The History
Lidwell Chapel was built in the 13th century and is the site of one of Devon's most gruesome legends. It was home to what was perhaps Britain's first ever serial killer.

A monk by the name of Robert de Middlecote moved to the chapel around 1325-6 after he was accused of attempted murder of Agnes, the daughter of the local miller and three charges of robbery. He denied all charges and claimed that the robberies were carried out "for the benefit of the ecclesiastical community".

Now at Lidwell Chapel, the legend goes that he was once a caring monk who was driven mad by the solitude (but, according to historical notes, this was most likely not the case and was already in his state of mind upon arrival). During the day he kept his facade up, but at night he went out in search of travellers and offered food and shelter for the night. The travellers, exhausted, starving and seeing that it was a monk gladly took up such an offer and were treated to a hot meal. However, this meal was laced with a narcotic which caused them to become semi-conscious, upon which the monk then killed them with a knife, robbed them of any valuables and then dumped their body into the holy well (this part of the legend is apparently true for it has been 'confirmed' by reports after the well was inspected and was found to contain 'many bodies' including several women and children).

After several years of this, Robert de Middlecote was to meet his match. A sailor accepted the monks hospitality and during his stay - whilst in prayer - he saw the monk preparing to pounce with his knife. He blocked the attack, and in the ensuing fight Robert was pushed down the well. Shocked, the sailor ran out to the nearby farm for help, and both hauled the monk out. Surprisingly, Robert had survived the fall.

According to legend, Robert died minutes afterwards within desperate grasp of his ill-gotten gains. However, according to historical records Robert de Middlecote was executed on the gallows at Exeter in 1329.

Paranormal Stories
The book 'Ghastly and Ghostly Devon' by Sally and Chips Barber writes about this legend and offers some paranormal tales. It writes that the ghost of Robert de Middlecote still reputedly haunts the church. It is said that he's seen trying to escape from the well from which he was thrown down. With great effort he inches up until his head and shoulders appear from the opening only to slip back down and repeat the process again at a later date.

The book also speaks of the ghosts of women and children, possibly those that had been murdered and dumped down the well, have been seen and heard around the ruined chapel. People have also reported hearing their screams and cries when nobody was around.

In the 1970's a photographer from Bristol travelled to the ruins and took some photos. When one of the photos was developed later on he was shocked to discover that instead of showing the chapel in ruins the photo instead showed the chapel intact as it would have looked around about the 14th century. I currently don't know where to find a copy of this photo, but if anybody can shed any light on this please get in touch!

The Location
The whole place is eerie and sadly all that remains of the chapel is a single wall, the rest being just the foundations. Although grass and trees grow wild around the chapel and stream only a few weeds and short grass grow within the confines, leading some people to believe that the place has been cursed. The whole area does gives off an un-nerving atmosphere and it's just a shame that there isn't more to see.

Below are a selection of photographs that were taken during our visit.


This is the first view you get of the chapel as you walk down the steep, grass field towards it.


The only standing wall of the chapel.


The only standing wall from another angle.


Looking down at the rest of the area. When we visited the floor was very muddy, slippery and wet with a small stream running down the middle! In the opposite corner of the building in this photo (the just-visible indent) is the holy well which the bodies (and ultimately Robert himself) were thrown down.

How to get there:
The road you need to be on is the B3192 which takes you up from Teignmouth towards the golf course. Follow the road around the bend and you'll come out onto an open road. As the golf course is on your left (if you're travelling north and away from Teignmouth) keep your eyes focussed on the hedgeway on the right for there'll be a small wooden post indicating the pathway you need to take to get down to the chapel. Once you pass this there's a turning close on the left that doubles back around the edge of the golf course. On the right there's a parking area. Once parked walk back to the main road and cross over (when we were there it was very quiet) and keep walking down until you find the wooden post again. Walk down this footpath and you should come to a low-level metal bar. Hop over this and keep walking down until you come to another wooden footpath post and a gate with a tight swingpass on the left (it's a squeeze!). From there follow the grass path down the hill and then bear right when it splits to go down towards the wooded area. Down there there should be another gate with a steep field on the other side. Just down this field, on the left, are the remains of the chapel. A bit of a warning - speaking from experience here - don't go down when it's been raining because it can be extremely slippery, or if you do make sure to wrap up warm and wear proper walking boots. It's quite a hike to get down, and even more to get back up.

Ordinance Survey Map Reference: SS 924 761
Location Maps

Large Scale
Close Up



 



Related Links

The Book of THoTH : The Mad Monk of Lidwell Chapel - An awesome, in-depth history of Lidwell Chapel!
Ghastly and Ghostly Devon - The book that speaks of the Lidwell legend. Buy it on Amazon!