In 1857, during restoration of Millbrook’s hilltop church of St Michael and All Angels, a large Tudor altar-tomb had to be dismantled and for financial reasons was never replaced.

On it had lain the full-length carved figures of William Huett and his wife Mary. They had lived in a house, since demolished, on Millbrook Hill, Mary dying in 1602, her husband twenty years later. Their effigies remained in the church and became known as ‘The Warriors’ or ‘Worriers’, although whether this was before or after events following the tomb’s removal is unknown.

Before long, however, they indeed appeared to be worried at the way in which their monument had been disturbed. According to village rumour, unexplained cracks and groans were heard emanating from the church, and to put a stop to the talk the rector had the effigies moved to his cellar. However, the groaning went on unabated, and the rectory maid was so frightened that she refused to go down to the cellar to fetch the coal. Now the rector had the statues buried in the churchyard. Even burial in consecrated ground failed to stop the noises, which did not cease until 1888, when work on the church roof revealed timbers devastated by the death-watch beetle. This was thought by many to account for the cracks and groans.

In 1919, the then rector, the Revd H. P. Pollard, decided to dig the effigies up. By that time, however, it was uncertain where they lay. Although members of the Bedfordshire Archaeological Society and Bedford Modern School Archaeological Society joined forces in a dig, they could not find them. However, an old lady in the village, Mrs Bunker, whose husband had been sexton, had in her house a stone head which he had dug up in the churchyard. She showed the archaeological team where he had found it, and this time they uncovered the Huetts, side by side in the shallow grave where they had been placed. William had no head, but Mrs Bunker gave it back so that it could rejoin his body inside the church.

The Huetts now lie peacefully side by side near the altar. William wears armour and a ruff, Mary a gown once carved with flowers, but, like her face, now rubbed almost smooth. Both have been much mutilated, and are missing body-parts. Both their heads appear to have been chopped off at the neck, possibly by the Parliamentarian soldiers credited with so much damage to churches in the time of Oliver Cromwell.



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