When Hertfordshire historian Reginald Hine died in 1949, per his wishes his ashes were spread on the site of the ruins of the Minsden chapel, where several years earlier he had promised to “endeavor in all ghostly ways to protect and haunt its hallowed walls.”
The chapel, built in the 14th century in the fields near Preston, fell into decline during and after the Reformation. As the congregation dwindled the building was neglected. Pieces of the chapel were stolen— the wood and stone work, the bells, and the furniture—until the building was nothing more than a shell that slowly crumbled and was engulfed by moss and ivy.
Ironically, this crumbling aesthetic made the chapel all the more picturesque, and it became popular for local weddings. In the last officially recorded wedding at the chapel, it was reported that the structure was so insecure a segment of roofing collapsed during the ceremony, narrowly missing the curate’s head and knocking the service book from his hands.
In 1907, a photographer clicked a picture of a ghostly figure resembling a monk outside the chapel. The local legend mill worked overtime for a while, with local reporters and residents spending nights near the chapel hoping to catch a glimpse of the phantom figure. Five years later, the photographer confessed that his photo was a hoax.
It was around the same time that Reginald Hine became deeply interested in the ruins and their history. He even leased the chapel in the 1920s and attempted to keep out scavengers, and promised to continue to protect it even after his death.
Know Before You Go
Minsden Chapel is a short walk from Hitch Woods car park, next to Preston, Hertfordshire via a public footpath. The public footpath goes directly next to the chapel, in winter providing a good view (in summer the trees and hedges block a large amount of the view). The chapel is technically accessible, with a wooden footstep going over the fence at the entrance, however next to this are precautionary signs advising against entry due to the safety hazards of the building.