Are church plans to sell off 14th century Grade II-listed ‘haunted chapel’ near Hitchin an own ghoul?

PUBLISHED: 11:31 11 May 2017

The Minsden Ghost. TW Latchmore, 1907.

The Minsden Ghost. TW Latchmore, 1907.

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Campaigners are up in arms over a bid by the church to sell a ‘haunted’ Grade II-listed 14th century chapel near Hitchin – meaning it could be lost forever.

Minsden ChapelMinsden Chapel

In documents seen by the Comet, the Church Commissioners for England are intending to sell Minsden Chapel – built more than 600 years ago – to a ‘surrounding landowner’.

The paperwork reveals the religious body intends to formally close the ruins for regular public worship and supports a proposal to dispose of the land.

The building was abandoned in the 18th century and is now a picturesque ruin on the edge of a wood between Preston and Langley – a short walk from the Rusty Gun pub in London Road near St Ippolyts.

The ruins are also an important feature on a popular walking route and even the church’s statutory advisory committee admits the site has ‘archeological and ecological potential’.

Minsden ChapelMinsden Chapel

However, the ruins are also of interest to ghosthunters with local historian Reginald Hine – who lived between 1883 to 1949 – devoting years of study to the place.

Reginald, whose ashes were scattered on the site where he also has a grave, frequently visited – even obtaining a lifetime lease of the building from the vicars of Hitchin.

In 1907 he and two others brought a camera to the chapel with the intention of photographing the ghost of a monk who it was believed was murdered there – and whose tortured spirit was said to have emerged from the stone walls of the ruined chapel.

Thomas William Latchmore took a picture of what was said to be the ghost. It is now accepted the picture may have been a hoax, or at the very least a practical joke – although during his lifetime Hine never admitted this.

He was so fond of the chapel he even issued a curse to protect it from beyond the grave, threatening in perpetuity: “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 hallowed walls.”

Reginald sadly took his own life by stepping in front of a train at Hitchin railway station in 1949, but not before he wrote the definitive book on the town – the Official Guide to Hitchin.

Chris Parker from Keep Hitchin Special has circulated an email to prominent figures in the town calling for action to be take and told the Comet: “It’s a scheme which has to be stopped and I would urge as many people as possible to make their views known to the church.”

Concerned Hitchin resident and ghost hunter Stewart Scott said: “My friends and I used to visit the site as teenagers to see if we could spot a ghost or two. Alas we never did – but it was very spooky. I think it’s a shame such an historic site could be lost to the public.”

To comment on the church’s you can send a letter to Representations, Closed Churches Division, Church Commissioners, Church House, Great Smith Street, London, SW1P 3AZ, or email closedchurches.reps@churchofengland.org before June 5.

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