Lud's Church

England, United Kingdom. (OS Ref: Sheet 118 SJ987656)

Lud's Church (sometimes written as Ludchurch) is a deep millstone grit chasm created by a massive landslip on the hillside above Gradbach, Staffordshire, England. It is located in a wood known as Back Forest, in the White Peak, towards the south-west fringe of the Peak District National Park.


What a place this is, a church indeed! But this is no ordinary church, a long 150 metres cleft in the gritstone mountainside; the walls towering upto 18 metres above your head. There is a primeaval fecundity to this place, a crack, a warm moist womb - mother earth. The chasm is a balance between life and decay, the walls are covered with wet green moss, ferns drip with moisture and the rock is slick with water. Underfoot is thick, deep, smelly mud, sticky and gathered in pools; the carcass of a crow or raven trodden into this morass. A place between worlds. Faeries were to be found here, one lived in Thor's Cave, and a whole clan were to be found in the caverns of this place.

A huge cleft in the rock, perhaps cut by the mighty axe of the green knight or the by a strike from the spear of Lugh, for who it is said this enchanting place is named. Considered perhaps by ancient peoples to be a sacred place, upon Midsummer's Day the light of the sun shines directly along the chasm, penetrating deep into its wet, mossy fertile heart - Lugh is often associated with solar imagery and is associated with thunderstorms, especially the lightning flash. Robin Hood, Friar Tuck and Bonny Prince Charlie are all reputed to have hidden from the authorities within the chasm. Others have identified Lud's Church as the Green Chapel of 'Sir Gawain and the Green Knight'.....


"At length a little way off he caught sight of a round hillock by the side of a brook, and there was a ford across the brook, and the water therein bubbled as though it were boiling. The knight caught up the reins and came to the hill, alighted, and tied up the reins to the rugged branch of a tree. Then he went to the hill and walked round about it, debating within himself what place it might be. It had a hole at the end and on either side, and it was overgrown with tufts of grass and was all round and hollow within. He thought it nought but an old cave or a crevice. Within and about it there seemed to be a spell. 'Ah lord,' quoth the gentle knight, Is this the green chapel?" - Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.

Lollards, followers of John Wycliffe, an early church reformer, 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. It is said that Lud's Church may have been named after Walter de Ludank (or Walter de Lud-Auk), who prepared the way for the adoption of the Bible in English in this country, was captured here at one of their meetings. A wooden ship's figurehead from the ship Swythamley formerly stood in a high niche above the chasm, placed there by Philip Brocklehurst, then the landowner, around 1862. It was called 'Lady Lud' and was supposed to commemorate the death of the daughter of a Lollard preacher.


The 'Green Chapel' also offered a refuge for the Luddite movement (1811-1816), skilled workers who fought against growing impoverishment by wage reductions, the use of unapprenticed workmen and increased mechanisation, took to smashing machines and other acts of sabbotage. Luddites were excecuted for their crimes whilst others were transported to Australia.