Was Richard Cloudesley’s Ghost responsible for chaos and mayhem in the North London suburb of Islington, asks RICK HALE
Among the ornately-painted, stained-glass windows of historic Saint Mary’s Parish church in Upper Street, Islington, is the curious portrait of Richard Cloudesley.
Clousley was a wealthy landowner and benefactor of the church whose love of Islington and this ancient house of worship still reverberates to this day.
And although he was much loved and respected, some unknown sin, as some believed, caused Cloudesley to find nothing but unrest in the grave.
Because shortly after dying, the field where he was buried found itself in turmoil as it was seemingly hit by what appeared to be an earthquake.
Now an earthquake in London? Nothing could be stranger. But it was. For this bizarre geological event was believed to be caused by Richard Cloudesley’s revenant returning from the dead and causing quite the stir among the locals.
History of St Mary’s Church, Islington
Before we explore this haunting that caused a great deal of fear in the North London neighbourhood of Islington, we should take a look at the Grade II listed church at the centre of all the ghostly dismay.
The first known church to sit on the land that St Mary’s now occupies was established and consecrated in the 12th century.
The original church served the community for over three centuries until it was torn down and rebuilt in the 15th century.
By the mid 18th century, the church fell into disrepair, but thanks to the Islington Church act of 1750, a new church was designed and built by Lancelot Dowbiggin.
The new church was completed and consecrated in 1754.
Leading up to modern times St Mary’s still serves Islington which has become a fashionable neighbourhood north of London.
And regardless of the passage of time, St Mary’s continues its evangelistic pursuits.
The Ghost of Richard Cloudesley
But what of the ghost that allegedly caused a frightening episode of mass hysteria that forever remains embedded in the foundation of Islington?
A horrific apparition that struck fear in all those that worked and lived there.
According to the historical record, the ghost was believed to be the revenant of Richard Cloudesley.
Cloudesley was a wealthy landowner and member of a family with its roots in Islington going back centuries.
Before passing from this world in 1517, Richard left a large tract of land, 14 acres to be exact, to the Parish of St Mary’s.
Due to his generous donation, Richard’s mortal remains were buried alongside his parents in the parish churchyard.
And to immortalise his contribution, an epitaph that read, “Here lyes the body of Richard Cloudesley, a good benefactor to this parish who died 9 Henry VIII. Anno Domini, 1517,” was placed over his tomb.
And although he was a wonderful man who did a wonderful thing, things were about to get weird.
Things that either sound like a late night horror movie. Or something out of our darkest nightmares.
The Ghost Rises
Not long after the death and burial of Richard Cloudesley, panic and chaos found its way to this otherwise quiet section of North London.
According to the historical record, what can only be described as an earthquake violently shook a field near the parish church.
The ground trembled and nerves were frayed to the breaking point as the ghost of Richard Cloudesley returned from the grave and struck terror in the hearts of Islington.
The horror was so great, local clergy rushed to the scene and exorcised the restless dead.
When the ancient rites were complete the Islington ghost returned to its grave and the land miraculously healed itself.
The unexpected supernatural upheaval was over and the people believed the ghost would never stalk them again. And as you might expect, they were sorely mistaken.
Return Of The Islington Ghost
Almost two weeks after Christmas in 1899, an article detailing a troubling event was printed in the Sheffield Evening Telegraph.
According to the article, a man claimed that while walking past St Mary’s church he was startled when a giant, white apparition appeared in front front of him.
Before he could flee, the apparition turned and vanished toward the church.
When the article was released, the citizens of Islington feared that the nightmarish ghost had returned to wreak havoc once again on Islington.
When word got out a crowd of people that progressively got bigger congregated outside St Mary’s churchyard.
They were on a ghost hunt and wanted to see if the Islington ghost had indeed returned from its grave.
The crowd got so unruly, constables were called in to disperse the crowd and regain order. The ghost never made an appearance.
Sceptics would suggest that the fear that fell upon 16th century Islington was nothing more than mass hysteria caused by not understanding that the earthquake was natural and not supernatural.
It has further been suggested the 19th century newspaper article was yellow journalism at its finest.
But even with mass hysteria, something touches it off and it’s possible that the ghost of Richard Cloudesley was in fact seen and events just snowballed from there.
Whatever the case may be, the Islington ghost has yet to reappear. A fact the people of Islington no doubt take comfort in.
Have you seen a ghost or anything strange at St Mary’s Church in Islington? Tell us about it in the comments section below!
Thanks for another fascinating article, Rick. I lived and worked in Islington for several years in the mid-80s and early 2ks and have never heard this story. If I didn’t live 200 miles away now I know where I’d be heading today!