St. Mary's Church - 'Ghouls at a ruined church
Rumoured to be one of the most haunted places in England this old ruined church is situated fourteen miles to the North East of Hereford and is in a small village named Avenbury , the churchis situated on the banks of the River Froome.
The church which was once known as St. Mary's is believed to be ghost ridden hence it's popularity with local ghost hunters, however the old ruinís whereabouts are not really known to people as it is hidden away in the countryside and is behind trees and overgrown plants. St. Mary's church ruin is also believed to be the one of the oldest in England and as a date that goes all the way back to 870 AD. The population of the village in 1861 was 371 people, mostly Farmers growing Wheat, Beans, Hops and Apples.
The Church is now just a rumble of ruins and there is only a small part of the church that has managed to still stand. The surrounding headstones are wildly overgrown and barely visible, while others are broken and cracked. This is such a shame and a sad loss, for this Church would of once been a beautiful Church that the local Village people would of once worshipped in the centre of the flourishing countryside.
Back in it's heyday the church itself was an old stone building which had an ancient gothic style, it had a nave, chancel, porch and a square tower which contained three bells, the tower had deeply splayed windows which had a thirteenth century date but even though St. Mary's sounded like it was the perfect church, it wasn't and had under gone drastic repairs over the centuries.
In 1866 the Reverend was Arthur Childe and the Vicar was Reverend Robert Pinwheel of St. Bees College who resided in the Vicarage , the Church Warden was Henry Partridge.
In 1856 the reverend was James Archibald and he also lived in the Church Vicarage which was worth £80 yearly, even when James was Reverend the Church was crumbling away .In the 1876 trade directory they described the Church as' sinking into a state of almost hopeless decay and ruin' . Sudden repairs took place again. The roof was carefully repaired and the heavy stone tiles were removed and replaced with the best brown Broseley tiles. The roof of the Nave on the North side was also stripped, repaired and covered with the new Broseley tiles on Cleft Oak Loaths.
The whole of the roof was covered with Ornamental Cresting and the walls of the Church had been divested of the Mortar and Whitewash because the walls were disfigured and pointed throughout . Seven new windows were also inserted into the North and South walls of the Church and one in the Tower. The inside of the Church was also improved and cleaned. A new Alter cloth was added and a good stove, but all of these repairs were carried out to no avail, the church was still in need of constant repair and it was costing a substantial amount of money to keep up with the ongoing repairs and costs. Unfortunately St. Mary's church was closed down in 1931 and as been left in ruin ever since.
The last reverend was E. H Archer Shepard and it is believed that he is one of the ghosts that haunt the Church ruin. When St. Mary's church closed down the Chalice, the huge Parish chest and the rest of the Church's treasure's were dispersed. The bells of the Church were removed in 1933 and they were re- hung in the belfry of St. Andrew's in London by the wardrobe.
A bell was also removed from the Bell Tower in 1937 and this Bell was heard to toll withought any natural cause on several occasions, Villagers believed that the tolling of the Bell signified the death of the Vicar who died just before the chilling chimes began.
In 1919 the sound of Organ music was being played in the Church, even though the Church was locked up, empty and the lights were off, this ghostly sound has been heard several times and many believe it to be the spirit of the last Reverend.
There is a story that the ghost of Nicholas Vaughan was haunting the church in the 1600's, Nicholas burned one of the Bishop's houses and so he was executed for the crime. After his death the haunting was so bad at the Churchyard that drastic actions were taken, the body of Nicholas was dug up and reburied in a silver box in the brook which lies next to the church. The box was covered with a very large stone which on some occasions can be seen sticking out of the water, people believed that if his body was covered by running water he would no longer haunt the churchyard.
However there is another story associated with this, an elderly brother and sister who lived in Avenbury since the beginning of the 20th century believed that the large stone covered the grave of a wicked woman who was thought to be a witch and apparently the villagers refused to let her be buried in the churchyard and so she was buried within site of the church.
Another story is that a lady witnessed a Funeral with a crowd of people; however these people had no heads. There are also stories that grave robbers used the Church in order to carry out their Black Magic rituals and a Churchwarden also saw a Funeral taking place but with a crowd of phantom Monks. So with all these unnerving stories this ruined church is definitely not for the faint hearted.