Tuesday, 15 February 2011

The Black Monk of Missenden Abbey, Great Missenden

The following guest article is by Rupert Matthews, author of the book Haunted Hampshire.


The Black Monk
By Rupert Matthews

The Black Monk of Missenden is one of the most active ghosts in Buckinghamshire. Stories about him in Great Missenden are legion. It almost seems that this phantom takes a positive delight in popping up around the village and giving locals - and visitors - a fright.

The centre of the hauntings is, of course, the Abbey which lies just off the High Street towards the southern end of the village. In medieval times this was a wealthy Augustinian monastery which owned vast estates in the area. As with all such religious houses, Great Missenden was founded on the principles of holiness, poverty and prayer. But the Black Monks of Missenden did not stick to their principles for long.

With increasing wealth and prosperity pouring into the Abbey, the monks acquired a taste for luxury and loose living. The monks were accustomed to slipping out of the Abbey by means of a secret tunnel which led to a tavern in the village. There they discarded their habits and dressed in fashionable clothing, before riding off to enjoy themselves in the fleshpots of London. The phantom Black Monk is said to be one of these spectacularly worldly monks.

By the 1530s the growing scandal could not be suppressed any longer. MIssenden found itself one of the first to be closed down by King Henry VIII in his dissolution of the monasteries.

The Black Monk most often wanders the grounds of the Abbey and the watermeadows to the south. Walking with downturned head and slow footsteps, he is seen plodding across the grass at all hours of the day and night. He is sometimes seen heading east towards the Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul. Built in the 15th century, the church catered to the villagers, but the monks sometimes came here to preach. Some witnesses say he is carrying a sword, which would make him sinful even by the standards of the monks of the Missenden Abbey, but others say it is a staff.

The village itself also plays host to this wide ranging phantom. In the 1970s a glazier at work on a property in the High Street saw a figure dressed in black enter the room on which he was working, although the house was locked and empty. The streets just around the George Inn are a particular favourite for the ghost, though here he is most often glimpsed at night and only indistinctly. The George dates back to the 15th century, so perhaps this is the tavern where the monks would change their clothing.

Missenden Abbey is these days a Conference Centre and venue for weddings, birthday parties and the like and is not open to the general public. However, a public footpath does run around the grounds and from here you can see the meadows where the Black Monk is at his most active. To find the footpath, walk away from the village southward along the High Street, which becomes London Road. After about 300 yards there is a gravel road on the left which leads to an iron kissing gate. This is the start of the footpath which runs across the meadows flanking the River Misbourne before climbing the hill to the parish church and thence, down Church Lane, returns to the village centre. It makes for an enjoyable half hour walk which Ghosthunter thoroughly recommends.
Great Missenden is well served by both road and rail. The A413 runs by way of a modern bypass to the east of the village. If approaching by car, exit the A413 at the roundabout where the A 4128 heads off to the west. This road runs directly into the village centre and a small car park can be found just on the right of the road. If coming by rail, alight at Great Missenden Station and walk out into Station Approach and then turn right to reach the centre of the village. If you need refreshment after tracking the Black Monk around his usual haunts, you are not short of choices. Great Missenden has a number of pubs, each of which is most welcoming and serves very tasty food. It would be unfair to pick out one for recommendation at the expense of the others. Just take your pick. The Black Monk does!
If you know of any local ghosts or other strange phenomena, contact the Bucks Ghosthunter on: ghosthunter@bretwalda.demon.co.uk or 07721 455944.
Rupert Matthews is the author of the book Haunted Hampshire which is published by the History Press (ISBN 978-0752448626) and available on Amazon and from all good bookshops. You can find Rupert’s website at www.rupertmatthews.com. He also maintains a blog about the unexplained at www.ghosthunteratlarge.blogspot.com.

If you would like to contribute a guest article for the website please contact Richard Thomas at richard@richardthomas.eu.


  1. Is it real this story. Because I live near the Great Missenden Abbey.

  2. Is it real this story. Because I live near the Great Missenden Abbey.