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Haunted Places - Dowde Church abandoned behind sealed iron gates 650 years ago following The Black Death

Updated on March 29, 2017

Pictures of Dowde Church abandoned at the time of the Black Death when the whole hamlet was wiped out.

Dowde church (the white orb is not the moon but often appear in photos of a supernatural nature and is thought to be a floating spirit.)
Dowde church (the white orb is not the moon but often appear in photos of a supernatural nature and is thought to be a floating spirit.) | Source
Dowde church photographed in 2000 after the surrounding copse was cleared.
Dowde church photographed in 2000 after the surrounding copse was cleared.
Interior of Dowde Church lit with torches and straw floor used in modern events.
Interior of Dowde Church lit with torches and straw floor used in modern events.
Iron sealed door to Dowde Church
Iron sealed door to Dowde Church | Source
Another view of the interior
Another view of the interior
Early photograph "Bottomless well" top rebuilt with a brick surround and an iron grid
Early photograph "Bottomless well" top rebuilt with a brick surround and an iron grid
Not very clear but all traces of the well has now been removed
Not very clear but all traces of the well has now been removed | Source
Black eyed child image similar to the "Dodechild"said to haunt the church
Black eyed child image similar to the "Dodechild"said to haunt the church

Village of Dowde (Dode)

Until relatively recently in a densely forested area on top of the North Downs, in Kent, a tiny lane marked “No through road” disappears into the darkness of an overgrown coppice. Eventually the lane leads through the trees to what would have been a clearing, in which can be barely seen through the thicket the foundation marks of some 13th century cottages and incongruously a complete typical church from the Norman period.

What you have reached is the abandoned hamlet of Dowde (also known as Dode) which was wiped out by the 14th century Black Death leaving the whole population either dead or having fled the area. The Norman church was left intact and last used in 1349 by the hapless villagers to pray for deliverance from the plague. With no survivors and the hamlet thought to be cursed, the church was deconsecrated and closed up with its doors and windows sealed with iron shutters by order of Thomas Trelleck (or Trilleck), Bishop of Rochester in 1367. There are no records of baptism, marriage and burial as registers did not become statutory until 1538.

Strangely the church was built on top of an ancient man-made mound and the surrounding hill, on which it is situated, is currently named “Holly Hill” which is certainly a corruption of “Holy Hill”. The tiny lane leading to the hamlet and church is known as “Wrangling Lane” which would suggest the mound on which the church is built was the site of an ancient meeting place.

For those of us interested in Ley lines the site of the church is at the confluence of many similar lines in the area. Ley lines are thought to be magnetic in nature and are believed to be the same "lines" that birds, mammals, insects and bacteria use to migrate long distances. Many ancient structures are thought to be built on ley lines, or at the point where two or more ley lines interconnect. Examples include Stonehenge, mounds, churches, etc. The point where the lines meet often produces a measurable energy vortex and many of these sites are considered sacred, by certain religions.

The church is typical of many small Norman churches of this period consisting of a nave, a flint built chancel with a south facing doorway. Although for over 500 years it held no religious services and stood abandoned and empty, the church and its roof were partially restored in Victorian times for civil weddings and private prayer by appointment. Although the locals consider the area and church to be unholy and to be avoided at all costs, commercial interests have opened it to the public on Sunday afternoons from Easter until October.

It again carries out theme civil weddings held in medieval settings. The effectively untouched floor is strewn with straw and autumn herb-scented leaves and the dark interior is lit only by candles and flaming torches. The altar and all religious artefacts have been removed and the walls have cloth drapes. The exterior of the church was re-built in 1990s and the surrounding area cleared of trees and a wooden lodge built, which has all but destroyed the original external atmosphere.

Being built back in early Norman times, for more than 900 years the church initially stood as a place of worship, although for 650 years it has remained abandoned. The mound seems to stretch back further in time as there is archaeological evidence of Roman occupation and in the area is a Bronze Age burial ground. During the time it stood abandoned and up to 20th century, there was evidence and strong local rumours of Black Magic Rituals carried out in the grounds of the church and around its notorious well.

The hamlet and church are said to be haunted by an apparition known as “The Dodechild”. She is said to be a terrified seven year old girl who finding herself the last one alive with entire hamlet dead, sought sanctuary within the walls of the church. Whatever it was she found it was not sanctuary and when eventually villagers from the surrounding area cautiously ventured into the hamlet, she was found dead on the floor of the church. A few years later, legend has it that she began to haunt the churchyard. Initially she appeared for one Sunday morning each month for several years and later every seven years. An 18th century painting of the girl, as she appeared, now hangs in a local farmhouse.

A few yards from the church is a well, which was considered bottomless and having mystical power for Pagan worship.

On the 10th August 1996, a small team from the Kent Underground Research Group conducted an examination of the well shaft.

The well, far from bottomless, was found to be only 35ft deep to dry rubble, with a mean diameter of 3¼ft. Except for a few courses of relatively modern Victorian brickwork at the surface, the first 15ft of the shaft was steined with rough flints, as reinforcement. When the upper chalk stratum is reached the lining stops and two sets of toe holds are visible. These toe holds are for the use of the well digger to descend and ascend the excavation during both the initial construction and any subsequent repairs. The debris at the bottom of the shaft was found to comprise of loose rubble, bricks, pieces of chalk etc. The 'hollow' sound observed from the surface was probably due to the loose nature of the material. Mysteriously in the local area the chalk lies just below the surface so it comes as a great surprise to see over 13ft of flint lining in a shaft which should enter the chalk layer virtually directly. It was not uncommon to line the first few feet or so as the surface chalk could be somewhat friable, but to extend the lining for no good engineering reason would have been a total waste of time and valuable effort. Other wells recorded in the area are known to be in excess of 150ft deep to the water table and it is certain Dowde would be no different. To find out would entail removing 115ft or so of debris from a deep, narrow and poorly ventilated shaft. The expert opinion is that the upper steining is of medieval date but whether the shaft is of that date or earlier remains a mystery and what likely to be found at the bottom unknown.

The question is was the population of the hamlet trying to cover something up or were they trying to prevent something supernatural from reaching them before their horrible demise from the Black Death. Significantly the well has since been blocked off completely and all traces of it removed, although, obviously the shaft remains below ground.

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Dowde Church

5 out of 5 stars from 1 rating of Abandoned Norman Church

Abandoned Norman Church

© 2012 Peter Geekie

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    • Peter Geekie profile image
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      Peter Geekie 2 years ago from Sittingbourne

      Dear ste kent

      Although many will say such things and places are figments of the imagination I would challenge them to walk around Dowde at night and not feel decidedly uneasy.

      To those who know the place the events you describe are only too real and Dowde is a place to be avoided.

      Thank you for your contribution and I would confirm Dowde has something of the supernatural about it.

      kind regards Peter

    • profile image

      ste kent 75 2 years ago

      I've been around the area for a while and know the area of Dode Church well. As a teenager we were all aware of the reputation of the place. Stories of unusual happenings and satanic rites being carried out were rife. It was said that the well had been used to dump the bodies of the plague victims when it became too much to bury them all and there were too few people left to do it. It's interesting that the well has since been filled and all signs of its location erased. Strange considering so much has been done to preserve other period features. We would often visit the place at night during the summer. Let me tell you that I am not a superstitious person and don't have much time for such nonsense. HOWEVER, I know in my very core that that place has been the scene of much evil and a strange atmosphere pervades the place.

      When we would visit, we would often find signs of strange rites having been carried out there. we would often find melted candles sitting on stones, strange markings in red and white dawbed on rocks and the floor. pentagrams and such. We would often find lumps of offal, animal guts and such, strewn on rocks surrounded by markings and a sense of death was always present. We once even found a disembowelled cat stretched across a rock and scrawled around it were symbols in blood. We left promptly. The place always made me feel cold and hollow, even on the hottest summer nights. There is something very wrong there. Whenever we would visit, our cars would act up as we approached, head lights would often flicker, sometimes cars would develop sudden misfires or run lumpy. Radios would be reduced to nothing but crackles. A friend of mine at the time had a strange experience there the last time we went. Whilst walking around there in a group with him leading, he suddenly grabbed the left side of his head and fell to his knees. He said he felt something grab his head. We assumed it was a wind up, but when we ran up to him he was genuinely and visibly shaken. We drove him home as he said he felt too unwell to drive. I met him the next day and was disturbed to find that overnight, this young, fit, dark haired 19 year old had aquired a large streak of pure white hair down the left side of his head. He said he had woken to find it there, on the spot on his head where he had felt something grab him the night before. The local GP was at a loss to explain it. As was a specialist at the local hospital. He still has the colourless patch of hair to this day. Although the rest is still jet black. Needless to say we never went there again!

    • Peter Geekie profile image
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      Peter Geekie 4 years ago from Sittingbourne

      Dear AmbitiousMarketer,

      I believe what you are thinking of is what is known in the pharmaceutical world as an "intelligent pathogen".

      There are many such pathogens - AIDS being perhaps the best known but any infectious disease from the common cold upwards.

      The pathogen has the intelligence to know that when you hit it with an antibiotic or antiviral, for instance, it mutates its form into one the antibiotic won't kill. It has the ability to do this very quickly, often within days.

      Usually the pathogen understands that in order to survive it needs to make these changes and actually it is just trying to stay alive. What unintentionally happens, very often, it mutates into a form that kills its host (you) and, of course dies itself.

      In the past we did not have powerful synthetic antibiotics and certain diseases killed millions (plague) before it mutated into a form that made you ill but did not kill you. The danger with modern antibiotics is that their widespread use is creating mutant forms of common diseases

      which antibiotics cannot kill, in the same way viruses are following the same path. Morally we cannot let people die until the disease mutates to a benign form but must look towards using such remedies as essential oils and herbs, which can deal with bacterial infections and viruses. The interesting fact is that there are no diseases capable of mutating to a form essential oils cannot kill, but here we run into the huge financial obstacle of the pharmaceutical manufacturers who can't make the same profit from essential oils.

      I hope this may have answered your question.

      kind regards Peter

    • AmbitiousMarketer profile image

      Mark Johnson 4 years ago from England

      Oh wow I've never heard of those events and I like to think I'm Mr Know-it-all on the natural world. As we're advancing science and medicine I find it hard to believe we are going to experience another great plague. However, I did hear of one virus that actually gets stronger each time we tried to eliminate it. Almost like what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. I don't know if this was in theory or if it actually exists.

    • Peter Geekie profile image
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      Peter Geekie 4 years ago from Sittingbourne

      Dear AmbitiousMarketer,

      Sorry perhaps I didn't explain myself clearly. I shouldn't have just mentioned wolves without some explanation. Whipsnade Park zoo found they had regular instances of deaths within the wolf population and at the PM there was no reason for the death. To cut a long story short they found that the wolf population had a finite population for the square acreage and anything over that just left the pack and died. No disease, no fighting they just lay down and died.

      A similar occurrence was noted in Surrey Commercial Docks in South London. The rat population was estimated at around 30 million living in the storm drains - this figure never changed from Victorian times to today. Again no disease, fighting or starvation - just dead healthy rats.

      I'm not suggesting anything supernatural just that Mother Nature controls the flora and fauna with no help from man, unless he interferes to the detriment of life.

      Thanks for raising an interesting point - perhaps if you have time you could do a little research and write a hub on the subject.

      kind regards Peter

    • AmbitiousMarketer profile image

      Mark Johnson 4 years ago from England

      I don't believe overpopulation in all areas of the natural world are solved through unusual occurrences. They introduced wolves back into Yellowstone to control the deer population as they were grazing the plants and trees thus declining small species. By hunting its prey, what the predator does is move a herd away from the area which the herd doesn't return to for a while.

      Its humans that are preventing the overpopulation of rats, mice and deer. What were these unexplained deaths relating to wolves? I don't understand why wolves because they are already declining. Are there any unusual deaths with rats?

    • Peter Geekie profile image
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      Peter Geekie 4 years ago from Sittingbourne

      Dear AmbitiousMarketer,

      Mother Nature has always had her own way of regulating the population numbers and, as you say, throughout time, various major diseases have come along to cull the weak and sick. In the animal world, overpopulation in a particular area is nearly always solved by a series of unexplained deaths. (see wolves etc)

      Thank you for your comments.

      kind regards Peter

    • AmbitiousMarketer profile image

      Mark Johnson 4 years ago from England

      The interesting thing is had The Black Death never existed, there'd probably be up to 14 billion people on this planet today and we would be in a worse off situation. So, although these plagues were some of the worst tragedies mankind has seen, the huge scores of deaths actually benefited us in many ways.

    • Peter Geekie profile image
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      Peter Geekie 4 years ago from Sittingbourne

      Thank you again Alan,

      Of all the places with atmosphere I find churches to have the most - why I do not know. The church you mention sounds fascinating and seems worth a visit, which my wife and I will do as soon as my leg injury has healed.

      Kind regards Peter

    • alancaster149 profile image

      Alan R Lancaster 4 years ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

      I daresay the flint course around the well must have been to keep the water from draining away in the chalk level. On my travels I've seen a number of abandoned churches built around the same time or earlier, mostly up north, including the roofless Wharram Percy church.

      One I know of that has been given a new lease of life by English Heritage, St Gregory's Minster east of Helmsley on the edge of the NY Moors. It was built in the tenth C., and re-dedicated by a local landowner Gamal, an Anglo-Dane ,with a sun dial over the main door. When Gamal was murdered it passed into the hands of Tostig, Earl of Northumbria, and then who knows... There's a signpost on the main A170 Scarborough-Thirsk road that points to 'Kirkdale', and a five minute drive brings you to a secluded little church amidst trees. Very quiet (it's like walking into the library)!

    • Peter Geekie profile image
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      Peter Geekie 4 years ago from Sittingbourne

      Dear Rand M

      Thanks for your comment, I'm glad you enjoyed it - this place has a certain chill about it and not somewhere I would choose to spend the night.

    • Randy M. profile image

      Randy McLaughlin 4 years ago from Liberia, Costa Rica

      Great story. Voted up and interesting.

    • Peter Geekie profile image
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      Peter Geekie 4 years ago from Sittingbourne

      Dear alocsin,

      Thank you for your comments.

      As mentioned in the article the church was partially restored in Victorian times and the outside rebuilt more recently.

      The initial haunting was experienced not long after the population died by witnesses from small surrounding hamlets and curious visitors thereafter. Sorry for the delay in replying but I have been in Belgium for lunch and did not get back until late.

      Kind regards Peter

    • alocsin profile image

      alocsin 4 years ago from Orange County, CA

      I'm surprised to learn that the church had been abandoned for 650 years because your final picture makes it look perfectly intact and usable. I'm wondering though if the town has been abandoned, how can anyone know it's haunted? Voting this Up and Interesting.

    • Peter Geekie profile image
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      Peter Geekie 4 years ago from Sittingbourne

      Dear Angie,

      Thanks for your comments, excellent as always. I must hold my hands up to Eyam - this obviously passed me by. Head stuffed full of useless information I suppose. I will read it up properly.

      kind regards Peter

    • Angie Jardine profile image

      Angie Jardine 4 years ago from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ...

      Fascinating hub, Peter … I am always interested in ancient tales of spookiness.

      I can’t believe that you, an erudite man, have not heard of Eyam in Derbyshire. Known as the plague village the inhabitants ‘locked’ themselves away from the rest of the world when they knew they had the plague. They are famous for their selflessness.

      The neighbouring villages fed them by leaving food on a nearby stone wall and the villagers paid for it by leaving money in vinegar (to kill the infection).

      Thank you for this hub … I do love your historic series.

    • Peter Geekie profile image
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      Peter Geekie 4 years ago from Sittingbourne

      Dear Lipnancy,

      There are some quite influential people as well as superstitious villagers who live in this area who would prefer Dowde to be eradicated from the face of the earth. This is the reason why a full investigation has never been made of a tempting 13C site which was abandoned in blind panic.

      Kind regards Peter

    • Lipnancy profile image

      Nancy Yager 4 years ago from Hamburg, New York

      It would be cool for this site to be renovated and become a historical landmark. But I realize this takes a lot of monetary resources.

    • Peter Geekie profile image
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      Peter Geekie 4 years ago from Sittingbourne

      Dear unamedharald,

      The society did consider removing the rubble but it entails shifting some 115ft of debris which is out of the question on cost grounds. Some years ago there were some unofficial digs carried out on the mound with some evidence of Bronze Age burial relics. I would assume the really interesting stuff would be right under the church. It was often custom in that period to site a church on top of a Pagan site to neutralise the evil forces. This is why churches show up as way points on Ley line plotting as theoretically they indicate the sites of Pagan worship.

      I think the secrets of the well, if there are any, are unlikely to come to light as the present "Owner" I am told has become rather coy and the site of the well has been "disappeared"

      Kind regards Peter

    • UnnamedHarald profile image

      David Hunt 4 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      I wonder if there any plans to excavate the well further down. Also, I wonder if any archaeological digs have been done in the mound?

    • Peter Geekie profile image
      Author

      Peter Geekie 4 years ago from Sittingbourne

      Dear Nettlemere

      Thanks for your comment. Now conversely I haven't heard of Eyam, I must look it up or perhaps you would like to write an article.

      Kind regards Peter

    • Peter Geekie profile image
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      Peter Geekie 4 years ago from Sittingbourne

      Dear Mazzy

      Thank you for your comments. I agree with a life expectancy in the 30s, poverty and disease their life must have been very hard indeed.

      Kind regards Peter

    • Nettlemere profile image

      Nettlemere 4 years ago from Burnley, Lancashire, UK

      I enjoyed reading this - I'm familiar with the story of Eyam, Derbyshire (similarly abandoned due to plague), but hadn't heard of Dowde.

    • Mazzy Bolero profile image

      Mazzy Bolero 4 years ago from the U.K.

      I never knew about this abandoned village. How sad if that is true about the little girl being left alone with the entire village dead. It's hard to imagine the horrors people went through in the time of the Black Death - it makes you realize how easy our lives are by comparison.