Saturday, June 04, 2016

The ruins of St John, Boughton: the most haunted site in Northamptonshire

Boughton is a chocolate-boxy village just north of Northampton where for decades the wealthy of that town have chosen to live. Today it is threatened by its remorseless expansion.

But less than a mile to the east everything changes. This is the original site of Boughton and there you will find the ruins of the church of St John.

The Victoria County History described it thus in 1937:
The ruins of the old church of ST. JOHN stand to the north-east of Boughton Green on a site which falls from west to east. The building consisted of chancel, north chapel, nave, and west tower with spire and was of 14th-century date, but the remains have long been neglected and are undergoing a gradual process of disintegration by the agency of weather and the unchecked growth of ivy. The site is thickly overgrown and at the west end is a confused mass of rubble, broken gravestones, brambles, and nettles. Where the walls stand to any height their architectural features are generally hidden by ivy. Bridges, early in the 18th century, described the building as then 'in ruins, without a roof, the walls in several parts levelled with the ground', (but the tower and spire stood till about 1785.
But things were worse in the 16th century:
the rabbits invaded the churchyard itself, making the place so dangerous that the inhabitants were afraid to go to mass for fear of breaking their necks. It was said that the bones dug up by the conies would fill a scuttle and 'that a man can go skantly in a corner of yt but he shall fynde it full of dead mennes bones, a thing most pytyous to be seen'. One of the parishioners stated that a 'great number of conyes have so underminded the church yarde of Bouckton that it wold abhorre any Crystiane manys harte in the world to see it'.
Today the ruins are picturesque, but the steeply sloping churchyard makes it difficult to explore and there are disconcertingly recent burials.

There is also a spring issuing from beneath the east wall of the ruined chancel, making one think that this must be an ancient site whose sacredness predates Christianity.

It also has the reputation of being the most haunted site in Northamptonshire.

The Ghost Book says:
Around two hundred years ago, a young couple had been married only a few hours when the groom dropped dead. Grief stricken and unable to live without her love, the young lady ended her own life next to her husband's grave.
And it continues:
Following on from the tale of the doomed newly weds, the most famous ghost is said to be that of a beautiful red haired woman. She entices male passers by, and asks for a kiss. Be warned, for the legend follows that if you receive a kiss from this young woman, you will come to your death exactly a month after. 
This is said to be the fate of William Parker. He was passing by the churchyard on Christmas Eve in 1875 when he met a beautiful red haired girl. She invited him to sit with her for a while. After saying farewell, the young woman vanished and sure enough, William died exactly one month later, to the day. 
Again, on Christmas Eve, a moaning spirit makes his presence known. It is believed to be the spirit of Captain Slash, but why would he haunt the churchyard? Perhaps he is in search of the other members of his gang, ready to patrol the highways once more. 
The spirits of children have been reportedly seen amongst the grave stones. There is evidence that several children are buried on the site. 
A figure of a woman in white robes, and a headless man have also been seen.
I did catch sight of something in the corner a couple of times, but when I turned my head it had gone.

There was no sign of the beautiful redhead, Captain Slash or the ghost children, but I did take a lot of photographs.

And in my experience such things are more likely to appear if you print those photos in black and white.

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