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The Oldest Church In London


When I was in college, I spent a year abroad in Brighton, England. A roommate suggested I come back the next summer to stay with him in London, for free. I jumped at the chance; at the time, Mattie was a nursing student. When I went back to London in Summer 2002, he'd switched careers to being a Vicar - of the oldest Church in London. St. Bartholomew the Great, built in 1123 (give or take).

When I arrived, I discovered I would be sleeping not in a guest room, but in the walk-in closet of his bedroom in the small cottage built into the side of the church. Not exactly thrilled by that revelation, but I figured it would only be for sleeping and I'd be working and traveling anyway. I got a job at a pub down the street (Butcher's Hook and Cleaver, shout-out to Barbican tube stop!) and spent my off days exploring the city. I hadn't really thought about ghosts and haunted places too much, but always liked Halloween. Also, I am the opposite of religious, so this made it especially unique to live in for a summer.

Mattie failed to mention how ridiculously haunted the church is. The side house is essentially built onto the church, and you can access the main floor (rectory?) from a side door of the house. A spiral staircase leads to each floor: church access, then outside door, then living room, bathroom, kitchen, and the bedroom (with closet) is on top. Very vertical. From the kitchen there is a door that opens to an upper side ledge of the church where you can look down on services, which is cool; especially when they would film movies and shows there (I saw the BBC filming something there.) They also stored a lot of coffins there, which wasn't cool. There was a baby coffin in there for a week before the funeral and I refused to step foot out on the ledge at that time.

Anyway, from the first night I realized how haunted it was. Turns out there's a graveyard and a lot of bodies buried there over the years. Every night (seriously every single night) I would hear laughing, talking, things being dragged back and forth in the church, yelling - it was extremely difficult to sleep through. I tried to tape the noises with my camcorder, but it was a shiatty camcorder so it didn't pick up very well.

One time, I was asleep and was woken by the feeling like I was being choked; I instinctively did the sign of the cross and fell the invisible hands disappear. Not sure why I did that, being all non-religious, must have been the church-iness wearing off on me. After that episode I slept in the pub for about a week, as I didn't really want to be choked again, but it only happened that one time (thankfully). Mattie gave me a rosary to keep in the room closet (and I still have it to this day!) and it seemed to keep them away from me after that.

Otherwise I'd try to sleep through all the night-noise, and in the morning I'd go down and help Mattie drag these giant-ass lead candlesticks back to their original place, as the ghosts would rearrange everything in the middle of the night and it was our job to put everything back in their place. And these giant candlesticks were extremely heavy; it takes 2 people to even move them.

They'd also take paintings off the walls and set them on chairs, on a weekly basis. I also had this ghost constantly throw our shoes down the stairs, and he even stole a pair of my favorite sandals *sigh*. He was some old priest ghost or monk ghost who was known to go barefoot and had a thing against shoes. So besides the laughing and the dragging stuff in the church you'd hear shoes flying down the stairwell. Mattie would perform exorcisms every once in a while to try and calm things down, but it never really worked. He was also a bit of a drama queen, so I'm not even sure how much of it was legit exorcism stuff anyway. I would ask him how he could sleep through the night with all the noises, and he just shrugged and said he was used to it. I was never so relieved to board a plane home for the USA to go back to school.

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The following comments are submitted by users of this site and are not official positions by Please read our guidelines and the previous posts before posting. The author, deecro, has the following expectation about your feedback: I will read the comments and participate in the discussion.

Nectarvore (1 stories) (226 posts)
10 years ago (2014-11-07)
Wow... Yeah some of those old churches have an aura so layered it's impossible not to acknowledge it. I love stories like this. I wonder how much of it was poltergeist type activity and how much of it was intelligent, coherent haunting. A spiritual healer friend of mine has a theory that exorcism is about the rudest, most arrogant thing you can't enforce upon a spirit that hasn't crossed over. He says that the dead deserve our respect as much as the living and that most spirits will see reason and cross over once they have been acknowledged and helped. He does this with loving intention and a goodbye ritual, requesting the higher order astral beings and angels assist them to cross over. Me? I'm not sure. I've always been in awe of his fearlessness regarding disquiet spirits. I view them like children. If they behave, they won't get my wrath. Hahaha...
valkricry (49 stories) (3275 posts) mod
10 years ago (2014-11-03)
deecro, I liked this quite a bit. I found the tidbit about them storing coffins on the upper side ledge of the church very interesting, as here the coffins are either 'stored' on a lower level or brought in same day as the service. I'm with you, the baby coffin would have disturbed me to no end.
I can't help but wonder if perhaps, since it was originally built as an Augustinian Priory (which is Catholic) and now used as an Anglican/Episcopal Church, if perhaps some of the original friars aren't a bit... Well not happy. Instead of going into some long explanation, I located a lovely succinct article on the differences:
This would explain, at least in part, the moving of things around, especially in the church proper.
You mention the pub was down the street, and this could explain some of the 'voices, laughing' etc. That you heard. Sound can really travel, especially after the day-time noises have quieted down.
But the shoes...yeah, my shoes don't normally go throwing themselves about. So, I don't think there's a mundane explanation for that.
Interesting, very interesting!
elnoraemily (guest)
10 years ago (2014-11-03)
Femael, the point of these threads is not to convert people or bash their personal beliefs. Just because someone experienced a ghost does not mean there was a religious meaning behind the event to them. It's open to individual interpretation. There are comment guidelines in a link on the bottom of the site.


I have always wanted to visit Brighton! I had a friend from high school stay there for a bit who loved it.
That is a lot of activity for one place. Could any of the noises have been carried over from nearby places? Noise travels in odd ways.
The choking could have been sleep paralysis, especially if it only happened once. Sometimes the mind can get trapped in a sleeping state while conscious and can lead to hallucinations, feelings of being pinned, paralysis, ect.

The moving things is quite funny to me- though I am sure it would be annoying in person. It would strike me as someone not liking how things were currently decorated.
Femaelstrom (1 stories) (56 posts)
10 years ago (2014-11-02)
I am surprised to read that, after experiencing the supernatural, crossing yourself & finding relief, that t hasn't occurred to you that religion has a TRUE purpose.

So many people refuse to believe in what they cannot see. I liken it to experiencing ultraviolet rays. How can you believe in THEIR existance, but not a SPIRITUAL existance?

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