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Lud's Church

Natural Rock Feature

<b>Lud's Church</b>Posted by HowdenImage © MP Howden 26.2.03
Also known as:
  • Ludchurch
  • Lud Church

Nearest Town:Leek (9km S)
OS Ref (GB):   SJ987656 / Sheet: 118
Latitude:53° 11' 13.64" N
Longitude:   2° 1' 10.05" W

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The place to park is at Gladbach youth hostel or at the carpark three hudred yards back up the road. Go straight through the youth hostel grounds like you own the place, as the footpath goes this way you kind of do. Following the obvious path that is well trodden, with the sounds of a babbling brook to our right, bluebells up the hill to our left and the oh so welcome sound of Swifts circling about us, it should have been idillic, however I had brought both of the kids and they were all but at each others throats no matter how growly the voice I use, i'm beginning to wonder if they'll ever get on.
The path comes to the bridge over the river, twenty yards further on it meets with another and carries on under the name of the River Dane.
From the bridge its all up hill i'm afraid up to the big tree (you'll know it) up some more then the path turns right and takes us all the way to Castle cliffs rocks.
This, on my first visit to Luds church had me fooled as being the big gorge, especially as there is a gorge behind the rocks, and if you hadnt paid too much attention to previous information, you might be a bit dissapointed, its a really nice place, worthy of being a site on its own, but its not jaw dropping awsome. That strange face is saved for another five minutes, for just two minutes away the path branches, one carries on in the light of day but the other branches off into a low light abode of the fairies.

The entrance into this gargantuan grotto is quite first, then it turns left and goes down all the way to the deepest part of the gorge, it often gets quite muddy here. If memory serves this is also diectly below where the wooden statue used to be. The walls (if your looking down ...cliffs) are totally sheer and barely six feet apart, but whilst your wondering and wandering down this twenty meter stretch
you soon get to the corner, the kink in the serpentine, and then your jaw drops.
The gorge stretches away into the distance, it's difficult to guage how far it is, the walls are so high and steep and the far end is a lot more narrow than this end, almost like one of those optical illusions.
Not far infront of us is a young art student painting the scene, we have a nosey and decide he isnt bad, but then he has a captive and very showy muse. We pass him by hoping not to get included in his painting and start to climb, nothing strenuous or testing but it is a bit slippy.
Now the gorge splits in two, the left junction is a tight and dark squeeze to who knew where, the right junction has stairs carved into it and light is pouring through the narrow gap, I go this way the kids go the other way, and for a while it goes super natural, not supenatural just nature being super. I stand blinking in bright sunlight, a light oasis, the gorge opens and widens and in this light oasis plants just go for it, everywhere you look there are plants, ferns and mosses mostly but when they're evereywhere it's just stunning.
Further on the gorgre begins to peter out untill it completely stops. I get out and walk above it all trying to get a good look into the church, it's quite impossible though, the bushes and undergrowth grow right up to the cliffs edge, I really wouldnt want to stumble upon it this way.
Only back at the entrance and above can you look down into it.

A thoroughly beautiful and well hidden jewel, well worth the walk and bickering kids, who still havent stopped now.
postman Posted by postman
9th May 2011ce
Edited 10th May 2011ce

I can confirm the reports of the figurehead on the walls of Lud's church. My grandfather was brought up on the old farm accross the river from the Youth hostel in Gradbach. He always told me on walks there as a young man he would often walk past the remains of the firgurehead rotting on the floor of the 'church' and always referred to her as 'Lady Lud'. He is no longer with us and would love to have known more. All I can do is confirm its prescence. Posted by Richard G
19th October 2006ce

Len Derby refers to: 'A blown-up reproduction of an old picture postcard shows a strange statue perched on one of the walls of the Lud's Church gully.' According to my girlfriend's father who visited the site in the 1930s, there was a ship's figurehead fixed to the rock just inside the entrance of Lud's church. This sounds very similar to the youth hostel painting. Posted by Charles Wimpenny
2nd January 2004ce

A recent visit to this site on a beautiful Autumn dusk yielded the following. If you clamber to the highest point of Castle Cliff Rocks, the boulder group close to the northern end of Lud's Church and overlooking the valley, you will be rewarded with a view of the top of Shutlingsloe hill peeping above the far valley side. This hill has a strikingly flattened cone as its summit and dominates the landscape for miles around. It also has a key role in the novel 'The Wierdstone of Brisingamen' by Alan Garner.
Secondly, at the nearby Gradbach Youth Hostel is an intriguing picture on the dining room wall. A blown-up reproduction of an old picture postcard shows a strange statue perched on one of the walls of the Lud's Church gully. To my eyes it looks like a female, with partially-damaged outstreched arms. White in colour with a long dress or skirt obscuring the legs, the style to me looked 17th Century. I wonder what it was, and what happened to it. Perhaps active religious ritual continued at this site until the modern era.
Posted by Len Derby
2nd October 2003ce

I approached the site from the Southern side, having skirted around the sprawling towns of Stoke-on-Trent being carried along by 'The Curse of The Mekons'. The moorlands took over soon enough, and having left the car at a dead end, I walked along a cemented farm track and made my way over the ridge. Sign posts at this point reassured me that map reading skills were ok, because I had been doubtful. It isn't the easiest place to find. The path through Back Forest Wood is well trodden, suggesting a different approach may have been easier. This site appears to get a lot of weekend visitors.
Your first indication of Lud's Church is a warning sign, and a plea to stick to the designated footpath so as to avoid erosion of the site. Clearly this has not been heeded as a steep but well-worn pathway leads down the first cut, some ten yards before the steps which will lead you to the same place. The chasm just cuts into the ground, and from the wooded approach you wouldn't know it's there until you are upon it.
The gully leads you down and, at its deepest point, you are some 15 metres from the surface. It is absolutely still. No noise. Nothing. There is no-one here but me. The serenity of the place is awe inspiring.
Out the far end and onto a path which, upon exploration, led to Castle Cliff Rocks. This is a rocky outcrop on the valley side, giving plenty of opportunity to climb. I stood atop this and enjoyed the Spring sunshine while the occasional cock crow reminded me that I was still in the civilised world. It's an excellent place to hang out and picnic.
Approaching Lud's Chuch from this side, again no indication is to be had until you are upon the entrance; a cut into the hill-side. This leads you sharply down into the majesty of the gully. A cathedral like atmosphere pervades the whole place as I retread my steps, almost reverentially, towards the Southern entrance.
On returning to my car, I find it being investigated by some rare breed cattle, male, female and calf together. I come away hoping I have not been too obtrusive; to the cattle, to the chasm and to the countryside with which I have just enjoyed some holy communion.
Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros accompany me back through the towns and cities. I feel at peace with the world.
Howden Posted by Howden
27th February 2003ce
Edited 27th February 2003ce

Lud's Church is one of the most spooky and beautiful places I've been too... quite difficult to find (you definitely need a map), but well worth it. I would say though that it should be avoided in wet weather - on Sunday it was warm and sunny, yet in the cleft (chasm? gully?) it felt about 10 degrees colder and was very muddy and slippery. After you've walked to Lud's Church, it's worth continuing through Forest Wood toward the wonderfully-named Roach End - it's quite uphill but you're rewarded with mind-blowing views and an ice cream van. rangzen Posted by rangzen
9th July 2002ce


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... One comes unexpectedly to Lud Church entrance at which, on payment of threepence, with a reduction for quantity, in this case numbers, one passes through a rough wooden gate to the right and down worn steps into a long narrow chasm whose rocky sides vary between 30 and 50 feet in height.

The dank, damp air, moss-grown boulders, and air of desolation, produce an eerie atmosphere which is borne out by the history of this place. A ship's figurehead fixed high up in the rocks and known as the statue of Alice de Lud-Auk, or our lady of Lud, but in spite of the owners collecting dues from visitors this statue now lies merely a shapeless piece of wood on the floor of the defile.
So a part of history lies uncared for and some of us would wish that something had been done to preserve this most interesting feature.

Lud Church is also known as Traffords Leap because one Squire Trafford of Swythamley Hall, whilst hunting one day found himself on the brink of the chasm without opportunity of turning his horse and to save his life he made his horse leap across. Several hounds were killed as they failed to clear the cleft and fell upon the rocks below.

A popular superstition or legend avers that the redoubtable Friar Tuck here conducted services for Robin Hood and his merry men and it is certain that Lud Church has afforded sanctuary for outlaws and criminals.

It is also established that some of the Lollards held services and meetings for worship here during the persecutions of the reign of Henry V. At the upper end of the cleft is a cave which was used for those services of the Lollards, whose leader was Walter de Lud-Auk, and the story goes that soldiers surprised them during one of their meetings and attempted to fight their way into the cave.

Whilst the soldiers were being held at bay by Montair - a member of the sect - the rest tried to escape from the other end of the cleft. In this engagement, Alice, the beautiful daughter of Walter de Lud-Auk was shot by a bolt from a crossbow aimed by a soldier at Montair. Montair escaped to France and the rest of the Lollards were arrested. Walter de Lud-Auk died in prison.

The wooden effigy which used to commemorate Alice is said to have been the figurehead from a ship named "Swythamley" after the estate in which Lud Church is situated, which was taken after the ship was wrecked and erected in Lud Church in 1860.

Still another story claims that the figure represents Alice Lud who was shot by soldiers when they surprised a meeting of Luddites. Alice Lud was the leader of a band who met in Lud Church to make their decisions.

There have been attempts to explore the cave in which the meetings were held but falling stones have prevented any definite conclusion. The cave is estimated to have been 200 yards long and 100 yards deep.

[...] And just one more story, about Bonny Prince Charlie. The Prince had become separated from his army owing to a delay at Manchester, and was hurrying across the moors to meet his army which was expected to be below the Roches. Darkness had fallen when he reached Swythamley and so he and his bodyguard decided to sleep in Lud Church. Waking early next morning Prince Charlie was surprised to find a beautiful girl watching him. The girl ran away as soon as she saw he had woken but, when later he made a thorough search of the cleft, he discovered to his great delight that she was Flora MacDonald who had disguised herself as a member of his bodyguard in order to be near him.
From a piece in the Sheffield Independent, 30th September 1938.
Visitors to Buxton are respectfully informed that E. ROBINSON, Dane Cottage, Quarnford, has permission from the owner, P. Brocklehurst, Esq. of Swithamley Hall, to SHOW LUDCHURCH. Refreshments may be had at the Cottage.

Buxton Advertiser. 8th September 1875.
LUDCHURCH. Tourists can be provided (Sundays excepted) with TEA, &c.; also with Milk, at the Manor Farm, Quarnford. Good Stabling.

Buxton Advertiser. 25th September 1880.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
27th June 2017ce

... the stupendous cleft in the rock between Swithamley and Warnford commonly call'd Lud-Church, which I found by measure 208 yards long, and at different places 30, 40, or 50. foot deep; the sides steeped and so hanging over, that it sometimes preserves Snow all the Summer, whereof they had signal proof at the Town of Leek on the 17 of July their Fair day, at which time of year a Wharnford Man brought a Sack of Snow thence, and poured it down at the Mercat Cross, telling the people that if any body wanted of that commodity, he could quickly help them to a 100 load on't.
From chapter four of Robert Plot's 'Natural History of Staffordshire' of 1686.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
29th December 2009ce
Edited 29th December 2009ce

As posted above, my Granfather was brought up in this area. He always told us that Lud's Church was used as a refuge for the Luddite movement (1811-1816). Protesters who smashed factory machinery in protest of lowering wages, due to increased mechanisation.

'Workers, upset by wage reductions and the use of unapprenticed workmen, began to break into factories at night to destroy the new machines that the employers were using'

Maybe the name of the church and the Luddite movement were so similar that people locally associated the gully with the movement, so I can' t say that this is fact. Just another, more recent, addition to the folklore of Lud's church.

Although, the luddites were operating in this area at the time and were wanted criminals who, when caught, were often hanged....Luds church would have made a great refuge.......
Posted by Richard G
19th October 2006ce

[The fairies] were also associated with caves. One lived in Thor's Cave, and a whole clan were to be found in the cavern beneath Ludchurch.

St. Mary's, Leek, Staffs.
Notes on Staffordshire Folklore
W. P. Witcutt
Folklore, Vol. 53, No. 2. (Jun., 1942), pp. 126-127.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
2nd October 2006ce

Lud's Church may also be named after Walter de Lud Auk, a 'Lollard' who prepared the way for the adoption of the Bible in English in this country (can't go letting people actually read the thing for themselves, surely?)

Read more at the BBCi 'Legacies' site:
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
22nd June 2004ce
Edited 22nd June 2004ce

As well as the Gawain and The Green Knight Story I have also heard that the only time the sun shines directly into Lud's church is at midday on the summer solstice. I don't know whether it is true or not, never having been lucky enough to get there on the day in question. However if it is true then maybe that is how it got it's name as Lugh (commonly anglicised to Lud, as in Ludgate in London) was a Celtic sun god. While visiting also go to Hanging stone which is a couple of miles away and well worth the visit. Posted by Rincewind
11th June 2002ce

This is no ordinary church - it's a 150m long cleft in the gritstone here, dripping with ferns and sogginess. At its deepest/highest point the walls tower 14m above you.

It is (possibly) the legendary chapel of the Green Knight in Arthurian legend: Gawain met him for the second time here. To discover the story, I urge you to get hold of this:
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
31st May 2002ce
Edited 10th September 2012ce


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Alan Garner's latest novel Boneland features this as an important location. Drawing on its probable provenance as the place that Gawain meets the Green Knight in Hugh Massey's mediaeval poem, he has speculated that it will prove to be a major site of pre-historic rock art.

He discovered a 19th century document describing the descent of a miner into a crevice now hidden by earth movement. The miner reported seeing significant 'druidical remains'
nix Posted by nix
24th September 2012ce
Edited 24th September 2012ce