Friday, 1 November 2013


The  Halter  Devil  Chapel


Francis Brown was an 18th century yeoman farmer whose farm was near to the village of Muggington not far from Derby.  Mr Brown, who was a heavy drinker, had apparently misappropriated some public funds and was a very disturbed man.   It is not certain what happened one dark and stormy night in 1723 when Brown went into a field to get his horse, but the horse was rushing around, frightened by the storm and making it extremely difficult for its master to halter it.  One story says that Brown, in his drunken rage cried out ‘If I can’t halter thee, I’ll halter the devil,’ whereupon the horse vanished in a flash of lightening; whilst another version has it that Brown tried to halter a cow in mistake for his horse and was terrified when faced with a black horned face.   Either way Mr Brown was brought to his senses and he became a reformed man.  In witness of this he built a small chapel onto his farm house and endowed it with land.   A stone tablet, later broken up, was said to have been inscribed :


'Francis Brown in his old age
did build him here an hermitage 1723
Who being old and full of evil
Once on a time haltered the devil'.

The chapel, known locally as Halter Devil Chapel, is still there and can be visited.  It is still used from time to time for Church of England services.
Halter Devil Chapel
By  the  Grace  of  God
A tablet on the tower of the parish church at Keysoe in Bedfordshire, written in the English of the period, tells the poignant story of William Dickins, who fell whilst re-pointing the steeple of the church in the 18th century and was miraculously saved :


In memory of the Mighty hand of the Great God and our Savour Jefus Chrift.
Who prefurved the Life of Wm Dickins April 17th 1718
when he was Pointiing the Steepol and Fell From the Rige of the Middel Window
In the Spiar Over the South Weft Pinackel  he Dropt Upon the Batelmen
and there Broak his leg and foot and Drove Down 2 Long Copein Stone
and Fell to the Ground with his Neck Upon one Standard of his Chear
When the Other End took the Ground Which was the Nearest of killing him
yet when he See he was Faling Crid Out to his Brother Lord Daniel             
Wots the Matter Lord Have Mercy Up on me Chrift Have Mercy Upon
Me Lord Jefus Chift Help me But Now Almouft to the Ground.
Died Novr 29th 1759 Aged 73 Years 

Keysoe Church
A similar incident occurred at the Abbey Church at Milton Abbas in Dorset in the 17th century, when 5 years old John Tregonwell fell 100 feet from the lofty tower.   John’s nurse had taken him up to the top of the tower to admire the view.   As the boy reached out to grasp a wild rose growing on the parapet, he lost his balance and fell to the ground below.   The terrified nurse rushed down to the ground to find young John picking daisies on the lawn, completely unharmed.   It seems that his stiff Nanking petticoat as worn in those days, had acted as a parachute, floating him to the ground.
John lived to become High Sheriff of Dorset and when he died in 1680 at the age of 82, he was buried in the abbey.

 Milton Abbas Church


Flying men
Elmer, an 11th century monk at Malmesbury Abbey in Wiltshire, thought he would be able to fly and with wings fixed to his hands and feet, he launched himself from the abbey tower.  Sadly his initiative was unsuccessful and he was lamed for life.   He is depicted in a stained glass window at the abbey church.
Malmesbury Abbey Church
In the 18th century, Tom Pelling from Lincolnshire decided to try a similar stunt, using the church tower at Pocklington in East Yorkshire.   He used some sort of apparatus which attached a rope from the church tower to a nearby inn.  Sadly he was killed.   A plaque on the wall of the church tells the story :

‘ In memory of Thomas Pelling, Burton Stather, Lincolnshire,

commonly called ‘The Flying Man’, who was killed against the battlement of ye choir

when coming down a rope from the steeple of this church.

This fatal accident happened on 10th April, he was buried 16th April 1733

Exactly under the place where he died.’






Killed by a tennis ball
A poignant 15th century effigy in the church of St Peter at Elford in Staffordshire recalls an unusual death. It is of the young son of the Lord of the Manor, John Stanley, who is holding a tennis ball in his hand – not of the modern variety but a wooden one which was used in ‘real’ tennis.
His other hand points towards his temple and we are told that the ball struck him on the head and killed him.

 Elford Church

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