Lud's Church within Staffordshire
|Location||Staffordshire Moorlands, Staffordshire, England|
|Topo map||OS Outdoor Leisure OL24|
Lud's Church (sometimes written as Ludchurch) is a deep chasm penetrating the Millstone Grit bedrock 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 southwest fringe of the Peak District National Park about 4 kilometres (2.5 mi) west of the A53 between Leek and Buxton. Over 100 metres (328.1 ft) long and 18 metres (59.1 ft) deep, it is mossy and overgrown, wet and cool even on the hottest of days.
Lud's Church is formed within the thick bed of coarse Carboniferous sandstone known as the Roaches Grit which here dips northeastwards into the Goyt Syncline. The rocks of this area are traversed by numerous roughly northwest-to-southeast-oriented faults and fracture planes. In addition, weak layers of mudstone exist within the sequence. It is along such lines of weakness that a large mass of the Roaches Grit bounding the northeast side of the rift has slipped slightly downhill into the Dane Valley resulting in the open rift. The age of the movement is unknown but is likely to be post-glacial.
The area has a place in Christian history: the Lollards, who were 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. Lud's Church may have been named after Walter de Ludank or Walter de Lud-Auk who 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.
A number of climbing routes up the sides of the chasm were pioneered during the 20th century but climbing is now discouraged so as to protect the lower plants that have colonised the damp rock-faces.
Robin Hood, Friar Tuck and Bonny Prince Charlie are all reputed to have hidden from the authorities within the chasm. Ralph Elliott, local Luddites (known to be active in the area during the Luddite protests), and others have identified Lud's Church as the Green Chapel of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.
Another legend has it that Lud's Church was named after a horse: supposedly, a huntsman was pursuing a deer and as he followed it on horseback he was led to the chasm. The hunter failed to see the danger but his horse, Lud, did: when the rider went too close, the horse bucked and threw him to his death in the chasm. There are also connected rumours that originate from a similar period in time, suggesting that the hunter who was killed still roams around the woods and the area. It is said that he is covered from head to toe in moss and leaves so the locals called this legendary being the green man.
- BBC Legacies: The Lollards: Dawning star of the Reformation?
- Peakland Heritage: Lud's Church
- 'Leek: Leekfrith', A History of the County of Staffordshire: Volume 7: Leek and the Moorlands (1996), pp. 191–202
- Bell, David (2005). "1". Staffordshire Tales of Murder & Mystery. Murder & Mystery. Countryside Books. p. 7. ISBN 1-85306-922-1.
- Elliott RWV, "Landscape and Geography" In: A Companion to the Gawain-Poet (Brewer D, Gibson J, eds) (DS Brewer; 1997), pp. 105–117