Friday 5 February 2010

St Nicholas Church, Deptford and a Ghost Story.

I recently visited the church of St Nicholas in Deptford. The first time I visited was somewhat unnerving as it was late, dark and a feeling of foreboding. This time, in daylight I was warmly greeted by the assistant curate who was very helpful to my request to take photos and learn a little more unknown history of this ancient monument. I was surprised to learn the church was completely destroyed by an incendiary bomb during World War 2 and remained derelict for some years becoming a dump and play area for children until it’s rebuilding in the late 1950’s. Many of its grave stones , plots, plaques and artefacts were destroyed or taken during those years with only fragments of architecture being recovered from the ruin. It also became a target of the V1 rockets one of which landed very close in the Royal Dock area. I believe this may be the one mentioned in  The Shipwrights
Whilst taking pictures and talking to various people I approached a lady, who wishes to remain anonymous, and asked her about church’s history. It was then she told me a story which was quite unexpected. She told me of a witch who was homeless and was granted permission by the church to stay in a room in the tower, the oldest part of the church still standing. She then started to relate a very unnerving ghost story which she experienced and had never disclosed to anybody other than her partner and now me. Whilst carrying out her duties it was her responsibility to secure the church when her work was finished. This invariably took place when she was alone to lock up the church. She recounts that one evening she distinctly heard rapping’s coming from the tower area. This happened several times dispelling thoughts that it could be floorboards, doors creeking or some other rational explanation.. She experienced an  intense feeling of being watched. So intense was the feeling she stopped working and fled the building. It affected her so badly over the coming weeks that she did not want to return. When she did return she made sure it was always during daylight hours and since that date she always paces her work so she can leave when everyone else departs.the building. I could see that the experience unnerved her and still to this day stays with her .
Can anyone shed light on the witch in the tower story??  
Grinling Gibbons the master carver and his renowned  work "The Valley of Dry Bones" God breaths air into the bones of the departed to give them everlasting life.


Stone carving fragment fron the church interior.                                                                                                 

Balcony leading to the room in the tower.

Carving representing St Peter.

St Luke

Bell Tower.

A facinating place to visit.                                     


Steve Doel said...

Hi Andy, I'd like to comment on the witch in the tower story, if I may. My name is Steve Doel, I'm the vicar of St Nicholas, Deptford, and I have my office in the Crypt. I am often working in the church when there is no one there and when it is late, and I can testify that there are often creaking and banging noises around the building, sometimes even noises which sound like rapping. However they can all be explained rationally, every single one. And the story about the witch staying in the tower is, alas, purely a legend. There's nothing to fear at St Nick's - but there is a really interesting building set in lovely grounds, which is home to a lively and active congregation and community.

Andy said...

Hello Steve,

Thanks for the info on the witch story. I agree old building do make one hell of a lot of noise especially when dark. Can you expand on the ledgend?

Anonymous said...

A correction on the valley of dry bones passage in Ezekiel chapter 37. It has nothing to do with the dead being raised, but is specifically concerned with God's restoration of the nation of Israel, which He brought about in May 1948. I'm rather surprised that the curate didn't put you right on that.

Andy said...

Sorry Anon but I dont understand your statement Ezekiel 37 states...

Again He said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them, ‘O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! 5 Thus says the Lord God to these bones: “Surely I will cause breath to enter into you, and you shall live. 6 I will put sinews on you and bring flesh upon you, cover you with skin and put breath in you; and you shall live. Then you shall know that I am the Lord.”’”

7 So I prophesied as I was commanded; and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and suddenly a rattling; and the bones came together, bone to bone. 8 Indeed, as I looked, the sinews and the flesh came upon them, and the skin covered them over; but there was no breath in them.

9 Also He said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.”’” 10 So I prophesied as He commanded me, and breath came into them, and they lived, and stood upon their feet, an exceedingly great army.

11 Then He said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They indeed say, ‘Our bones are dry, our hope is lost, and we ourselves are cut off!’ 12 Therefore prophesy and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “Behold, O My people, I will open your graves and cause you to come up from your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. 13 Then you shall know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves, O My people, and brought you up from your graves. 14 I will put My Spirit in you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken it and performed it,” says the Lord.’”

He certainly breathed breath into them here..

C B said...

Hi, I've just read your post(having put in Deptford in Google Search after the TV program on BBC2 about the High Street of Deptford) I was surprised by your comments about St. Nicholas church. I was christened there as a baby in 1950 (born in Bronze St) so think it must have been a 'working' church at that date. I do have early memories of the church.. and playing in the play park opposite too, although we'd moved away by 1956

CB said...

aaahhh...apologies. I think I have confused St Paul's with St Nicholas ? I was christened in St Nicholas'- still have the certificate but if St Paul's is near Bronze Street..that will be why my memories might deceive me! It was a loooong time ago! ;)

Andy said...


I still a bit confused at what you are commenting on, were you christened at St Nicholas or St Paul's?? and what were surprised to read about St Nicholas.

Best regards


Anonymous said...

St Nic's certainly had not been rebuilt in 1950.
If your Birth Certificate says St Nicholas then you would have been christened in the Church Hall, This was on the corner of Church St and Creek Rd and was used for all services, weddings, christenings etc.
The vicar at that time was probably Tom Pownel, too early for Ken Francis.

Unknown said...

Some info on St Nicholas. Did you know that the sculls on top of the entrance gates represent the victims of the plauge that are buried there and Christopher Marlow was murdered in a public house close to St Nicholas and he is supposidly buried there.There is a tomb in the churchyard for him.

vicki fludder Ribbands said...

Hi barbara parnell iv also heard that the sculls are ment to be Adam and eve. But I might have heard wrong

Unknown said...

The church was opened again after being rebuilt in 1958. Anonymous is correct that before then, the church hall (the old Methodist church) was used for services. The Pownels lived in the house next to the church hall.