A little village close to where I live has a bit of a bad reputation; specifically, it’s the grade II listed building and scheduled monument, St Mary’s Church in Clophill. The church now lies in ruins, only the tower and nave remaining…
About St Mary’s
It is situated at the top of a hill, overlooking the village of Clophill, and dates back to the 11th – 12th century. Indeed, archaeological evidence suggests that the area was possibly a sacred site as far back as Celtic times. During the Victorian period, the village of Clophill grew, and the congregation became too big to be housed in the church. As a result, a new, larger one was built down in the village and St Mary’s became a mortuary chapel to serve the graveyard.
This in turn, led to the church falling into ruin. Lead from the roof was stolen in the 1950’s, and subsequently a decision was made to remove anything of value and house it in the new church. St Mary’s became nothing more than a historic shell, leaving it open to the elements…and others…
Black Magic at St Mary’s
Perhaps what St Mary’s is most famous for is its association with black magic. In 1963, a grave belonging to an apothecary’s wife, Jenny Humberstone, was opened and her bones scattered in the church. At the time it was said that this was a crude attempt at black magic. Similar acts of desecration occurred in 1969 and 1975.
What may have simply been horrific acts of vandalism and desecration have led the area to acquire a sinister, occult reputation, attracting people from all over England to come and visit the ruins. Many have claimed that they have witnessed supernatural goings on at St Mary’s, including the seeing of flashing lights and ghosts.
In recent years, St Mary’s has also been a victim of graffiti, and never am I more sad and angry than when I have seen a pentagram spray-painted on the ruins of a religious building. I believe in my heart that those responsible are not true Witches, Wiccans or Pagans. Many pagans believe that we each have the right to pick and practice our religion, and we respect the faiths of others and their religious buildings. However, that doesn’t stop us being associated with such groups by those who do not know any better. Such acts fuel the misconceptions that surround modern paganism, and these thoughtless, childish antics damage the reputation of paganism as a whole.
What are you, a witch, doing up there by this church, I hear you ask. Nothing sinister is my reply. The church is situated on the Greensand Ridge walk, which passes through some beautiful Bedfordshire countryside, so my partner and I are often in the area walking, if the weather allows. The area is also one of my favourites for collecting the berries of the hawthorn.
As you can imagine, the ruins of St Marys and its cemetery are quite atmospheric. Next to the old graveyard, a modern one is still in use.
The ruins are now set to receive a makeover, one that will eventually lead to public access to the restored church tower and the building of a separate heritage centre close by.