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As Looking For Ghosts continued to search for the paranormal amongst London’s concealed past, we arrived at St Mary-le-Bow. It is said that you can only truly be considered cockney if you were born within earshot of the churches’ chimes; the Bow Bells. It is also, along with a few other London churches, immortalised in the nursery rhyme Oranges and Lemons. However, few people are aware that this famous church once suffered a deadly curse…
In the 11th and 12th centuries black masses were held at the site, leading many locals to believe it had become cursed. In 1091, the roof blew off killing a considerable number of local residents, whilst more people were crushed to death in 1271 as the tower collapsed into the street below.
The church was also nearly destroyed in 1196 when the Archbishop of Canterbury used fire to smoke out murderous tax-dodger William Fitzobert who had been hiding out in the tower. How that plan went wrong we’ll never know.
St Mary’s houses many a grim tale, as Lawrence Duckett was murdered within the building at the end of the 13th Century. Consequently 17 men were hanged (and one woman burned to death) for this crime.
Almost inevitably St Mary-le-Bow was destroyed by the Great Fire of London and was rebuilt by Sir Christopher Wren in 1673 , when many people say the curse was lifted. Nice one, Chris!
Fire, murder, toppling towers; whilst there can be no argument that St Mary’s is the unluckiest church in the world, is it the result of some ancient hex? Or just poor infrastructure?
Despite us pressing our ears up against the door of the crypt, we still didn’t experience any bloody ghosts. Probably because the crypt, which for centuries amassed decaying corpses, ironically houses a fashionable vegetarian restaurant these days.
The City is the oldest quarter of London, yet now houses some the most modern skyscrapers in the metropolis. Old churches, pubs and cobbled streets are hidden from view by these new, towering structures, giving their existence a strange, off-kilter existence.
One of these older structures is St Botolph’s Without Bishopsgate, which sits behind Liverpool Street station and lies just opposite London’s newest skyscraper Heron Tower.
We visited St Botolph’s, hoping to catch a glimpse of this ghost.
Top right. On the balcony. Yeah, trust us. That’s supposed to be a ghost. That “ghost” was taken by Chris Brackley in 1982 while his was photographing a church that he says was only inhabited by him and his wife. Which begs the questions… Is his wife see-through?
Allegedly, a few years later, coffins were found in the wall of crypt revealing a preserved corpse of a woman who bore some sort of resemblance to the figure in the picture. Details are sketchy and wholly unconvincing.
So, Looking For Ghosts searched for this wispy madame but, unfortunately, did not find her. Probably because it was a smudge on the lens or, for want of a better word, bollocks.