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Minsden Chapel


Minsden Chapel is now nothing more than a ruin, standing isolated amidst trees in the Hertfordshire countryside. The site is very atmospheric, given its isolated position and long history. The haunting of the chapel is one of the best known in Hertfordshire, mainly because it has been widely investigated. Peter Underwood had a strange experience here, and a photograph showing a phantom monk was taken in 1907 by W.T. Latchmore.

History
The chapel, now a roofless shell, is made of flint nodules and dates back to the 14th Century, when it was a stop off point on the pilgrim route to St Albans Abbey. By the 17th Century the chapel was a picturesque ruin, which was still used by those of a more romantic disposition for weddings. By 1725 the bells had been robbed from the chapel, and the danger of falling masonry had put an end to the open-air marriage ceremonies.

In the early part of the twentieth century the chapel became linked with Reginald Hine, who fell in love with the place. Reginald was a local historian who researched into the chapel's history extensively. It was during one of his visits in 1907 that his companion, W.T. Latchmore, photographed a phantom monk coming out of the ruins.

Reginald committed suicide in strange circumstances at Hitchin railway station in 1949. He calmly stepped in front of a train while in the midst of a conversation with one of his friends.

Long before he died he had said about the chapel "I will endeavour in all ghostly ways to protect and haunt these hallowed walls", so visitors beware!

Site Visit
We visited the site with a group of clairvoyants in 1993 during a tour of the area. The three clairvoyants claimed to pick up images relating to a tunnel, a cellar with a bricked up tunnel entrance, and barrels being unloaded from a cart. The barrels were then taken into a building, revealing people hiding in the cart behind them. Several symbolic images were also picked up by one of the psychics.

By pure chance we stopped off at the Brockett Arms for lunch (before we knew of its haunted reputation), one of the clairvoyants claimed it resembled the building that he saw barrels being unloaded for. Speaking to staff at the Brockett Arms they told of a legend concerning a tunnel in their cellars that was bricked up and led to Minsden Chapel. They said the pub was haunted by a monk, who either committed suicide by hanging himself, or was hung after being caught trying to burn the building down.

The information offered by the clairvoyants and the apparent justification of it, in no way proves the existence of psychic ability. The visit was not under controlled conditions, and it is only mentioned here as an anecdote. I doubt whether a physical tunnel could have existed between the Brockett Arms and Minsden Chapel, as the distance between the two is too great. Further research on the matter revealed another tunnel legend, from the Brocket arms to the local church in Ayot St Lawrence. It is possible that the church was confused with Minsden Chapel by the person telling the story.

Ghosts
Traditionally the chapel is haunted by a phantom monk, as mentioned before the spectre was photographed in 1907. The monk is said to appear at midnight on All Hallows Eve, to the Northeast of the chapel, as the bells of the chapel begin to toll. He is said to climb a set of steps, which no longer exist.

Some witnesses have heard faint music from the chapel, Peter Underwood, the once president of the Ghost Club, spent a vigil here, and heard the sound of distant music, he also witnesses a white glowing cross on one of the walls, which disappeared and then reappeared. The chapel also has a legend about a murdered nun who haunts the area.

The ruin is remote, very atmospheric and well worth a visit, it is in a dangerous condition so beware of falling masonry and ghostly guardians.

Authorship
Author: 
Daniel Parkinson, Ian Topham

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Lee Waterhouse
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The Brocket Arms

When i visited the pub a couple of years ago the landlord informed me that the tunnel did exist and only went as far as the ruined church across the road.

D Hamilton
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Minsden Chapel

Hi All
Minsden Chapel has now been fenced off due to it being dangerous to the public as the archway has collapsed.

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Ian Topham
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Minsden Chapel

Thanks for the update guys. We'll look to updating the article with some of these points in future. I hope your enjoying the site.

szarv
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Re: Minsden Chapel

who has told you that it has been fenced off due to danger to others ??

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captincolin
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huh why isnt that guy in the haunting of the chapel

okay wow if that legends real who told you and in what abouat the guy who fell in love with that place were talking bout why isnt he in the chapel haunting but i like the website :D hehehe sooooooooo see you soon

abbstherobin
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Re: Minsden Chapel

 no, it's true. I was there just yesterday and it is indeed indeed fenced off. IT has a sign that says 'Danger' and one that says' do not enter'. However me and my brother did enter but at the time we didn't know it was haunted. Great pictures though.

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Ian Topham
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Re: Minsden Chapel

HAUNTED CHURCHES by ELLIOTT O'DONNELL (1939)
A FEW miles from Hitchin, in a wood on the summit of a hill, are the ruins of Minsden church, at one time a chapel of ease, said to have given shelter to many a passing pilgrim.

Tradition associates it with Alice Perrers, mistress of Edward III and Lady of Hitchin Manor, who is credited with stealing her royal lover's rings when he was on his death-bed and powerless to prevent her. In the seventeenth century it witnessed the marriage of Sir John Barrington, Bart., to Susan Draper.

After that time nothing of any note seems to have happened there, and, about 1738, it became so dilapidated that pieces of masonry and plaster not infrequently fell on the clergy and congregation, to the consternation of both.

Probably, soon after that date it was abandoned, some say on account of widespread rumours of its being haunted by the ghost of a nun, alleged to have been murdered during the reign of Henry VIII, when a convent was either attached to the church or occupied its site.

I first heard of the reputed haunting through a photographer living in the neighbourhood of Minsden, who sent me a photograph taken, he said, in broad daylight at the ruins. The chief interest in the photograph lay in what resembled the shadowy form of a nun. The photographer did not claim he had photographed a ghost, he merely called my attention to the shadowy form and implied he could not account for it. He referred to a local belief in the haunting of the spot by the phantom of a murdered nun, and suggested that we should visit the ruins; he would ask a few of his friends to accompany us and I could invite a few of mine. It was October, and, at my suggestion, we chose for the date of our visit to the ruins All Hallows E'en, that being one of the nights in the year when denizens of the spirit world are popularly believed to be in closest touch with the material inhabitants of this plane. Also, since All Hallows E'en is one of the occasions when the working of certain spells is deemed likely to produce interesting results, I asked a lady, who is well versed in such things, to be one of the party. Others I invited were H. V. Morton, the well-known author, Wyndham Lewis, " Beachcomber," and R. Blumenfelt, son of the Editor of The Daily Express. When I arrived at King's Cross I saw a crowd of people collected in front of the Ladies' Waiting Room. Intuition warned me of the reason, and when I cautiously elbowed my way through the gaping throng, I perceived, as I had anticipated, my mediumistic friend, clad — and this I had not anticipated — in orthodox witch's costume, namely, high cap, cloak, gown covered with demons and black cats and, of course, in one hand, a broomstick. The picture was startling enough, and the expressions on the faces of the spectators were a study. While some showed wonder and others amusement, a few looked positively scared ; probably they thought she was the escaped inmate of some home for the mentally defective.

Of my three friends, Morton, Wyndham Lewis and Blumenfelt there was not a sign. Indeed, I did not see them till I had bundled the witch into a third-class compartment, much to the consternation of a female occupant, who at once flew out of it. I then caught sight of them stealing surreptitiously into a first- class compartment, as far away from us as possible. The Hitchin photographer lived with two very proper, elderly female relatives, and when they caught sight of the witch, standing beside me in the doorway, they were immeasurably shocked. " Who is this person ? " they demanded. " She must not enter this house." And when I endeavoured to explain why she had come, their indignation grew. " Tom," one of them exclaimed, turning to the photographer, who cowered against the wall, looking extremely sheepish and uncomfortable, " Tom, you never told us a person dressed like this was coming. It's a scandal. What would your dear father, aye, and grandfather say? Why, they never missed a Sunday at chapel in their lives. The mere thought of a woman in such an attire as this," pointing at the witch, who maintained an imperturbability that suggested she was not altogether unaccustomed to such harangues, " coming to the house is enough to make them turn in their graves. Tell her to go away at once." Tom making no response, I had to intervene, and after much pleading obtained permission for the witch to sit with us in Tom's studio till it was time for us to go to the haunted ruins, on the condition, however, that, after leaving the house then, she was never to set foot in it again.

The ruins were several miles distant, and it was well-nigh midnight when we arrived there. As we drew near to the wood, there was a ghostly rustling of leaves, which made the more nervous of the party clutch hold of one another, followed by a buzzing and whirling, as a number of birds, scared at our approach, left their homes in the ivy-clad ruins of the church and flew frantically away.

I had brought with me a variety of articles necessary for the working of the spells, and I proposed that, while the witch muttered appropriate incantations, Messrs. Morton, Wyndham Lewis and Blumenfelt should try their luck with hempseed and apples.
Most All Hallow E'en keepers know the hempseed spell. Walking alone in the dark one has to scatter hempseed over the left shoulder, drawing mould over it afterwards with a hoe or other instrument, and repeating, as one does so, these words :

Hempseed I sow, yes, hempseed I hoe ;
Oh, those who's to meet me come after me and mow.

And then, if the Powers that govern the Unknown ordain it, one hears footsteps in one's rear and, on turning fearfully around, sees the immaterial counterpart of whoever is to come into one's life within the next twelve months and affect it most. If you are destined to die during that period, you see a skeleton. All this may sound just fanciful and old world, superstitious tripe : but, nevertheless, I have known occasions when something quite unexpected and unquestionably super physical has happened. On this particular occasion, when asked if they would separate and, alone, amid the gloom and shadows of the trees, put the spell to the test, Messrs. Morton, Wyndham Lewis and Blumenfelt answered in the negative, a very decided negative ; they much preferred remaining together. The witch did her best to persuade the ghost to manifest itself. Seated on the damp soil she crooned, and incanted, and moaned, there was a note of occasional real misery in the last ; but the other world remained obdurate, it would not come at her calling, and perhaps it was just as well, because some of the party might, I think, have been more than a wee bit startled ; at least I gathered so from their close proximity to one another and from what, every now and then, sounded suspiciously like the chattering of teeth, though the cold — and out there it was cold — might have had something to do with the last.

Our pulses gave a sudden jump when one of the party exclaimed : " What's that ? " We looked, and for a few seconds I thought that the witch's endeavours had at last succeeded in bringing the superphysical, but investigation proved it was only the ghostly effect of the moonlight on one of the ivy-clad ruin arches. We were discussing our disappointment, " professed " disappointment, I fancy, on the part of several, when from afar came a sound like the report of a firearm. " A strange hour and season for anyone to be out shooting," someone observed, and we thought no more about it.

As it was now about four o'clock, the chance of the ghost appearing seemed so remote that we set out on our homeward journey.

And now came our only real thrill. It was a still, grey, chilly morning. There had been a slight fog rising from the damp ground during the night, and it was now so thick that those of our party who were in front, myself among them, could not see the witch and photographer, who were trudging along some little distance in the rear. Through the mist the black shades of trees and hedges stood out faintly. We were hastening, thinking longingly of breakfast and a cheery fire, when suddenly dark figures sprang out from seemingly nowhere, and peremptory tones commanded us to halt. They were policemen, four of them, who in the mist— my eyes, no doubt, were strained by hours of high nerve tension vigil — appeared magnified into giants. They asked what we were doing, tramping a lonely highway at that unearthly hour, and when I said : " Looking for a ghost," the leader of them responded nastily : " That's a good 'un. You don't expect us to swallow that." He went on to inform us that the booking office at Wellyn railway station had been broken into during the night and the official in charge of it fired at, which explained the report of firearms we had heard.

He was about to search us, and I was feeling somewhat anxious, because one of our party had, I knew, a revolver on him, when I was seized with a sudden inspiration. "Do you know Mr. ?" I said, naming the local photographer.

"Very well," the Sergeant replied, " but he's not here."

"No," I answered, " but he's following with a lady, clad as a witch, and one or two other people. Do you not know last night was All Hallow's E'en, when the dead from cross-roads and cemeteries are permitted to mingle once more with the living ? We came hoping to see the ghost of the nun that rumour alleges haunts the ruins of Minsden church.

Haven't you heard of her ? "

" Now I come to think of it," the Sergeant said, ' I 'ave 'eard of the party, but I don't pay any attention to tales of that sort. You'll all 'ave to come along to the Police Station and answer such questions as may be put to you."

Grunts and ejaculations of dismay came from Morton, Wyndham Lewis and Blumenfelt, who had hitherto been dumb, too overcome, so I imagined, with the horror of the situation to speak.

Now the appalling thoughts of not getting to their respective newspaper headquarters in time loosened their tongue strings, nor did I feel too happy, for I was cold and shivering and wanted a hot drink very badly.

To my infinite relief, however, at this very critical moment, there loomed into view the witch, photographer and the rest of the party, who were all local. On hearing them corroborate my story, the Police Sergeant capitulated, and all ended well, at least so far as concerned that little incident ; but there was some bother when we got back to the photographer's house and tried to smuggle in the witch. One of Tom's elderly relatives hearing us, and making sure we were burglars, or the house was on fire, started to scream, and it took desperate efforts on Tom's part to calm her. Fortunately, she was far too frightened to come out of her bedroom, or she must have seen the witch.

Our train back to London did not arrive for nearly two hours, and all that time we sat huddled together in the dreary room, in momentary dread of one or other of Tom's aged relatives descending on us. To render the situation more embarrassing and alarming, the witch, doubtless affected by sitting on the cold ground for so long, had to retire with sudden haste to the toilet which, as bad luck would have it, was upstairs, next to one of the aged relative's bedrooms. She contrived to get there without attracting attention but, on leaving the place, in her anxiety to catch the train, she slipped, and descending amid an avalanche of paper parcels, landed on the floor with a terrific crash. This was altogether too much for Messrs. Morton, Wyndham Lewis and Blumenfelt. They decamped pell-mell, meanly leaving me to grab hold of the witch and drag her and her many parcels to the station.
So ended my first visit to the haunted church of Minsden.

I went there twice afterwards and on the last occasion, when I was alone, I heard sounds of very sweet and plaintive music, and thought, just for a moment, I saw a female figure in white standing in one of the archways. It was gone almost at once, and may possibly have been due to a trick of the moonlight.



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