UK DECAY COMMUNITIES 2008
Joined: 03 Feb 2004
Location: Luton UK
|Posted: Mon Oct 01, 2007 2:15 am Post subject: Minsden Chapel: Ruined, Haunted Church
| Minsden Chapel:
Ruined, Haunted Church in north Hertfordshire
Field trip with background information, including extraordinary photo!
The Church and its decay in the landscape:
Of all the archetypical symbols in the towns and villages of the British
countryside, none stand out more than the church. As the village
developed the Church became a focal point for the communities effort
and veneration, as well as an important status symbol..
At the dawn of Christianity in Britain, there were no parish or village
churches, the wandering evangelists placed carved crosses at various
sites in the landscape. Often these were at sacred pagan places,
convenient for the wandering monks or priests to preach Christianity,
the new ‘not to be messed with’ religion to the locals. Later the Angles,
Jutes and Saxon’s, impressed their version of the simple place of worship
often on the site of the former crosses. Very often, it was a simple
structure incorporating chambers to the sides of an aisle-less nave, and
at the east end, an apsidal chancel.
Later they added a tower that doubled as a lookout for marauding
Vikings. All in, they were robust but simple affairs with usually narrow,
small, and deep set windows.
Gradually incoming migrations added further modifications to the mix
notably, the influence of the Normans with their revolutionary grandiose
architecture, often dismantling the earlier Saxon designs and rebuilding
with their own style albeit retaining and even exaggerating the now
Luton’s St Mary’s parish church, first established in 931AD, founded by
King Athelstan as an act of thanksgiving for the Luton people’s victory
over the Danes, it was rebuilt by the Normans in 1121 and has been
further improved from time to time until the present. The Luton Church
was formerly ‘on the Kings land’; it has always been at the least,
“very richly endowed” and with a large town to support it, is so still
Other churches in the Luton area have not faired so well, Clophill church
of St Mary’s, fell into disuse in the 1950’s and although there are rumours
of rebuilding, it is now in an advanced state of decay. Vandalism and
worse abuse’s have darkened the ardour of this mid Bedfordshire Church,
it is now doubtful that it will ever, be rebuilt. Instead, it languishes on that
lonely hilltop, subject to reverse polarities and occult or sublime
corruptions. Its core congregation has long vanished; presumably, they
now turn to the whistle of other Gods. With the people gone, like the
crumpled bones of some prehistoric leviathan, the decaying members of
the former church and testament of a community gradually melt back into
the earth, whence it came.
To agree or disagree about the merits or social implications of Church
history is beyond the point of this article, but there can be no denying the
importance and legacy of these unique historical microcosms, that inhabit
our environment. Neither too, can the deniability of the spiritual and
human consequences, of centuries of human focus to the Church and its
To an agnostic mind even, the fascination if one chooses to look a little
deeper into matters, is alluring, nearly every Church has its own unique
secrets and folklore; some Churches, have dark secrets, some have their
own guardian angels!
The ruined Clophill Church of St Marys, is situated ten miles to the north
of Luton, but its not the only ‘haunted’, decaying Church in the area.
Just six miles due east of the town across the county border in
Hertfordshire a couple of miles west of Stevenage; lay the haunted ruins
of Minsden Chapel. Dated to the 14th century, it fell out of use nearly
four centuries later in the 1700’s. The Chapel is atop a small hill not far
from Preston, Hertfordshire; the only access to it is via a muddy footpath
across fields. There are rumours that it is situated on a former hermits
cell and it is feasible that there are possible connections with the nearby
Knights Templar headquarters at Temple Dinsley. After the dissolution of
the Templars in the early 14th century, the Knights of St John inherited
the headquarters; perhaps they built the Chapel as an act of benevolent
chastity for the travelling pilgrims. The geographical reason for the
location of Minsden Chapel is nearly forgotten in the landscape as there
is no evidence of any village nearby that would support it, all that betrays
is the footpath leading past it, all that’s left of the former pilgrim way
between St Albans Abbey, Hitchin and the north via the great north road.
The old pilgrims way leading to the chapel (in the woods)
The Chapel construction was that of knapped flint nodules moulded into
shape with the aid of crude mortar and finished with plaster, a practise
that had been in use for a thousand years dating back to older Roman
construction methods. The roof and tower have long fallen away and so
to have the windows. In fact, the building is in an advanced state of
decay, the visitor should be cautious. The ruins are within the eastern
corner of a triangular shaped wood and are semi-hidden, from the view
of the odd passing countryside wanderer. A walk into the woods behind
reveal ditches that are perhaps a part of a collapsed outer perimeter wall
suggesting a graveyard once accompanied the Chapel.
The Chapel started it’s fall into ruin as long ago as the late 1600’s but
for a time became a romantic location for marriages until the falling
masonry finally put an end to it’s service. At the last service in 1738
“a piece of falling stonework knocked the prayer-book out of a curate's
hand during the marriage ceremony of Enoch West and Mary Horn”
On a paranormal tip, there are legends that surround the ruined Chapel
of ghosts and apparitions, particularly that of a monk that is seen walking
up the now fallen stairs on the northeastern corner at midnight on
Halloween. Others speak of strange dislocated music decorating the
ambience of the place, others still of church bells and clanking chains.
There has even been a photo taken of the ghostly monk by the Hitchin
historian whom in the 1930’s decided to take onboard in a breathtakingly
metaphysical way, the caretaker ship of the ruined Chapel.
Reginald Hine was a Hitchin historian who fell in love with the ruined
Chapel and spent a great deal of time researching it in the early twentieth
century. On one of his visits in 1907, his companion, W.T. Latchmore,
photographed the phantom monk coming out of the ruins. Reginald
wasted no time in leasing the Chapel for the duration of his lifetime and
was so concerned for it’s well-being, that he wrote
"trespassers and sacrilegious persons take warning, for I will proceed
against them with the utmost rigour of the law, and, after my death and
burial, I will endeavour, in all ghostly ways, to protect and haunt its
His death was a strange affair, calmly stepping in front of a train while
in the midst of a conversation with one of his friends at Hitchin railway
station in 1949. Buried within the chapel ruins, his grave now lies beneath
the undergrowth, in the now largely lost apsidal chapel.
Ghost hunters and other paranormal investigators have since descended,
with reports of a ‘glowing cross’ on one of the walls, the tolling of Church
bells (they were stolen sometime before 1725), a murdered nun who
haunts the area, strange animal reactions, the ghost of a small child
and of secret tunnels that lead to who knows where! In addition, it is
whispered there have indeed been Occult rituals practised there in the
still of night
The fascination with Minsden Chapel its romantic and haunted ruins,
the nearby Temple Dinsley, Knights Templar Manor and Temple,
where rumours of a fabulous buried treasure, have led this writer to
investigation on a number of occasions the most recent, resulted in a
most extraordinary occurrence.
Field trip to Minsden Chapel
(Our field reporter concurs!)
Late in the afternoon of a mid September day with blue skies and a
glorious sunshine, the Sun was descending towards the copse of trees
to the west. Approaching from the south on the path up the hill, to the
right I noticed a small aeroplane to the east flying very low then
disturbingly, just for a moment it seemed to fall below the trees.
I was for a moment, expecting a large bang and plume of smoke.
My heart missed a couple of beats. Then I reasoned it must be an airfield,
which turned out to be right, but my brain couldn’t make out enough
room within the copse, to have a runway large enough to accommodate
a landing. This was only half a mile away. I had no previous knowledge
of any airfield in this area. This had my adrenalin going and I was still
buzzing from the incident as I entered the ruins.
Thus my first impressions on this visit were tainted.
I noted the warning sign and moved into the interior of the Chapel under
a very precarious arch. The mortar and flint work walls remind me of the
old saying ‘ashes to ashes, dust to dust. In this case as I grew up in an
area where flints are literally ‘as common as muck’, I noticed that the
flints embedded in the walls, had all been knapped flat on the edges,
just as I had seen in the Roman temple at Maiden Castle earlier in the
summer. Many of the flints were now dislodging and falling out of the
structure as the crumbling mortar finally lost its grip, it surprised me that
after nearly 400 years of crumbling that there is as much of the ruin left
as there is.
At least these ruins have not suffered the sacrilegious indignity of the
mindless graffiti as at Clophill church, perhaps the ghostly curse of
Reginald Hine is working after all; I would not want to get on the wrong
side of his spirit!
On a previous visit with a friend in a small alcove on the western wall,
we found a couple of half used tea light’s, which we relit, on this visit
however there was no sign of any offering. The place felt cold lonely and
lamenting for its lost past, as I was on my own I didn’t feel like hanging
about any longer than I needed to, so I took a few shots and made my
departure, down the old pilgrim route towards Chapel Foot to the north.
It was very definitely now into the golden hour and some miles to
traverse before darkness, I got about 100 metres down the track with
open freshly ploughed fields on both sides and turned round to get a
perspective shot on my camera. I took a few shots and continued pausing
occasionally, to take more shots until finally I pressed for home.
I had seen many sights on that glorious September afternoon, the
autumn colours now beginning to radiate in the trees and hedgerows,
the corn and barley fields long cropped and since, recently ploughed
under for the oncoming winter. The idyllic Hertfordshire villages nearby,
with their picturesque meadows formally reassuringly filled with cattle;
are now becoming progressively enclosed within electric fences and
‘private, keep out’ signs. Horses and ponies sometimes with coats on
seem to be the new inhabitants. Not that I have anything against horses
but at the end of the day I guess, this is about a whole heap of prime
‘real-estate’ and these are the new pets of the rich. They belong to the
neo wealthy bourgeoisie, who also own the ‘eye candy’ cottages on the
village green. Temple Dinsley, that dark heart of Templar romance is
now a girls school, private and for the wealthy and the owners apparently
don’t approve of the romance of treasure hunting on their land!
Finally, this writer got back to the car and headed back to that dark
capital, namely Luton and home.
Summing up my mind of the afternoons wanderings, the aeroplane
incident was by far the most memorable and I wished I had my camera
out at the time. Eventually, I loaded the camera into my PC and watched
a slideshow of the afternoon’s photos. When the slideshow reached the
Minsden Chapel pictures, I nearly fell over backwards when I saw the
perspective shot that I mentioned earlier.
I paused the slideshow and looked at the photo hard. I zoomed in and
out, “What the hell is that?” I shouted out, even though there was no one
else in the room. I had taken tens of thousands of photos on that digital
camera but had never seen anything like this. What amazed me was that
this abnormality, coincidence or not, had happened on a shot I took of
I do not in any way of expertise or by professional interest, profess to,
or partake in paranormal investigation, or ‘Ghost hunting’, but this shot
really has me wondering. I could accept a lens flare theory interpretation,
although I have never seen this phenomena on any other shot I have
taken although I have had the odd lens apparition when pointing near to
the sun (yes, I have taken probably hundreds of cliché wow sunset
photos!) This was far too complex in form, although the familiar colours
of the rainbow were apparent, they merge into a whirl of eyes and
tentacle like features at the centre of the photo, which, coincidence or not,
happens to be focused upon the east end of the Chapel. It reminded me
of a ghastly monster from an H. P. Lovecraft story, perhaps even an
image of the great beast itself. The imagination ran riot, but after the
excitement had worn down a little, I realised the abnormality is actually a
lot more subtle. On closer inspection, it appeared to take on the form of a
close-up of a magnified fly or spider’s head complete with tentacles and
eyes. A photographer friend can see a Dragon in the image, whatever
way you look at it, this picture is indeed, very strange. The fact that this
unique aberration had appeared on the picture and it by odd coincidence,
just happened to be a shot taken of haunted Minsden Chapel, both
amazed me and made me shudder.
Anyway, don’t just take my word for it, see for yourself!
The Beast of Minsden, apparition or abberation?
(viewed from the north, the ruins can be spotted in the trees to back and
right; the abberation appears precisely over the location of Reginald
Hines grave at the location of the chapels eastern apsidal aisle)
A close-up of the Minsden Beast!
Digital camera= Premier DS30815 ..3 megapixels
Conditions= looking toward approximately 10 degrees west of south, the
sun was about 60 degrees to the right at the time. Sunny with some cloud
cover, approximately 6.45pm. 20th September 2007. less than 30
minutes before sunset. Camera no knowingly pointed towards the sun.
There is no photo manipulation other than resizing, the adding of a small
watermark and auto levelling (shown are the auto levelled versions)
Information and resources..
The following additional information is from an ‘Unexplained Mystery.com’
The thread is here
and the below ‘additional info’ provided by ‘Althalus’
“As long ago as 1690 Minsden was reported to be 'totally ruinated,
stripped, uncovered, decayed and demolished' but Reginald Hine, the
Hertfordshire historian, leased the ruins for his lifetime ad cautioned
'trespassers and sacrilegious persons take warning, for I will proceed
against them with utmost rigour of the law and after my death and burial,
I will endeavour, in all ghostly ways, to protect and haunt its hallowed
walls'. After Hine's tragic death his wife made of the ruins a memorial to
her husband and the picturesque walls and arches seem to have been
rescued from oblivion at the eleventh hour.
Minsden is traditionally associated with Alice Perrers, mistress of King
Edward III, who is charged with stealing her royal lover's rings while he
was on his deathbed. She infatuated the old king by 'occult spells'
manufactured by her physician who was regarded as a 'mighty sorcerer'
but eventually he was arrested on a charge of confecting love philtres
All Hallows Eve, the night when ghosts are reputed to hold sway and be
able to return and be visible, is the night of the years when Minsden's
ghosts manifest and there are many stories of horses and dogs behaving
as though they see or sense something invisible to their human
companions as they climb towards Minsden Chapel on that night. Elliott
O'Donnell told Peter Underwood that one All hallows Eve he heard sweet
music here and thought he caught a glimpse of a white-robed figure
standing in one of the archways.
It seems that the ghostly manifestations usually begin with the tolling of
the lost bells of Minsden and as the sounds die away the figure of a monk
is seen under the ivy-covered arch on the south side. Walking with bowed
head he silently walks up steps no longer visible and disappears. After a
moment the strains of sweet music fill the airbut almost as soon as the
hearer is aware of the sounds they cease and all is quiet again”.
"One of the most widespread beliefs was that the north side of the church
belonged to the Devil, and many people still have an aversion to burial in
the northern part of the churchyard At one time, this section was
unhallowed ground and was reserved for the burial of anabaptised infants
and suicides. In the north wall of some medieval churches there is a
small door which was known as the Devils door. This was open only
during baptisms and communion to permit the escape of evil spirits
which had been driven out by the holy sacraments."
(Folklore Myths and Legends of Britain)
In Hertfordshire, the Templars had settled at Dinsley, which became
known as Temple Dinsley, and built a Preceptory (something between a
monastery and a manor). This became the most important in South-East
England, and the national Chapters of the Templars, or in modern
terminology, their AGMs, were commonly held there. It is known that
there was a chapel with a priest, and that at least six Knights lived there
at any one time, with a much larger staff of servants and tenant farmers
who were obliged to provide services to the Templars. (BBC)
Above Top Secret
People have for centuries been searching in Hertfordshire for the missing
treasure believed to have vanished from locations including Temple
Dinsley in Hertfordshire when the Knights Templar were disbanded in
On contemporary maps Temple Dinsley is marked as ‘The Princess Helena College.
Web links to Minsden Chapel:
Preston Hertfordshire in the nineteenth century
Temple Dinsley (Knights Templar Headquarters; Lost Treasure)
Above Top Secret
Luton Parish Church of St Mary’s
Other UK DK Com local links:
Clophill Church and Cainho castle
City of Ravens; Ravensborough castle, Hexton, St. Faith’s and the hocking ceremony’s
This writer for werewolf and UK Decay Communities 2007
Visit The new UK Decay Communities
Last edited by werewolf on Sun Jan 27, 2008 1:21 pm; edited 4 times in total
King of Chav's
Joined: 04 Apr 2004
|Posted: Sun Oct 14, 2007 2:15 am Post subject: Strange
Joined: 25 Jul 2005
|Posted: Wed Dec 12, 2007 4:08 pm Post subject:
|The image you highlight is interesting but take a look to the right hand corner and down. It's like there's a bearded "angel" type character and a baby or cherub below. You'll need to save the image and mess around with some filters - try it in black and white for example. In fact, there are other images that come to the fore in this way.
I was going to suggest that two photos had superimposed themselves (one stronger than the other) or that they just came back that way but of course you said that they were taken using a digital camera...
Joined: 01 Sep 2004
|Posted: Wed Dec 12, 2007 6:26 pm Post subject: photo
|there seems to be a lot of activity going on,on the right hand side of the photo.there seems to be gargoyles in there as well...
gimme some of that rock'n'roll
the kinda stuff that don't save souls
Joined: 25 Jul 2005
|Posted: Tue Dec 18, 2007 8:54 am Post subject:
|I think that the main "monster" image makes one's mind more suggestible to ideas. For example, the thing that seemed to me to look like an angel is clearly a tree line and something else superimposed on it. It's just a coincidence. Why would an angel have a beard and a Leningrad Cowboys haircut (and who knows, the pointed boots too). It could well be an image of Christ being crucified, probably a painting rather than a "photo" IYSWIM.
Below, the "cherub" image as I called it, I think is probably a painting of Christ as an infant, maybe part of a Madonna with Christ set up.
All this leads me to think that they are images you might have snapped either in that church itself or in another Church.
It still doesn't fully explain the insect/monster image on the left though...
Joined: 23 Feb 2008
|Posted: Sat Feb 23, 2008 3:43 am Post subject:
|For all the yrs i've lived in Hitchin i have only once tried going there...got within 100 yards of the place and bolted...dunno what scared me but i just felt that i just couldn't be there.
there's only 1 way of life and thats your own
Joined: 31 Aug 2009
Location: Luton, UK
|Posted: Thu Sep 03, 2009 8:31 pm Post subject:
|I've been up to Minsden in the last few months. Planning to go back when the nettles have died down. There were some interesting patterns in the nettles. One section where the nettles were shorter. Could be an indication of something solid under there.
Unless anyone already has one, I plan on doing a site survey, mapping out the ruins. I also want to establish the limit of the church grounds. Something that appears to be visible from the aerial photos that I've seen.
Does anyone know of any Doomsday Book listed churches in the area. Minsden is listed in the book. I want some other churches for comparison.
In my visit I felt no para-normal activity.
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