given that one of the apparitions is a skeleton that the haunting may have more in common with local folklore.

The skeleton apparition is said to wander the churchyard pushing a cart that bears a coffin. According to tradition he is apparently searching for his wife’s body, whether because they were buried in separate plots or whether it is because her body was stolen by grave robbers depends upon the version of the story you read.

There are two other apparitions that are said to haunt the churchyard. One being a grey lady that wanders the graveyard looking for the husband she lost shortly after their marriage and the second being that of Dick Turpin the infamous Highwayman.

If anyone knows of any actual experiences or can shed any light on the origins of the stories relating these ghosts I would love to find out more.


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Ian Topham's picture
Ian Topham
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Re: St Mary’s Church, Wanstead

The following additional information was e-mailed into the website:

Sir Charles Blount and his wife Lady Penelope Blount (Lord and Lady Devonshire - she being the former Penelope Rich, married to Robert Rich and the brother of Essex - Robert Devereux). The Devonshire's marriage was disallowed by King James following Penelope's divorce from Robert Rich. Sir Charles died 4 months later while attempting to appeal the King's decision and Penelope died a year later while defending her rights to their Estate. They were the owners of Wanstead House at this time (1603-1607) and both of their burials (he supposedly at Westminster Abbey and she supposedly at a church yard near the Tower of London). I believe that they both may have been secretly buried at Wanstead House, probably near St. Mary's Church. Their lawyer, Joseph Earth, was the Executor of their Estate when they died, and he is purported to have been buried at Wanstead in 1609. The Earl of Southampton was much involved with this situation as his wife Elizabeth was thwe favorite cousin of Penelope. There was a lot of disturbance surrounding Wanstead in the years 1606 and 1607 concerning the fate of the owners and the Estate itself, and this may have caused the spiritual upheaval that is believed to be happening there since.



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