I first visited Knowlton Church when I was studying
archaeology. It was then a place to which I returned with my children when they
were young. They were always fascinated by history and this area was rich with
evidence of times past.
Knowlton Church is said to be one of the most haunted places in Dorset.
I have heard stories of a horse and rider galloping through the rings and a
praying nun who kneels within the church. I have also been told of a ghostly
church-bell which is said to sometimes ring.
Knowlton Rings consists of four earthworks, the North
Southern Circle and the Old Churchyard. The largest barrow in Dorsetis situated to the east of the church and is aptly named 'The Great Barrow'.
Knowlton Churchwas originally constructed in the 12th century and later modified during the
14th century. It sits right in the middle of a Pagan henge (thought to be a
major Pagan ceremonial site) which was built during the Bronze Age. This is a
prime example of the Christianisation of older Pagan sites. This site has not
been excavated extensively but I have read that if there were megaliths
surrounding the henge, they may have been broken and used as materials for the
construction of the church.
Knowlton was a thriving Saxon village until the Black Death.
In 1485, all the inhabitants of the village died of this awful disease. The
foundations of the village can be seen as earthworks in a field a few hundred
yards to the west of the church.
In 1747, a new roof was built which immediately collapsed.
The church was used until the early 18th century and was then abandoned and
left to decay. It is a magnificent ruin.
There is mystery surrounding the bell from the church tower.
It has been said that the bell ended up in the church tower of the village
church at Shapwick, others say it is in the church tower of Sturminster Marshall Village church. Other accounts tell
a different tale............
There is a story that the devil stole the bell and threw it
into the River Allen. The villagers tried to rescue the bell from the river but
it is said that they could not overcome the strength of the devil as he held
onto the bell tightly.
The villagers tried to pull the bell out of the river by
using a yoke which was pulled by a group of snow-white oxen. As the oxen pulled
the bell, the villagers saw it surface from the water. The villagers shouted...
"Now we've got out the bell, in spite of all the devils
To the dismay of the villagers the ropes attached to the
bell then divided and the bell sank to the bottom of the riverbed.
Another story tells of a team of thieves who stole the bell
to sell abroad. They were crossing a bridge over the River Stour at White Mill,
when realising that they were being pursued they dropped the bell into the
river. Later, all attempts to retrieve the bell failed as the ropes kept
breaking and finally the bell was left to rest upon the riverbed forever. There
is an ancient rhyme about the KnowltonChurch bell............
"Knowlton bell is stole
And thrown into the White Mill hole
Where all the devils in hell
Could never pull up Knowlton Bell
On Saturday 8th
September 2007, the Twilight Shadows Paranormal team conducted an
investigation at Knowlton Church in Dorset.
The team arrived at Knowlton Church to the most beautiful
sunset. We individually explored the area and I found myself inside the church
tower. There were owls hooting and screeching and as I looked up at the sky
through the tower, a bat flew in, flew around the tower and out again. He kept
repeating his performance and Shelly and I tried to capture a photograph of
We all assembled in the tower and wondered if we should try
to make spiritual contact in there. I felt my throat tighten. This sometimes
happens when I feel that the voice of a spirit is trying to talk through me. I
feel nervous about this and I usually find that my nervousness prevents this
phenomena occurring and I was relieved when the tightness within my throat
Marian walked into the main area of the church and stood
upon one particular spot which made her feel very strange. She later described
Marian said that as she walked to this particular spot, she
felt as if she was spinning. Her head felt light and she became very dizzy. As
soon as she moved from this particular place, all of these sensations ceased.
Marian felt that it would be good for us to conduct our
vigil here so we all sat around in a circle. Marian decided that she would sit
in the spot where she felt strange. As she sat down, the sensations began
Nobody else from the team felt anything strange. Marian
could feel heat on the left hand side of her face. She said that it felt like
the body-heat from another person and it was very strong. There was certainly
no heat as it was a chilly evening.
Matt rejoined us as he had been exploring. He informed us to
be aware of a very large owl that was flying around quite low. Shelly felt
slightly apprehensive and then more so when fireworks were let off in the
distance. I think she jumped several inches.
Marian felt as if there was someone standing behind her and
I felt the same but from a different direction.
We sat quiet and tried to communicate with any spirits who
were present. We did not experience anything that could be deemed as paranormal
and after a considerable time, we all felt that the atmosphere felt flat. We
stayed for quite a while chatting and laughing (which usually provokes spiritual
activity) but nothing at all untoward happened.
We decided to end our investigation and head home. Although
Marian was the only person to really experience anything and nothing else of
significance occurred, we all enjoyed our visit to Knowlton Church and will
return at a later date.
Written by: Maria Williams
On Sunday 4th May
2008, Twilight Shadows Paranormal made a second visit to Knowlton Church. We were joined by Phoenix
Paranormal and Wessex Paranormal.
As we got out of our cars and approached the church, the
atmosphere felt completely different to that of our last visit. It felt
friendly and welcoming.
I have read that there have been reports of people
experiencing ghostly scenes and sounds of a medieval fair at the church.
Because we were visiting at the time of Beltane, I thought we would conduct a
simple Beltane rite there and also play some medieval music to see if we could
capture the interest of the ghosts of Knowlton village.
I set up a circle with Loretta. I conducted a simplified version of a Beltane rite. Everyone
joined in and it was lovely.
Afterwards Loretta played some medieval music. As the music
echoed around the church, I felt an immense sense of inner peace. I felt as if
we were welcome and I felt spiritual energies surrounding us. However, I think
that these were energies connected to the actual ritual and not resident
spirits of Knowlton church or its nearby deserted medieval village.
Everyone explored individually trying to 'tune in' and make
spiritual contact. We heard a couple of strange noises but they were probably
attributed to wild animals.
We all sat on the walls of the church chatting. After a long
while the atmosphere changed and I felt as if a small crowd of spirit people
were gathered behind us. It felt slightly foreboding but no spirit contact was
It was late and the weather had started to deteriorate so we
decided to go home. Twilight Shadows would like to thank both Phoenix
Paranormal and Wessex Paranormal for a wonderful evening.