A Congregation of Ghosts

A Congregation of Ghosts
Directed by Mark Collicott
Produced by Mark Collicott
Written by Mark Collicott
Martyn Wade
Tom Wnek
Starring Edward Woodward
Nicholas Gleaves
Susannah Doyle
Murray McArthur
Natasha Little
Music by Luke Phillips
Cinematography Ray Coates
Edited by Rachael Spann
Running time
93 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English

A Congregation of Ghosts is a 2009 film directed by Mark Collicott. It is based on the true story of the Reverend Frederick Densham.[1] The film was shot on location in rural Cornwall in the United Kingdom.


Densham was a naive and pious man who worked in Whitechapel in a boys' home and also a home for inebriates. In 1921 he visited Natal in South Africa which is where he may have been influenced by the ideas of Gandhi, who had campaigned for the rights of "coloured people" in that province. There is no evidence for any missionary work in India, though it has been speculated that he visited both India and Germany at a time when foreign travel was considered much more adventurous than it is today. In 1931 Densham took up the post of vicar in the remote Cornish village of Warleggan on Bodmin Moor.

Densham's father, William, had been a Methodist preacher. It is not known why Densham was ordained into the Church of England. As a highly educated man for his time (BA, ACA) he may have felt that the Church of England was more "intellectual". However, his heart and mind lay with Methodism and thus more "Low Church". He entered a church whose congregation was "High Church". Over the years, differences slowly deepened between him and several members of his congregation. The congregation had always been small (four to nine people) and Densham found himself on many occasions preaching to an empty church. He developed the habit of occasionally placing tiny cards in the first six pews, labelled with the names of vicars going back to the Romans. When he did so he noted this in the church records and many local people remember the tiny cards. Unfortunately, Daphne du Maurier imaginatively created a "cardboard cut-out" myth about this practice. This had led to many ill-founded film and website remarks about Densham. Local people, many of whom still remember him though he died in 1953, resent the crude caricatures of the rector and of themselves.

Although Densham was undoubtedly isolated by the Church of England congregation, he was popular among the local Methodists and often preached at Warleggan Chapel. He was a kindly and generous man, known for bringing rhododendron and camellias in spring to villagers and for sending milk to people who were ill. He longed for intellectual stimulation and wrote constantly, sending and receiving several letters a week. When he died, he was cremated as he had stipulated, though his wish that his ashes be scattered in a garden of remembrance that he had created in the grounds of the rectory were ignored.


DVD releases

In 2014, the film was released on DVD in the United States in the Region 1 format.


  1. "Religion: The Lonely Rector". Time. 9 February 1953. Retrieved 23 November 2009.

External links

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