Ruins of All Saints & Lost Village of Silverley at Ashley, Cambridgeshire

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The lost village of Silverley, Cambridgeshire, did have a church, we found the remains of the Parish Church All Saints in a triangle shaped wood, about a mile to the south of Ashley village.  You have to be quick to notice it, it had taken us about half an hour from when we arrived and in the end we had to ask a local, who knew where it was straight away. The above view is taken from the roadside, so you can see why you could miss it.  You have to climb over an old wire fence that has fallen down, which looked ancient and ignore the keep out sign, trampled through some undergrowth (this time I did make husband accompany me, only by saying I could trip up and break something…did the trick) you then come face to face with the remarkable remains of a church tower. It is remarkable because it very nearly wasn’t even remains.


There is a strange beauty of what is left of the tower and when you find out it was abandoned in the 16th Century, you start to wonder what did happen to the village and all the people who had worshipped, married, were baptised and buried here, no sign of a churchyard now, long gone.


Now for the history notes……The remains are of flint rubble and limestone dressing.  The church dates from 1254 and dedicated to All Saints by 1447, the tower was built in 1517.

The village of Silverley is mentioned in the Domesday Book and even mentioned earlier in 1177. In the Middle Ages Silverley and nearby village of Ashley each had their own parish church, but in 1554 Silverley Parish was merged with Ahsley and the last burial at All Saints was in 1564.  Both churches were abandoned in the 16th Century and the private chapel of the Knights Hospitaller’s Manor House carried out the services in their place until a new church was opened in Ashely in 1845. The churchyard at Silverley was then used for tree planting.

Once the two Parishes had merged, the village of Silverley then seems to have completely disappeared between the 17th & 19th Century, now there is no trace of it.


The church & churchyard were rented out and in 1627 the church was used as a barn. Everything, apart from the tower and some fragmentary walling, had all gone by 1752. The awful thing is that the upper stage of the three storey tower was demolished in recent years and only by prompt action on the part of the locals saved the remainder. The tower is now a grade two listed building. Its good to know that only time will effect the tower and not man now. I found the visit very interesting and enjoyed researching the history…..I am sure there is a lot more…but enough for one day.


8 Replies to “Ruins of All Saints & Lost Village of Silverley at Ashley, Cambridgeshire”

  1. I love this place, so I was glad that you found Silverley and loved it so much too. My father’s family came from this area, and from childhood I was determined to find out how and when Silverley church fell down. You have, directly or indirectly, quoted information I discovered myself. Silverley church was still in use in 1562, but had been turned into a barn by 1586; by 1700 little more than this tower was left. This is the only true ruin in Cambridgeshire: as there is little building stone in the county, any castle or monastery that was closed was quickly stripped away for building material, but this tower was so well built that it has survived to 2017. I still reflect on, as you say

    “what did happen to the village and all the people who had worshipped, married, were baptised and buried here, no sign of a churchyard now, long gone?”

    1. Thank you Robert for your comment and yes I loved my visit to Silverley. It holds a special place, as it was, I think the second ruin that I visited and just had a wonderful ancient feeling. I have visited many more now and continue to visit ruins, but none really never have that wonderful feeling of Silverley, Lynne 🙂

  2. When my brother and I were children in the late 60s we lived in Cheveley, and biked to Silverley to climb the tower. At that time a spiral staircase survived in one corner and was sound above about fifteen feet or so, and local children had stuffed a fallen tree in the space below to act as a ladder until you could reach a stair. I went back in 1979 and can’t remember the details, but the staircase had either further deteriorated or there was no access. Sorry to hear of the loss later on. I was hopeful to find any tangible sign of those who built it, worshiped in it and were laid to rest nearby, but found no inscription or notable decoration of any kind visible beyond the dressed stones of the arch and remaining windows.

    1. Thank you David, its lovely to add some information to the post, it was sad that they took down some of the tower, but a least something was saved 🙂 Lynne

      1. I was surprised when some posts about Silverley turned up on my gmail ( googlemail ) account. I, too, have long been enchanted by Silverley. My grandparents lived in the village of Ashley, up the road from Silverley Steeple (also called Silverley Tower). When I was about five my parents first took me to see the ruined tower. That must have been in about 1960. They told me that nothing was known about its history, or when or why the church fell down, or how the village of Silverley could have disappeared.

        I was determined that I would find out. I think this may have turned me into a historian. From the age of thirteen I did manage to gather a few facts about the history of Silverley, which were useful in helping to save the tower from the calamitous and terrible attempted demolition in 1970 (mercifully stopped in the ‘nick of time’). I finally managed to piece together various bits of information over many years: my two great breakthroughs were discovering a collection of deeds in Lambeth Palace Library in London called The Notitia Parochialis. Made in 1705 they included a letter from the rector of Ashley (and vicar of Silverley) describing how the two parish churches of Ashley and Silverley were in ruins, and the villagers used a chapel in the village instead. The Notitia Parochialis in turn pointed me to a description of England by an Elizabethan clergyman and topographer called William Harrison, published in 1586, which mentioned a village called Ashley where the church had been turned into a barn and the people used a little chapel in its place.

        I published my research in the Proceedings Of The Cambridge Antiquarian Society, volume seventy three, for 1984-1986.

        A couple of weeks ago I met a senior archaeologist from Cambridgeshire who told me that the Proceedings Of The Cambridge Antiquarian Society had been posted online. So here is an internet link to my history of Silverley church

        Click to access archiveDownload

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