Although I love ghost stories and creepy goings on I’m not a ‘believer’ – just yet. That doesn’t stop me getting deep into scary midnight jaunts and poking around spooky places in the hope of a good old scare (or maybe more, a ghoul or goblin perhaps?).
When I recently read that Paul Baker, City of London guide and ghostwalker, gave an interview explaining that “It’s said Monken Hadley is the second most haunted village in the country” I got quite excited indeed and spent a bit of time researching its history.
The Anglican Parish church of St.Mary’s was restored in the Victorian era but a church has stood on the spot of St.Mary’s for the past 800 years. The area has seen a approximated 1,000 year history full of dark stories – the bloody Battle of Barnet where almost 3,000 men were slain on the misty common at Hadley Green, a ghost obsessed police constable so traumatised by spirits that he was eventually confined to an asylum, sad, wandering widows and executed Lords and Sirs, including Sir William Brereton who was executed along with Anne Boleyn.
Despite all this dark promise, I have found nothing to fear on my Monken Hadley visits. Although there was no supernatural activity I did stumble across an table stone that was slightly raised and had a fairly large cracked hole in its side. Spooky enough to warrant a tremor of excitement in me, I stuck my camera to record some kind of evidence, also I needed the flash to light up the grave, as it was pitch black without. This is what I found:
A whole lot of nothing, as you can see. Never mind, what the churchyard lacked in spooks and ghosts was infinitely made up for in interesting stones and engravings. My favourite ones are cracked, crumbling and covered in lichen – some caskets and stones are even ‘stapled’ together with lengths of iron, like patchwork. There is also one particularly attractive stone, featuring a striking medallion of a swooping dove, sitting quite awkwardly under an ivy strangled yew. It’s well worth a walk around St. Mary’s churchyard, if only to find the following:
A wonderful headstone, photographed by Gigi Elmes for her Flickr set ‘Burial Sites’. I urge you to take a look, there are some lovely photos and a couple of rather funny epitaph engravings in there. I.C. Butts anyone?