A house of haunted people
A HOUSE OF HAUNTED PEOPLE
St Mary’s, the church from which I first came, had gradually fallen out of use. In the church’s
heyday, people had chosen to live at that point in the valley because it offered natural shelter
and a point for gathering water. Roads mattered little in those days. Life was governed more
by woodland paths and bridleways.
Gradually people came to settle two miles down the valley where the roads crossed and a
substantial bridge had been constructed over the river. By then some water was being piped
into people’s houses and bricks and mortar did their job of protecting against the elements
People still walked the length of the valley to their church until the advent of the working
week; then they demanded worship closer to the place they called home. That was the point
at which St Mary’s was abandoned, becoming a refuge for owls and bats and vermin. During
the summer months, the children of the village, those who ventured that far down the valley,
dared one another to spend long minutes in the main body of the church building or to go in
there for a piss, incurring God’s wrath.
Without maintenance, the church crumbled and begged for demolition. That was how Fenby
saw it, going past it daily with his horse and cart on the way to his stone yard. He knew the
building was over four hundred years old; and he knew it would last only a few more seasons.
“There are good building materials in St Mary’s,” Fenby told his brother-in-law, George
Ashcroft, “wonderful seasoned timber, quality stone and bricks.”
“Why don’t we take it?” Ashcroft asked in his usual direct manner. “We could buy some land
and build our own house.”
“We can’t take the stuff because it belongs to the church and the law will chase us down,”
Fenby told him wearily. His brother-in-law’s feckless ways tired him
“And who of the modern clergy ever goes out to St Mary’s these days? They’ll never know,”
Ashcroft asserted. He had a point, a very persuasive one.
As luck would have it, Lord Huntley’s estate had let it be known that they were looking for a
builder to construct a house for the estate’s new gardener to live in. Fenby had heard about
this during a drinking session at The Cock and Feathers.