St Mary The Virgin – Clophill, England - Atlas Obscura

St Mary The Virgin

Clophill, England

A reportedly haunted 14th century church is curiously facing the “wrong direction.” 


There’s a pleasant circular walk around Clophill, but what is most interesting in this old English village is the abandoned church, St Mary The Virgin, built around 1350 just outside the main settlement. There are a few odd things about this ancient little church, the most significant being that it was supposedly built facing the wrong direction.

Churches are traditionally oriented to face east, the direction from which the sun rises, which in the Christian religion is associated with the location of heaven and the return of the Messiah. Churches are positioned with the altar facing east so people will pray in that holy direction. 

Some have claimed that because St Mary The Virgin faces away from God, it thus opens its doors to Hell. Indeed, the church has a long history of reported hauntings and supposed satanic rituals. 

Another unusual feature of the ruined church is that nearly all of the gravestones sit against the wall of the graveyard, due to the area being cleared of gravestones in the 1970s after an incident of graveyard desecration. It makes for a very unusual and spooky setting.

The church was abandoned after a replacement church was built in a more convenient location in town in the 19th century. As the building began to fall apart, it took substantial funds from English Heritage to save the historic church, which stands proudly —albeit missing a roof or windows—looking down on the village it once served.

Know Before You Go

There is space to park near the footpath, but take care not to block any driveways. 

The gravel and earth footpath is on an incline leading past the eco-lodges with the church on the right. There's level access, but the site is protected by a barrier that you have to squeeze around.

The church is rather forbidding with a locked gate leading to the tower, an astonishing array of CCTV cameras, and a prohibition on visiting at night, with a warning that the area is alarmed.

The church is about a mile from the Bedford Road.

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December 14, 2016

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