Minsden Chapel in 2010
Wikimedia Commons

Minsden Chapel is an isolated 14th-century chapel in the fields above the hamletRural settlement smaller than a village. of Chapelfoot, near Preston, Hertfordshire, originally dedicated to St Nicholas. Built from flint rubble, plastered externally, with stone dressings, it is today a roofless shell partly surrounded by a small wood, and accessible only by footpath. It is a Scheduled Monument and is Grade II listedStructure of particular architectural and/or historic interest deserving of special protection..[1]

The chapel was built in the 14th century, and by the 17th century had fallen into disrepair. The remains consist of a naveCentral part of a church, used by the laiety. with a narrow square-ended chancelPart of a church containing the altar, used by the officiating clergy..[1]

Despite being abandoned, marriages continued to be conducted in the chapel into the 18th century, until the crumbling masonry became too dangerous. One story says that a piece of falling stonework knocked the prayer-book out of a curate’s hand during the marriage ceremony of Enoch West and Mary Horn on 11 July 1738.[2]

Minsden Chapel’s iconic arch finally collapsed in 2008.[3] It was reported in 2017 that the Church Commissioners for England, who own the site, were intending to sell it to a “surrounding landowner”, sparking fears that the chapel could be lost forever.[4] Since then a major repair project to stabilise the walls, funded by Natural England, was completed in 2023.[5]

Reginald Hine

In the 20th century the chapel became closely associated with the solicitor and historian Reginald Hine (1883-1949), from nearby Baldock. He visited frequently, and eventually obtained a lifetime lease of the building from the vicars of Hitchin.[6] So fond of the chapel was he that he bade:

… trespassers and sacrilegious persons take warning, for I will proceed against them with the utmost rigour of the law, and, after my death and burial, I will endeavour, in all ghostly ways, to protect and haunt its hallowed walls.[6]

Contrary to popular belief Hine is not buried at Minsden. His body was cremated at Golders Green in London, and his ashes were subsequently scattered at the chapel. Hine’s family erected a memorial stone at the site, which was subsequently re-laid in its current grave-like horizontal position after it was damaged by vandals in the early 1980s.[7]


In 1907 Thomas William Latchmore, a local professional photographer and friend of Hine, took a photograph that supposedly showed a ghostly monk at the chapel. Rumours of paranormal activity first appeared around this time. The haunting most frequently reported is that of a single monk climbing non-existent stairs in the north-east area of the chapel, said to occur at midnight on Halloween. Other reported experiences include the sighting of a glowing cross on the wall, and the hearing of distant music or the ringing of the bells stolen from the chapel.

See caption
T.W. Latchmore’s hoax photograph of the Minsden ghost (1907)
Wikimedia Commons

In an interview given in 1930 to Elliott O’Donnell, a well-known contemporary writer on occult matters, Latchmore finally admitted that his Minsden Ghost photograph was a hoax. He explained that the picture was the deliberate result of an experiment in the techniques of double exposures, a subject that interested him greatly at the time. Although Latchmore refused to disclose the identity of the individual who had posed as the ghostly figure, it seems likely that it was a young man well-known for practical jokes, Latchmore’s good friend Reginald Hine. Hine re-published the photograph in 1929 in his History of Hitchin but never admitted it was a fake nor his own part in it.[7]

The paranormal investigator Peter Underwood spent a night at the chapel in the late 1940s, and claimed to have heard the sound of distant music and to have seen a white glowing cross on one of the walls, which disappeared and then reappeared, although he did suggest that “it could possibly have been a trick of the moonlight, as a full moon was shining down through the trees at the time”.[8]