Saint Mary's Church

Houghton-on-the-Hill, Norfolk

Saint Mary’s Guardians

Other than Bob, Saint Mary’s has two other guardians, Carmelite Monks.

Sir Robert Neville was buried in the south aisle (long since demolished) in 1270 after his execution at Craven in Yorkshire. It was on the orders of Henry III that he was executed for holding a ‘criminal conversation’ with a lady of ‘certain standing’. It is thought the lady being referred to was the Queen.

The Chantry was set up in 1304 by Lady Mary Neville, (wife of Sir Robert Neville). Having a house built near to the church for two Carmelite Friars, who said mass daily for Sir Roberts Soul. This continued until it fell victim to Henry VIII’s anti-monastic campaign. The ghosts of these Carmalite friars are regularly seen in and around the church.

Of the two Carmelite Monks, normally only one is ever seen, and often appears whilst restorations are being carried out, almost as if to keep a watchful eye over things. Many people have reported seeing him.

During one of the official tours a visitor approached Bob and asked “Who is the rude, robed wearing official, who ignored his questions and simply walked off without even speaking!” The visitor had been near the south door at the time. One can only surmise he had had a chance meeting with one of the Carmelite monks.

The farm worker who one day whilst following the combine in the field to the east, flew out of his tractor, shouting and waving his fists, certain that the combine had almost run over some one. Yet there was no one there! In desperation he ran over to Bob who was busy tending the garden to enquire if “he had seen the stupid bloke in the long brown coat walking in front of the combine?” “Where had he gone? He could have been killed”.

Bobs simple reply was that you could not kill someone who was already dead.

There are of course those who chuff and guffaw at the prospect of a monk ghosts, like the workmen during the restoration of the north window. Who one day sheepishly reported they too had had a visit. He had entered through the south door, paused a while and left.

Just before Christmas (2003) he made an impromptu visit during a prayer meeting.

[St Mary's guardian?]

Could this be one of Saint Mary’s friendly guardians?

The lady is standing to the right, the monk to the left?

The original of this photograph is on display in Saint Mary’s Church, and is far clearer. It was taken whilst the church was still in a very bad state of disrepair looking from the nave through the tower out towards the door.

The lady who took the picture said that at the time of taking the photo there was no one else up at Saint Mary’s apart from herself and the lady in the photo.

One of the guardians was seen twice in the afternoon of Friday 14th September, after an absence of nearly nine months.

Have you encountered our friendly guardian? Please let us know.

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