Minsden Chapel

Minsden Chapel

Minsden Chapel is an isolated ruined chapel in the fields above the hamlet of Chapelfoot, near Preston, Hertfordshire. Today it is a roofless shell, partly surrounded by a small wood, and accessible only by footpath.

It was built in the 14th century, and by the 17th century had fallen into disrepair. Marriages continued here into the 18th century, until the crumbling masonry became too dangerous. One story says that 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 in 1738.

In the 20th century the chapel was closely associated with the historian Reginald L Hine from nearby Hitchin. He frequently visited here, and eventually obtained a lifetime lease of the building from the vicars of Hitchin. So fond of the chapel was he, that he even bid "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". Contrary to popular belief Hine is not buried at Minsden. His body was cremated at Golders Green (London) and his ashes were subsequently scattered at the chapel. His family erected a memorial stone at the site, which was subsequently re-laid in its current grave-like horizontal position by them after it was damaged by vandals in the early 1980's.

In 1907, T.W. Latchmore, a local professional photographer and friend of Hine, took a photograph of a ghostly monk at the Chapel. Rumours of paranormal activity first appeared around this time. The haunting most frequently reported is that of a single monk climbing stairs (which no longer exist) to the north-east area of the chapel; this is said to occur at midnight on Halloween. Other reported experiences include the sighting of a glowing cross on the wall, and the hearing of distant music or the ringing of the stolen bells. Legends also exist of a lost tunnel, and of a murdered nun.

Despite the many reports, very little evidence exists to support the validity of any of these stories.

Latchmore finally admitted that his 'Minsden Ghost' photograph was a hoax in an interview given in 1930 to Eugene O'Donnell, a well known contemporary writer on occult matters. Latchmore explained that the picture was the deliberate result of an experiment in the techniques of double exposures. A subject that interested him greatly at the time. Though Latchmore refused to disclose the identity of the individual who posed as the ghostly figure it seems likely that it was a young man man well known for practical jokes, his good friend Reggie Hine. Hine re-published the photograph in 1929 in his History of Hitchin' but never admitted it was a fake nor his own part in it.

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