St.Michaels - Royden

Aim:
To establish the presence of any paranormal activity.

Background:
The old church at East Peckham, as St Michael's is referred to, is first mentioned in the Doomsday Book (1086). This proves that there was a church here at the time of the survey, and that the site has probably been used for similar purposes for some centuries before. This Norman church seems to have expanded to its present size in the years before and after 1300; the piers and arches are clearly 14th century, the windows and south porch mainly 15th, and the shingled spirelet has an attractive weathervane dated 1704. The churchyard has a number of good 18th century headstones. These include one belonging to James Grey, formally a gamekeeper on the Roydon Hall estate until the 22nd January 1862 when he confronted, and was shot and killed by poachers!

The church was restored by diocesan architect Joseph Clarke in 1857 and was done in rather heavy-handed manner including a veritable sea of oak pews. Joseph Clarke worked in many churches throughout South East England. By comparing others within the Medway valley you can see that he was influenced by local styles, and that his restorations were mainly confined to essential works.

In contrast the south chapel, which belonged to the Twysden family of Roydon Hall, has a nice unrestored atmosphere, as does the south porch which shows an abundance of medieval (and later) graffiti, some claimed to be the work of unruly schoolboys. This is a reminder of the days when elementary schooling was conducted in the porch, and also when the first part of wedding services took place there. Many couples have left their marks and initials on the walls.

The village moved down nearer to the river after the Medway was made navigable for larger boats as far as Tonbridge. The medieval church was superseded by a new church in 1842. After the church in the new village was opened it became no longer necessary for people to ride their horses to attend worship. Evidence that they did before could be seen at St Michael’s where a timber framed stable building stood next to the lych-gate. Above each of the stalls was a board showing the names of those whose horses could be left here during the long services. Of course only wealthier families would normally do this. Sadly this recently fell victim to a fire and was destroyed, although the stone foundations can still be seen.

For many years the isolated position of the church discouraged congregations, however, the construction of the new church was not the end for St Michael’s. Both churches were kept in regular use until 1972, when faced with substantial repairs, St Michael’s was declared redundant. St Michael’s was left romantically sited on a hilltop among beeches, with glorious views over the Medway valley to the Weald.

At least it remains in good repair being maintained today by The Churches Conservation Trust. In many ways it is the typical Kentish church, showing work of many different periods and many monuments to remind us of former inhabitants.

There is no reported paranormal activity at this location that we are aware of, we were also not aware of any previous investigation done here before. Given its age, deep history and remote location GCUK felt it was good virgin territory for an investigation, Also we were to be joined by members of COTC, another group from East Sussex which GCUK has good links with.
Apparatus:

Cameras:
Fuji Finepix 4900 digital camera
Nikon Coolpix 3100
Kodak Easyshare cx7310
Sony DCSV1
Olympus Camedia C160
Fuji Finepix S550

Camcorder:
Sony DCR-HC19

EMF:
Gauss EMF Meter

Other:
IR Emitter Sony HVL-IRM
Binatone MR200 2-Way Radios
Torches
Tapes (MiniDV)

Co-Investigators:
GCUK - Ian, Kim, Paddy, Rick, Sarah, Dave and Rachel

Guest investigators:
COTC - Stuart, Stacey and Sandy.

Method:
GCUK's normal approach to investigations is purely from a scientific point of view. We were to spend the night as we normally do by "calling" for potential spirit activity and trying to provoke what could be termed a "paranormal" response. Then by using our equipment we hoped to capture some responses either photographically or on audio or video media. We do not as a rule include in our reports any information provided by mediums, psychics or clairvoyants.


However, on this occasion, as the investigation was a collaboration of two groups, we have included all noteworthy statements made by such.

Investigation:
We met at a nearby pub and enjoyed a chat with our guests about the venue and other paranormal matters before moving up to the church, arriving there just before 9.00pm. As with all our outside investigations we do not have a preset plan for the night, so again we decided to simply turn up and start with a walk around to assess the venue. We left the cars and proceeded to walk around when we were interrupted by a car of "youths" which parked outside the church, we had to suspend the investigation and waited for them to leave, which they did about 9.30pm. After resuming our walk around and taking a few photos we decided to split into two groups and take a different area of the churchyard to conduct vigils. Group 1 (Paddy, Rachel, Ian, Sandy and Stacey) went to the north side of the church, group 2 (Rick, Kim, Sarah, Stuart and Dave) went to the south side where the front door, path and lych-gate are situated

Group 1 had a few events to note. Rachel and Stacey both felt drawn away to the northernmost part of the churchyard whilst Paddy, Sandy and Ian remained under the big Yew tree. Generally the group felt comfortable, more so than in the area outside of the churchyard? Possible reasons for this religious, spiritual or otherwise were discussed before we joined Rachel and Stacey. Stacey sensed someone behind her and to her left, and the name "Willie" then "Beckett", possibly a surname. Ian asked if there was a "Willie" around much to everyone’s amusement! After that subsided Stacey said he was still behind her but to her right, and then suggests it could be "William" and the number "56", possibly an age? Stacey commented that she was sitting with her back to the area where she felt the presence so she would not be able to read names from gravestones. "He's buried here", says Stacey. Paddy then directs Ian to a grave he had seen behind where Stacey was sat, the name on it was "William" but the surname was not "Beckett". Stacey senses that this presence is more residual than in visitation. The group moved on to a central area for a few minutes and whilst there seem transfixed by the area they had just been in?

Paddy comments how odd that we all seemed to be facing the same way? We then moved on to the stile in the North West corner of the churchyard. En route Paddy hears a metallic bang from the woods and could give no explanation for it. Once at the stile our attentions switched to outside the churchyard walls. Stacey sensed murder! Paddy crossed over and down into the lane for a look about and Stacey suddenly directs him to a certain spot and asks if he feels anything. The answer is no but she swears she just saw a young girl walk passed for a split second, dressed in white flimsy dress, short skirt or petticoat. The group is then startled by a car and return to hide in the graveyard before the other group radio to say they are having a break, before we leave Stacey adds "rape........murder and rape"!

Group 2 began their vigil on the south side of the church near an old yew tree. Rick was asked to call out for any spirit beings near to make their presence felt, they had no response. But then Dave noticed rather a lot of noise coming from the yew tree that they were stood under. Rick walked back and took a picture which resulted in the large orb above the group.

They continued the vigil here for a short while longer and apart from Dave complaining about his feet getting cold and Stuart telling us about C O T C investigations at Chanctonbury Ring, no one picked up on anything ?

At 10.30pm we decided to have a well earned coffee break as the temperature had dropped to -2 and we were all feeling the cold already, although it should be noted that it never felt as cold by the cars in the lane, it always felt much colder inside the churchyard? Whist we had our break some of the team reacted to a large movement from the woods behind the cars, although nothing could be seen this seemed wrong for the sort of noise a woodland animal would make! At 10.50pm we decided to resume the vigils this time swapping the groups around, this time group 1 (Dave, Kim, Ian, Sarah, Rick and Rachel) under the large Yew tree just to the north of the church, with group 2 (Stacey, Paddy, Stuart and Sandy) returning to the south side.

Group 1 started out under the large Yew tree, Dave and Ian thought they heard a whistle but sadly this was not picked up by Ian’s camcorder. Despite this, and even though we tried calling for spirit communication, nothing happened. As professional as we try to be some of us had a fit of the giggles which was rather infectious! Trying to bring things to order we walked on along the length of the church to a clearing beneath another tree, again with no response after a while we continued our walk around the north end of the churchyard. Unfortunately the infection had not gone and we gave the vigil up as a lost cause when Stuart radioed to say he, Stacey and Sandy had to be making a move home. Readers should note that because we are such good friends as well as co-investigators this sort of thing can happen, it should not and does not mean that we are in anyway unprofessional.cccccccccccccc

Group 2 did much the same (less the laughter) but on the south side of the church, walking around a bit and looking at the graves as they went. No actual communication was attempted so they were simply “staking” the place out and watching for what occurred. They finally agreed that they were getting very cold! As mentioned above group 2’s vigil ended when our co-investigators from COTC had to leave us.

After a brief break they bid us farewell at 11.40pm. For some reason we had lost our drive as the cold, tiredness and unusual start to the evening seemed to have had a detrimental effect on the investigation, not to mention the complete lack of anything happening. The rest of us that remained discussed their feelings about the venue and came to the conclusion that the woods that backed on to the church were much more foreboding than anything that might lurk in the churchyard. As we were having our break Dave and Paddy reacted sharply to more heavy movement behind them in the woods, they even thought they heard a “growl” but nothing like a fox or badger? They were also almost certain they had seen a figure moving? But that night was not the night to alter our aim and go for a midnight trek through some unknown woods! At 12.00pm we unanimously agreed to end the investigation due to tiredness, the cold and to be honest, lack of any obvious results. St Michael's got the better of us….... this time!

Results:
It can be said with certainty that we got no results at all on any of our equipment, the only thing we could loosely call results were of a psychic or clairvoyant kind. However, given GCUK’s mandate of being a scientifically based rather than spiritual organisation we cannot present these as any form of “evidence” of paranormal activity.

Conclusion

Regrettably we did not achieve our aim, that being to establish the presence of any paranormal activity at St Michael’s. However, we are certain that the area has a lot more to offer, may be not so much from within the church and churchyard but more so the adjacent woods and area outside the consecrated ground. The one thing we did learn is that none of us would welcome being alone up there during the night, especially near or in the woods. It is certainly a prime candidate for a return visit in the future.

Thanks to:
Thanks to the GCUK team for once again providing a true night to remember, and to Stuart, Stacy and Sandy for making the trip to join us for what ended up a relatively short investigation. Needless to say we hope they enjoyed it and look forward to the return trip
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2004/2006 Ghost Connections UK