Tuesday, 12 October 2010

The ghostly monk of Shaftesbury, Dorset

Find your way to  Abbey Walk.

It is along this pleasant walk that the troublesome ghost of the last monk of Shaftesbury might be encountered. Hearing that King Henry’s men were on their way to shut the Abbey and confiscate its wealth, Abbess Elizabeth Souche decided to take action. At the time it was by no means certain that Henry’s actions would be the end of the matter. The King had broken with the Pope and set up the Church of England for personal and political as much as religious reasons. Abbess Souche believed that the political climate might change and that she would again be allowed to continue her sacred calling. Things did not turn out that way and England was to become a Protestant nation.

But, hoping for the best, Abbess Souche collected together the gold, silver and other moveable wealth of the Abbey and entrusted it to a large, burly monk to hide in safety. The man set off, loaded down with his sack of valuables at dusk. He returned, covered in dirt and carrying a spade, soon after dawn. The treasure was, he declared, safe. King Henry’s commissioners closed down the Abbey and confiscated its lands and buildings to the Crown. The nuns were given small pensions and sent on their way.

At this point Abbess Souche received an urgent message. The burly monk had been taken ill and wanted to speak to her. She hurried to his bedside. Desperately the man tried to tell her where he had hidden the treasure, but words failed him and he died without telling his secret.

Obviously the matter troubled his conscience. He returns to Abbey Walk from time to time, beckoning people to follow him into the gardens that now cover the steep slopes that once fell away from the Abbey walls. A few people have followed him in the he hope of unearthing a treasure, but he always vanishes from sight before pointing out any spot in particular. Whatever is buried here seems certain to remain there for some time to come.

This is an extract from Ghost Hunter Walks in Dorset

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