Blog: Ghosts, Angels Wings and the Koran by Stephen Perham

In a village like Clovelly stories abound of fortune and misfortune, the tragedy and the comedy, the romance and the forsaken, the legend often embellished, the ghost story often told.

Growing up in the village there was nothing more enthralling than the tales of ghosts that wandered the streets, haunting dark corners or appearing, albeit fleetingly, sitting beside long cold fire places. Nothing was more exciting to us than the ghostly pool of blood that appeared within the Rectory, usually to the mistress of the house and especially when the Rector himself was absent.
The appearance of the blood could only mean a restless soul wandered woefully within the house. Had it been a violent death? Possibly even a murder? No one seemed to know but someone had died and was not a happy soul.

Late one night while I was reading through a stack of dusty newspaper archives, some light was shone upon this murky, bloody mystery.
From 1856 until 1883 the occupant of the Rectory at Clovelly was the Rev James Chichester. James was the third son of Sir Arthur Chichester, 7th Baronet of Raleigh and Charlotte, the youngest daughter of Sir James Hamlyn Williams of Clovelly Court. It was due to the marriage of Arthur and Charlotte that Sir James had the “Angels Wings” built in the woodland overlooking the sea; they lived at Youlston near Barnstaple, and Angels Wings gave Sir James somewhere quiet to sit so that he may see where his daughter was living far across the Bay. James was their youngest son and came to the living of Clovelly under the patronage of his grandfather.

It was during the late summer of 1865 that James Chichester was absent from Clovelly so an interim minister, the Rev John Medows Rodwell, took up temporary residence at the Rectory. John was a friend of Charles Darwin having first met while at Cambridge, though is probably best known in the literary world for his 1861 translation into English of the Koran, which can still be found in print today.
During his stay at Clovelly John Rodwell was visited by his brother Josiah, who was also a minister and was the curate of St Mildred’s in the city of Canterbury. Having only recently seen his brother while staying at Folkestone, where he had seemed his usual bright self, John became aware of a distinct melancholy change in his brother Josiah’s manner - he seemed silent and reserved. On Saturday the 9th of September Josiah travelled with company for an outing to Mouth Mill but on his return soon retired to his room. John left the Rectory later that evening to dine at the Clovelly Court house expecting to see his brother on his return, but Josiah remained in his room.

At breakfast the following morning Josiah was late coming down so John asked his son to go upstairs and call on his uncle. The boy returned almost immediately saying his uncle was still in bed and was looking very pale. John hurried straight to the room only to find his brother lying in a pool of blood, having used a razor to cut his own throat. Josiah had died an unhappy soul, destined to haunt the Rectory and enthral generations of local children.