(Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains,
and in dens and caves
of the earth.
(sometimes written as Ludchurch) is a deep chasm penetrating the
Millstone Grit bedrock created by a massive landslip on the hillside
above Gradbach, Staffordshire, England. The chasm is in a wood known as
the Back Forest (Back not Black), in the
towards the southwest fringe of the Peak District National Park about 3
miles west of the A53 between Leek and Buxton. Over 300 feet long and
deep, it is mossy and overgrown, wet and cool even on the hottest of
The Lollards are supposed
to have used this as a secret place of worship during the early 15th
century, when they were being persecuted for their religious beliefs.
Lud's Church may have been named after Walter de Ludank or Walter de Lud-Auk
who was captured in the chasm at one of their meetings.
Church became known as Trafford’s Leap, a name given by the local
residents, after one of the Squires, at nearby Swythamley Hall, formally
a medieval hunting lodge that once belonged to the Abbey of Dieulacres,
leapt over the cleft, on horseback, whilst out hunting.
This spot has been identified as The
Green Chapel – the very place where Sir Gawain met and battled with the Green
Knight one new year’s day long ago.
They rode up steep slopes where the
branches are bare
They climbed up rock faces gripped by the cold
The clouds were high up – but dark underneath.
Mist drizzled on moor – broke up on the hills
Each peak wore a hat - a big cloak of mist.
Streams boiled and splashed down the hillsides about…
Lud's Church is also associated with
Robin Hood, it is supposed it was one of his hiding places.
This web page continues the legend
that the Lollards met in the
chasm known as Lud's Church,
whether it is more than legend I have been unable to ascertain, nonetheless,
Lud's Church is a fascinating place.
The tale of the Lollards at Lud’s Church is
recounted in the 19th Century guide book, 'Swythamby and its neighbourhood,
past and present'. The story is attributed to “the good knight Sir William
de Lacy” who was travelling through the Back Forest in 1546. The story is as
enjoying the scenery, de Lacy stumbles upon the
of Lud’s Church. On exploring the chasm, de Lacy encounters an old man
“engrossed in the perusal of a worn Bible”. According to the old man, the cavern
of Lud’s Church had been the “instrument of many righteous works”. On prompting,
the old man describes how a group of “immediate followers of Wickelf” used to
hold secret religious services in the chasm, hidden from the prying eyes of the
Catholic Church. This congregation was led by the zealous Sir Walter de Lud-Auk
then aged seventy, whose beautiful 18-year-old grand-daughter, Alice de Lud-Auk
was also a member of the group. The
congregation, fourteen in number, was ranged in a circle, having their preacher,
Walter Lud-auk at the centre. On his right stood a beautiful girl, Alice de Lud-auk,
his grand-daughter. She was about eighteen years of age. Among the rare
qualities she possessed was a matchless voice. Standing, or rather leaning
against the chasm wall at the entrance was the herculean form of the head
After a short but earnest
prayer from Walter de Lud-Auk, the opening hymn began. At a certain place in the
hymn the other singers stopped, and the wild bird-like strains of Alice warbled
with an almost unearthly sound through the vaulted chamber, so remarkable was
the compass of her voice. When her voice was at its highest pitch, and when all
eyes and thoughts were engaged in devotional contemplation, a quick tramping of
feet and ringing of arms were heard. Before any movement could be made, a tall
and powerful man, clad in steel, rushed into the entrance, followed by others.
The voice of the singers was hushed, the man stopped short, and waving his sword
cried "Yield in the name of the Church and of his Gracious Majesty King Henry."
The Lollards seized their
weapons and prepared to stand on the defensive, but were commanded to desist by
Walter de Lud-Auk.
All obeyed except the
forester, Henrich Montair, who seized the officer in his iron grasp, dashed him
back with such force among his followers that they were irresistibly borne back
to the entrance of the cave. Then, drawing his sword he shouted to the
congregation to escape by the other outlet, while he defended the entrance. One
of the men fired as the forester pressed forward. The bullet whistled past his
shoulder, but a loud shriek burst from behind. The forester turned around,
almost afraid to trust his eyes. His foreboding was but too true; he saw the
beautiful Alice, supported by her grand-father, the fatal bullet was lodged in
Legend has it that Alice was
buried close to the chasm. The congregation surrendered and were taken to
London. The forester at the insistence of the congregation fled to France, but
Walter de Lud-auk died in gaol, the rest of the congregation were freed.
This web page is based on a
sixteenth century legend retold in a nineteenth century guide book. It is
possibly true, or part true, but the implication that Alice sung solo is
unlikely as the Lollards did not engage in such. Taking the congregation to
London would have been very impractical. The ready use of guns in the
fifteen century too is unlikely. The arquebus, the forerunner of the musket were
in use, but the bow and arrow was the English favourite at that time - But the
Lollards (a name they never used) who called themselves Christians, and the
church, The church of Christ did exist, who held their meetings in private,
hidden from the Catholic Church and secular authorities. Maybe this fascinating
legend is a glimpse back at a time when the chasm was used as a meeting place
for Christians, therefore there might some truth in this ancient tale from a
Next - Churches
of Christ in Kent, before and during the Reformation.