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Hauntings in St Mary’s Avenbury Church

The strange happenings that we are about to describe occur in what would be considered a rural idyll, a place where a village once existed but where nature has now taken over somewhat. Shielded by dense woodland and shrubs stands the historic church of St Mary in Avenbury not far from Bromyard. Centuries ago and close to the River Frome a Saxon church was erected here in the late 800’s and over time additions were made to the church. The church although now ruinous and in disrepair is where many of the Baskerville family are buried. Over the years the village population disappeared and the church was finally closed in 1931.

St Mary’s has always had a colourful history in regards to hauntings and spooky occurrences. Many stories were shared, people reported strange happenings not only in the church but also in the graveyard, most of which were terrifying to hear. The vicar himself reported hearing the bells ringing unaided when the church was empty and the church organ being played when there was definitely no-one inside. It was reputed the bells were heard in 1931 on the night that the last vicar of the church, The Reverend E.H. Archer Shepherd, died. The church had three bells the largest of which, “Andrew”, was said to ring out of its own accord whenever danger threatened the parish. After the demise of the church three of the bells were rehung in St Andrew by the Wardrobe in London during 1933.

Tales are told that even an exorcism was once performed, when the spirit of a man who was hanged for burning down a house owned by the Bishop kept appearing in the churchyard frightening locals. As was common at the time a vicar or priest was said to have trapped his spirit in a silver box which was then buried under the bridge at the bottom of the River Frome.

And if that wasn’t enough, villagers refused to bury a local woman in the graveyard. She had a reputation for being quite a nasty individual, so much so that some considered her to be in league with the devil, perhaps a witch. Although her body was buried away from the churchyard initially, this still concerned locals and her body was dug up and thrown unceremoniously into the river. But was this enough to deter her ghost? Perhaps not, as she is said to still haunt the church ruins?

Just imagine being there on a moonlit October night with the trees rustling in the wind and the leaves swirling around you, spooky shadows darting back and forth. That chilling feeling that someone is behind you, the hairs on the back of your neck standing on end and suddenly you hear the church bells ringing and the haunting sounds of the organ. It would have us running back to the car rather swiftly we can tell you!

In the 1980’s workers reported finding a silver box under the bridge, thankfully it was empty……….no spirits here! Over the years St Mary’s church has sparked interest with those engaging with the occult, who leave strange artefacts and other adornments at the site. Still to this day ramblers and the curious passing by have recalled hearing the bells ringing and the phantom organist playing. Some locals have requested that the church be exorcised but to date that hasn’t happened, so don’t be surprised if you continue to hear some more spooky stories from this historic church.

Please note that the church is now privately owned and is being slowly restored so cannot be accessed by the public.

These stories are curated from many sources and retold in our fun ESL style, in the true spirit of Folklore.

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