Reculver Towers are all that remain of a Saxon church, St. Mary’s. These were built amidst of the area where the fort once stood. In 1809, the front part of the Church was demolished because the management and locals were doubtful that it would collapse into the sea. Later, these twin towers were saved to provide a landmark for shipping.
Placed right on the coast about two miles east of Herne Bay, north of the A299 “Thanet Way”, this ancient church was originally part of a Roman fort. The body of the church stood from 669 A.D. till it was demolished in 1809 but the towers were left as a navigational aid. The twin tower of St. Mary’s Church is a famous landmark for sailors and local inhabitants alike along this stretch of the North Kent Coast between Herne Bay and Birchington. The locals believe that back in the Middle Ages ships would dip their sails as they sailed passed the Church as a sign of respect.
Hauntings of the Twin Towers
The church ruins are frequented by the malevolent spirits of children. During night hours, you can hear their cries, which is not surprising, as the skeletons of young children were found in the foundations during excavations in the 1960’s. Talking about the hauntings, this structure boasts of numerous other spirits besides the children. Having said that, there is a monk and a woman. The disembodied sounds of galloping horses indicates the presence of animal ghouls too. To add to this mystery, there is a strange black metal door that is blocking off the staircase leading up to the right hand tower.
Excavations at the haunted Reculver Towers
Initially this Roman fort was known as Reculbium, which guarded the North end of the Wantsum Channel. This channel cut off the Isla of Thanet from the rest of Kent. There is an urban legend of a crying baby who can be heard at the premises of the fort and church ruins.
During recent excavations of this site by The Kent Archaeology Society, several infant skeletons were revealed. These skeletons were buried under the walls of a Roman barrack block which would have been built in approximately 200-250 A.D. One source quotes three as the number of remains found and another claims to put the figure as high as eleven. One source says that as there seemed to be no damage to the skeletons that they were probably infants that died of natural causes whereas another says that it was not unusual to bury the infants alive. If this was the case then one would assume that they suffocated and therefore there would not necessarily be signs of trauma.
However, the mortality rate of infant was quite high during those times, the Romans wouldn’t have waited for natural deaths, especially when they needed more than eleven bodies to satisfy the needs of constructions.
There have been several reports of pitiful cries during late night hours, as though these tiny spirits are calling to be freed from their eternal prison beneath the foundations. Some people also believe that many babies have been washed up on the shore over time, probably from shipwrecks, and their cries are also added to the furore.
The Twin Sisters
Amongst few spooky legends, there is legend that surrounds this site relates to the Church itself. The towers of the Church are known as “the Twin Sisters”. At one time, these had an additional spire atop of each towers.
The body of the Church which had stood on the site in varying forms since 669 A.D. was fragmented during early 19th century. However, the towers continued to function as a navigational aid for shipping and eventually maintained by Trinity House. The spires were finally removed around 1880 for some reasons, facilitating a complicated urban legend.
In the 15th Century there were two sisters who were well connected and would share a great bond. One of them, the Abbess of Faversham fell ill and when she recovered, the both of them decided to go and thank at the shrine of St. Mary, Bradstowe (or Broadstairs). As they sailed from Faversham and reached Reculver, they were hit by a storm which wrecked their ship. Anyhow, both the sisters survived from the wrath of storm. However, one of them died as the results of exposure. Afterwards, the survivor sister added two spires to the existing towers. Then onwards, these spires were thereafter known as the “twin sisters”.
There doesn’t seem to be any definitive reason why the church was abandoned but we can reasonably assume it was because the coastline was being rapidly eroded at this point. As obvious, the churchyard was to the North of the Church itself. It has been washed away by the sea long ago, together with a large proportion of the remains of the Roman fort.
Other Reculver Spooks
Apparently, it was not unusual during the 19th Century to find the bone or skull washed up on the shore having been excavated by the sea. Although, the old Church has not been used for many years now, genealogists researching families in this area should not overlook this Church and it’s newer counterpart that stands about a mile inland.
Some of the hauntings in this area include two hooded figures which appear during the evening. Occasionally there is a medieval sword fight between a customs official and a smuggler. Local people claim that ghosts lurk around the dykes, where the bodies of murdered people may have been flung in the past.
One local self-employed builder claimed that nowadays, some workmen do not report finding bones beneath their excavations, for this results in the area being closed and all the plant and equipment are left whilst investigations are made by archaeologists and scientists. ‘I work for myself,’ he said, ‘and we are not compensated by the government when that happens. We loose the use of all our tools and equipment and the sites can sometimes remain closed for a year or more!’.
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