Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Phantoms at Kenilworth Priory

 Kenilworth Priory was once one of the largest such houses in the kingdom. The priory was founded in 1122 by the same Geoffrey de Clinton who first built the castle. Presumably he wanted to ensure both his worldly safety and spiritual sanctity by these twin foundations so close to each other. By 1450 the Priory had become so large and wealthy that the Pope raised it to the status of an abbey and gave its prior the status of Abbot – then a privilege well worth having within the Catholic Church.

In 1538 the Abbey was closed down along with all the others in England by King Henry VIII as part of his establishment of the Protestant Church in his kingdom. The vast complex of buildings was mostly demolished and the materials sold off for profit within a year or two, a 10 hundredweight ingot made of lead melted from the roof was found buried in the field and is now in the church. The foundations, however, were left behind as too difficult to dig out. The great open space of Abbey Fields now covers these foundations, providing a welcome open park to the people of Kenilworth.

In the 1880s the site was fully excavated and the diggers were surprised by how much of the old Abbey church still remained. The ruins of this building have been left exposed and now form part of the churchyard to the town’s parish church of St Nicholas. The location of the buried ruins can have come as no surprise to the townsfolk, however. For centuries a procession of phantom monks has left the west door of the parish church and marched slowly down the avenue of trees that leads down to Abbey Field. At the end of the avenue, the procession turns left and continues for a few yards before vanishing. The spot where they disappear was revealed during the excavations to be the main entrance to the Abbey church. Clearly the ghostly monks knew where they were going.

Some people have claimed to hear the faint sounds of chanting and choral singing while resting in the old ruined church. These phantom echoes of long ago seem to come and go. They were especially active in the late 1970s, then faded for a while before returning in the 1990s. No visible ghosts accompany the eerie sounds of monkish chanting from so long ago. Nor do the sounds last for very long. By the time a person has realised what they are hearing, looked around for somebody with a radio and realised there is no such easy explanation, the singing has gone.

Unlike the ghosts, which remain.


from Haunted Places of Warwickshre by Rupert Matthews

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