A booklet of 1842 entitled The Islington Ghost describes the strange happenings which were said to have followed the burial in 1517 of a wealthy landowner, Richard Cloudesley, who had been a generous benefactor of the parish church, Holy Trinity. He had left instructions that he be buried in its churchyard, but later rumours suggested that this had not been done, and that he had been laid in a nearby field (which, presumably, was unconsecrated ground), though no reason is given. It was apparently in consequence of this that at some later but unspecified date there was a minor local earthquake:

It is said that in a certain field, near unto the parish church of Islington, there did take place a wondrous commotion, the earth swelling and turning up on every side towards the midst of the said field, and by tradition of this, it is observed that one Richard Cloudesley lay buried in or near that place, and that his body being restless, on the score of some sin by him peradventure committed, did shew, or seem to signify, that religious observance should there take place, to quiet his departed spirit; whereupon certain exorcisers (if we may so term them) did at dead of night, nothing loth, using divers exercises at torchlight, set to rest the unruly spirit of the said Cloudesley, and the earth did return to its pristine shape, nevermore commotion proceeding therefrom to this day, and this I know of a very certainty.

This curious tale draws on the old belief that the earth itself may sometimes refuse to hold the corpse of a sinner. Whether or not there is any truth in the idea that Cloudesley’s body was at one time in the field, it is now indisputably inside the church, having been reinterred there in 1813, as an inscription attests.



Haunted England : The Penguin Book of Ghosts – Written by Jennifer Westwood and Jacqueline Simpson
Copyright © Jennifer Westwood and Jacqueline Simpson 2005, 2008