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