Ashley – St. Mary’s Church (the old one)


There’s not really anything to see of the former St. Mary’s Church in Ashley, the low walls that apparently still survive have been taken over by foliage over the last few decades. Ashley, and its neighbour Silverley which it had been merged with, lost both their churches to dereliction and a new one was constructed in Ashley in the 1870s to service the religious needs of the local denizens. More on that in a later post though.

As an aside, I wondered why on the modern landscape there’s a patch of trees near to the church, but the map solves the query, it’s because it was once a chalk pit. It’s possible to walk on a footpath around the church, but there are signs saying to keep out and it didn’t look easy to battle a way in. It all means that the ghosts of the people buried here remain safe from being disturbed. The former church of St. Mary’s isn’t in the village itself, it lies on the Dalham Road around a kilometre to the west. The churches here and in Silverley were made redundant in the middle of the sixteenth century and there were accounts of some laxness with regards to the parishioners attending a church at all. It’s not really a great surprise, but the residents of Ashley were left without a church for 200 years. In the early nineteenth century, the local village schoolroom was pressed into action for the residents, but it was thought that a grand new church was needed and that’s what was delivered in 1872.

The church that now can’t be seen was constructed in the thirteenth century, built with flint rubble and there was a rood loft in the structure. Money was given to save the church in the 1550s and 1560s, but its time was up and it was entirely derelict by the seventeenth century. I would have liked to have seen some evidence of it, as I was able to with Silverley Church, but I’m a few hundred years too late. Sometimes nature just wins on matters such as this, I can’t imagine many people will be able to penetrate the centre of this site to find any walls and leaving it undisturbed seems the most appropriate choice.