Ghosts of Farnham
Castle Street seems to have more than its fare share of ghosts! A number of private houses and businesses all appear to have a number of inhabitants from the past lingering on!!
One private house has the apparition in the form of a young gentleman dressed in hunting apparel who appears in one of the bedrooms.
In the street itself has been seen a phantom coach and horses which disgorges a drunken figure who then staggers across the road and disappears as he enters a house!
Zizzi Italian Restaurant:
Formally The Castle Theatre. It is to be found at the end of a narrow passage between 68 and 69 Castle Street. Originally an unlisted annexe of the Castle. The building was converted into The Playhouse Theatre opening on 5th December 1939, having had a life as a barn and a roller-skating rink which closed during the Great War and then reopened as a small cinema. By 1950 it had become The Castle Theatre.
During all these phases the building appears to have been haunted by a somewhat mischievous spirit who at first annoyed neighbours by roller-skating at night and then cinema patrons by interfering with film projectors. The phenomenon seems to have functioned as a poltergeist, subsequently rearranging theatrical material and even having the decency to help with the major cleaning up operation in 1939.
Sir Michael Redgrave (1908-85) is on record as describing the Castle Theatre to be the most haunted theatre he had ever worked in. In a press statement, Gerald Flood (1927-89), associated with the Farnham Repertory Company from July 1949 until he embarked on a successful television career said: 'None of us liked to be left alone in the place. There is a most odd atmosphere. Once during rehearsals the floodlights went off and we found the switches had been moved' [Surrey and Hants News 2nd February 1952]. In the same report it was stated that the ghost was that of a local farmer who had killed his wife and her lover before hanging himself from a beam. At the time of the incident the building had been a barn. The ghost became known as 'George'.
The Castle Theatre closed in 1974. I used to go there myself in the early 1970's. The last production I saw there was A Phoenix Too Frequent with William Gaunt.
The Colony Chinese Restaurant:
'George' was unusual in that he did not limit his activities to the old theatre. What was once called The Castle Coffee House and now a Chinese Restaurant is a substantially altered fifteenth century building (number 68) on the corner of the alley leading to the old theatre. In the 1850 it was occupied by a property sale agent while number 69 was held by a chaplain. By 1871, number 68 had become a coal and pottery merchants under the same owner, while 69 was occupied by a cabinet maker. Subsequent census returns reveal that Thomas Diamond (1824-88) established a building firm at 68 employing 30 men and eight boys and that his widow and sons continued this business after his death. Its neighbour changed from a licensed victualler to plumber to coal merchant manager to the home of a surgeon.
In all these cases the old barn at the back was used as a storehouse, and it is interesting that 'George' first troubled number 68 when Philip Gibbon was the proprietor during the 1970s and 1980s when the former barn had lost its old ruinous aspect. Footsteps and minor poltergeist activity were reported, but on the whole Mr Gibbon confessed to having an easy relationship with his unusual customer.
Interestingly enough is the fact that both of these buildings and also The Nelson Arms Public House further up Castle Street are all said to connect to Farnham Castle by blocked up underground passages.
This house was formerly occupied by P.G. Wells Booksellers of Winchester, established in Farnham in 1947. The building was originally designed as a single timber framed house with a large southern fireplace (now in number 16), the property was bricked and separated into the current arrangement of three cottages in the eighteenth century with a single story brick addition built onto the rear of each dwelling. Mr Dennis George Edgington was the manager of the bookshop when early in 1951 the top floor and attic behind the dormer windows was restructured as a flat to accommodate him and his fiancee after their marriage, which took place that spring. What happened next gave rise to one of Farnham's more engaging paranormal stories.
During the rebuilding work, a small dancing shoe inscribed 'C.M.May 1813' was discovered behind the former staircase leading up into the attic where it had been secreted in a small box. It was flat with no heel and with a rounded toe, of cream silk satin lined in blue, all hand sewn onto a leather sole trimmed with a ribbon bow, avantpied. It was a little faded and dirty, but otherwise in good condition and reckoned to fit an adult female, modern size three.
The news of the discovery resulted in a number of possible theories, one being that a wicked father, or husband, had immured the shoe as a symbolic gesture after having forbidden a member of his family to dance. Another theory involved Sympathetic Magic, in which a 'holding spell' is invoked associated with an important item belonging to the victim. This practice was once widespread throughout England. In 1619, two alleged witches were executed for supposedly bringing about the death of the eldest son of the 6th Earl of Rutland by malevolently burying his glove and allowing it to rot in the earth. It is not inconceivable that two centuries ago a similar spell was cast involving the dancing shoe. One thing is certain, however: the shoe could not have been a lost item, as it would have to have been placed deliberately behind the boards of the old staircase.
At the time of the discovery it was already widely known that the ghost of an elderly lady haunted the bookshop. The premises had been subject to numerous unexplained events over the years. However, a regular customer reassured the newly wed Mrs Edgington explaining 'Oh you've no need to worry - she's a delightful old lady and she often stands at the foot of the stairs. That shoe is probably hers' [Surrey and Hants News 24th March 1951].
In order to exorcise the ghost Mr Edgington put the shoe on display in the shop so that the ghost could see that it had been found. There were no more reports of the haunting after 1951. The shoe remained in the bookshop until 1979 and was then donated to Farnham Museum where it still remains.
No former occupants with those initials have been found as yet - I will continue to research! In 1835 the building was occupied by Charles Restall (1794-1869), a painter and decorator who remained there until his death. The bookshop owners had acquired it from two spinster sisters who had run an Edwardian drapery shop that had hardly changed across four decades.
The present occupiers of the premises have not experienced any paranormal happenings..............YET!!!!
My old Dentist's Surgery at the bottom of Castle Street next to Lloyd's Bank has had a number of 'spooky' things happening over the years.
Staff have reported on a number of occasions hearing the front door opening and footsteps on the stairs but on investigating found no one else in the building except themselves!
A member of staff working late one night looked in the mirror in the waiting room and saw a face looking at her. She was so terrified by the incident that she handed in her notice and left.
The building is Georgian but no one knows who haunts the place or for what reason.
West Street runs from the Borough at the bottom of Castle Street to the Coxbridge Roundabout.
Apart from a number of reputedly haunted properties there are also two noted street hauntings.
The first a phantom black dog has been reported in West Street close to the junction with Castle Street. The second an old man has been seen running down the street only to disappear in a doorway.
Number 68 Private House:
This house is said to be haunted by a small girl described as very plain, aged about 15 years old and under 5 ft.
Number 90 Private House:
Another black dog similar to the one seen running near Castle Street has been encountered on a number of occasions running down the stairs and in the kitchen.
Noises like the rolling of drums have been heard in the house and an old woman wearing a nightdress appears in the bathroom which used to be a bedroom.
Lion and Lamb Tearooms:
A woman dressed in old fashioned riding clothes has been seen in the Tearoom. On a number of occasions footsteps have been heard going up and down a staircase that has long since been removed!
A mysterious lady in fancy dress has been seen through the window sitting at a table but the odd thing is that only some customers sitting at tables outside could actually see her.
A lady dressed in grey sits at a table in the courtyard and when the waitress approaches her for her order she vanishes!
Charles 1st on his way to the Isle of Wight after his escape from Hampton Court Palace passed through Farnham on the 12th November 1647. He did not stay the night here on that occasion but after his detention at Carisbrooke Castle and removal to the mainland, he was taken to Windsor Castle in preparation for his trial at Westminster Hall, travelling from Southampton along the famous road through Winchester, Alton and Farnham. While passing through Farnham on December 20th 1648 Charles requested permission to stay the night with his friend Henry Vernon - the request was granted. Before leaving the next day he gave a morning cap as a gift to Vernon which remains on show in Farnham Museum to this day.
Farnham was no stranger to Charles......he had stayed in Farnham on a number of occasions.
The figure in17th century apparel that has been seen on the Jacobean Staircase is thought to be that of Charles.
A past employee of the Library frequently smelled on a number of occasions the perfume of violets in one of the rooms and also a strong presence has been felt at times.
Short History of Vernon House:
The origins of this building are rooted in the fifteenth century when it was known as Culverhawe. The present building was first recorded in 1727 when it was known as Culver Hall.
Sir Thomas White (1492-1567), a founder of St, John's College, Oxford, and Lord Mayor of London in 1553, bequeathed it to the Vernon family in June 1645. In 1844, James Knight, the hop-grower acquired the property after establishing himself as a leading banker. Directly or indirectly it would remain with the Knight family for almost a century. In 1886, John Knight (1841-1907) sold the house to Duncan Norfolk Bethune (1863-1933), a grandson of James Knight through his eldest daughter, who retained it until his death.
Thereafter it remained virtually empty and in a state of disrepair until it was selected as the location for Farnham Library in August 1949. However, members of both families continued to occupy the house until their deaths, including James Knight's widow and John Knight himself although he was no longer the owner.
Farnham Museum (Willmer House):
Willmer House, number 38 West Street, is first recorded as a dwelling in 1718. In the early nineteenth century it was a school, first for girls and then boys, taking its present name from the family owning the property at the time.
For a few years during the early 1870's it was owned by Mrs caroline Paine, the widow who largely financed the extention to St. Andrew's Church Tower and who had lived for many years next door to Willmer House. In 1876, she sold the property to James Sidney Longhurst (1844-1921), a dental surgeon living at the time at 61 West Street. He held the property until his death.
Since April 1961, Willmer House has been the home of The Museum of Farnham. However these premises have a most interesting distant history that to this day presents a puzzle to local building historians and archaeologists.
Excavation work undertaken in 1992 and 1993 revealed a cobbled floor beneath the southwest ground floor room suggestive of a late Elizabethan structure. Beneath that lay evidence of a medieval building, while the garden also revealed some medieval stonework indication continual occupation of this site sinve about 1300. This seems to be unique for what would then have been an out-of-town location!
The location of interest to paranormal investigators is room situated on the first floor. This room is reserved for temporary exhibitions and has an unusually rich reputation as a haunted location, one that members of the staff at the museum openly admit.
One member of staff who was employed three days each week until her retirement in 2003 reported that on sveral occassions whilst checking the room prior to locking up at night she experianced a sensation as though about to be asphyxiated from behind by a pair of demonic hands.
Another formal receptionist who worked at the museum for twelve years until her retirement in 2003 recalls an occasion when she was alone shortly before closing time and heard what sounded like footsteps coming from the direction of the Exhibition Room.
Jean Parratt, local historian and former employee of the museum, ( and my ex boss!) states in her book Haunted Farnham that she also believes the room to be 'odd'.
The Bishops' Table Hotel:
The Bishop's Table Hotel and Restaurant at number 27 West Street was first recorded as a building in 1750 but it's foundations are certainly earlier than that date!
In 1808, it was purchased by William John Kerr, 5th Marquess of Lothian, by then a blind spendthrift who had slowly whittled his fortune away!
In 1818, three years after his death, the property passed to the Newnham family of physicians who had arrived in Farnham in 1780. Dr William Newnham (1790-1865) formed a patnership with fellow physician Samuel George Sloman (1817-1897) who had moved to Farnham in 1841. Sloman married a daughter of Dr Newnham and took over the property after Newnham's death, and Dr Herbert Sloman (1853-1927) acquired the house in turn in 1897.
Dr Sloman sold the property to the Church of England in 1898, and from July 1899 until 1919 the prmises, in conjunction with number 26, served as a training college for the clergy as well as an unlicensed guesthouse, known as the Bishop's Hostel, under Canon Bertram Keir Cunningham ( 1871-1944). After passing through numerous owners of no distinction, in 1963 it was converted into a small quality hotel by John Henry Virgo (1916-1964). He gave it its present name from the fact that when it had been a clerical training college the guesthouse was occasionally used by the Bishops of Winchester for entertaining visitors in town.
In the 1980's, a witness stated that when she was a teenager she experienced several incidents in one of the three attic rooms grouped around a small landing. She 'often woke at night feeling intensely cold and having the impression that someone was standing over her bed. Too scared to look she would close her eyes tightly and endeavour to go back to sleep'. One night she 'looked towards the landing...and there silhouetted in the doorway was a dark figure wearing what appeared to be a hoof or shawl'.
The girl's mother then tried to sleep in the room 'but found the atmosphere so stifling that she had to leave'. Sometime later, the girl's father was decorating one of the other attic rooms when he discovered a concealed door that led to a small empty room. This inspired him to contact as many previous owners of the property that he could find, 'all of whom admitted to have seen the ghost; one had even seen it descend the stairs and leave the house by the front door'.
A number of similar sightings occured over the next few decades and one memebr of staff almost left because she had sensed another sinister presence in one of the other attic rooms. All of the dormer windows can be seen from the street.
Another story states that a local policman on duty in the area had often seen a clergyman leave the premises during the early hours of the morning. On one occassion he decided to follow him. The figure walked along West Street, down Church Passage at the Pedestrian Crossing, enroute to St. Andrews Church, where he apparently walked through the locked North Portal Door into the church!
Number 84 and KallKwik Printers:
The Caffe Piccolo at 84 West Street has an exceptionally well-recorded history of paranormal activity.
The property is a two-story timber and tile building with three bays dating, it is said, to the early Tudor period, a fact which was confirmed in 1929 when a late Tudor fireplace was revealed. This building is also one of several that has close associations with Farnham Castle.
The central fireplace conceals a hollow space which appears to be a Reformation priest-hole. This is of no surprise as the property may be associated with a prominent Recusant family of the sixteenth century.
In the early nineteenth century, the property belonged to a tailor by the name of Charles Waterman (1801-1841), after which it passed to Charles Burningham (1815-1890), a carpenter and scion of a noted Farnham family of craftsmen. Burningham lived there for twenty-five years with his wife and seven children before occupation by Alfred White (b.1853) in 1877, a cooper and dealer in baskets, who employed one apprentice and lived there with his three daughters and one son, one servant, and a dressmaker as a permanent lodger. In 1900, it was the turn of Edward Henry Orford (b.1876), a bricklayer with two unmarried sisters and a younger brother. He retained the property for one year until it was occupied by Robert Weaver (1901) followed by Giorgio Mazzone (1908), who also owned the property next door, now KallKwik Printers which was formally a public house and lodging place called The Fox and then a Bakery.
The premises were used as a club by the local branch of The British Legion from 1928 until 1930 when they became The Old Mitre, a tea room acquired by Bass Charrington in july 1973 and converted into a Tyrolean Restaurant before becoming the Caffe Piccolo in 1992.
The first paranormal experience we come across happened during the 1950's when the then owner of the tea rooms was disturbed to find that the central brickwork on the floor of the cellar, which at that time had been laid out in a pattern around a small patch of compacted earth, had been thoroughly destroyed by a sledgehammer. An internal investigation was conducted but no explanation could be found as to why anyone or anything would want to vandalise such an obscure piece of brickwork!!
The second account of paranormal activity involves the recurrent apparition of a dark lady and sometimes an amorphous shape in the restaurant area on the first floor to the left side of the bar and against the south wall which then passes away into the wall, this has been witnessed by staff and diners alike. The last occurrence noted as recently as 2002. Today this is one large open space but before 1970 it was not part of the tea room, it was a series of store rooms.
The explanation for this haunting concerns a young officer stationed at a training branch in College Garden, almost next to number 84, between 1814-1821 and which later moved to Sandhurst becoming in 1857 the Staff College.
However, it is said that the young man became enamoured of a girl resident at the tailors shop - perhaps she was a relative of Charles Waterman - apparently he bade her farewell from the doorway while she stood at the bottom of the stairs before leaving to fight at the Battle of Waterloo. He did not return, and the girl died of a broken heart (Farnham Herald 27th August 1959).
Kallkwik Printers are located next door and are also subject to certain anomalous phenomena such as mild poltergeist activity. Two members of the staff informed my friend Romano that on a large number of occassions items are mysteriously moved from one location to another overnight! They have named the poltergeist 'Blodwyn' as it is rather mild and not malicious and seems to be associated with the fabric of the building as opposed to any individual there, which is rare in poltergeist activity. None of the items moved are ever damaged and the staff have learned to live with their michievous but benign friend.
St. Andrews Church:
Until recent excavation work undertaken within the body of the church (2002), it was thought that the site was no older than the eleventh century and that the church mentioned in the Doomsday Survey was then a relatively recent structure. But it is now evident that there was an earlier Anglo-Saxon building on this site, and it is not improbable that there was an even earlier structure dating to shortly after Caedwalla's charter of 686. However, there is little to see today earlier than middle-Norman, while the tower is sixteenth-century capped three hundred years later.
On a number of occations a Pre-Reformation Mass has been witnessed. Witnesses state that the celebrants wore gold clad vestments, chanted in Latin and swinging thuribles filling the church with the thick smoke of incence.
During the second world war an on-duty firewatcher on top of the tower witnessed the hovering lights of ancient processional candles around the altar.....the church at the time was closed and empty!
There is also the ghosts of two ladies that have been seen in the church. One an eldely lady who is seen at the alter end of the church and then vanishes and the other a white lady who is seen to throw herself from the tower......no documented proof of a suicide from the tower has yet been found!!
The passageway that leads from West Street through to the church is said to have a very depressive and abnormally quiet atmosphere at times which has been experienced by my friend Romano and others. In later Medievel times this was the most direct route to the church and would have been the way used for funeral processions..........so not surprisingly I could well imagine a few spirits lingering on!
Mid-way along Church Passage on the eastern side was a side entrance to The Antelope Inn which is recorded in 1607. The Inns main entrance would have been in West Street where Elphicks Department Store now stands. At the time it was one of Farnham's largest Inns. By 1727 the premises had ceased to be an Inn, having been converted into four cottages, a malthouse and a small brewery.
The Hop Bag Inn:
On the corner of Downing Street and Victoria Road once stood the Hop Bag Inn. The building in 1989 was known as the Downing Street Club which had been closed in 1987 following a murder in the street. It was replaced in 1989 by a new building called Clarendon House.
The Downing Street Club was the former Hop Bag Inn that had been built in 1906 to replace an earlier Inn that had burnt down.
Originally known as The Adam and Eve, in 1792 the name was changed to The King of Prussia as a mark of respect and sympathy for Friedrich-Wilhelm II who in that year allied Prussia with Austria against Republican France. The name did not last long, however, and within a few years of the king's death in 1797 it was changed to The Pockey of Hops, reflecting Farnham's key agricultural economy at the time, which in turn became the Hop Bag Inn half a century later.
Owners and Managers of The Hop Bag from the 1830's to 1932:
1835 - George Rivers
1840 - Charles Hawkes
1855 - John Britton
1869 - John Vanner
1878 - Thomas Blake
1880 - John Shier
1881 - George Rapp
1890 - Arthur James Barnard
1893 - Frederick Dollery
1907 - 1932 - Charles Chuter
The best known account of a haunting at this spot dates back to the original Coaching Inn of the eighteenth century when it is said that a young woman was waiting at the Inn for her fiance to arrive from Winchester. The coach was waylaid by highwaymen and in the struggle her fiance was killed. She had no knowledge of this until the coach turned into the stabling yard behind the Inn carrying his lifeless body.
The screams of the young woman and the clattering of coach wheels have been heard by many a guest staying at the Inn before its final closure.
Another story told by the last landlady of the rebuilt Hop Bag, Cheryl Reece, was of a terrifying personal experiance on one occasion when she felt something grab hold of her. 'I couldn't move' she explained. 'I was fixed to the spot and just screamed until I eventually collapsed on the floor. Even our two dogs had sensed there was something odd there. One day one of them was so scared that he ran around like crazy and wet the floor'. (Titbits August 1986)
Below is a photograph of what the building looks like now but this was the entrance to the Inn Courtyard.
One mile east of the Borough along East Street stand Bourne Mill at 61 Guildford Road, just before the Shepherd and Flock roundabout.
This is one of Farnham's oldest buildings. Little is known about its very early history, but internal evidence reveals lat Tudor construction within the eastern commercial wing, and eighteenth and nineteenth century interior facade within the western residential wing. Adjoining the building on the western extremity are two cottages at one time separate from the mill but which have since been incorporated into the structure. Bells Hill Cottage (or Pond House), a third cottage a little north of the mill, and Rock House were also associated with the property, the whole formerly occupying nineteen acres of land on both sides of Guildford Road and known as the Hamlet of Bourne Mill.
As a working mill on episcopal ground, the four properties were formerly owned by the Bishops of Winchester who leased then out to various millwrights. In 1808, this was Thomas Simmonds (1769-1840), scion of a widespread local family who ran two other mills in the locality. Willey Mill, ran by his brother William Simmonds ( 1777-1833), was held on a joint lease with Bourne Mill until 1814. In 1840, Bourne Mill passed to Thomas's son William (1810-1892) and then to William's second son Alfred (1846-1925). Alfred's elder brother William Thomas (1843-1933) and his twin sister Elizabeth (1846-1931) remained on the property until Alfred's retirement in 1906 when Bourne Mill was sold, the freehold having been purchased from the bishopric. In 1881, William Simmonds employed eleven men on the mill, while the cottages were occupied, as they always had been, by agricultural labourers and other millers.
After remaining empty for twelve years, the mill was acquired in 1932 by William Edward Grace, whose widow took it over on his death. Grace Mary Grace (1904-1996) then became the proprieter of a 'charming and hospitable house for all wayfarers' offering bed and breakfast, luncheon, afternoon teas, dinner and supper. After her retirement it was purchased by Farnham architect Harold Falkner (1875-1963), who in October 1958 sold it to Domald Miles Collins, owner of Farnham Fine Art Galleries at 67 Castle Street. He converted one part of the building into an antiques emporium and another into a living craft centre with the basement functioning for several years as a night club.
Following the widening of Guildford Road in 1900 with the active participation of Alfred Simmonds, Mr Collins rebuilt the front of building in 1962 and installed the car park in 1970.
After a brief hiatus, in March 1972 Bourne Mill passed to Mrs Leone Edwards of London who refounded the antiques emporium in conjunction with furniture specialist Major Anthony Philip Martineau Walker (1916-1984). Difficulties inherent in running such a commercial enterprise resulted in the further decay of the property, and it was not until the current ownership that this historically neglected building was properly saved for what ought to be a long future.
The building takes its name from the fact that there was a post-mill as far back as the eleventh century, fed by streams originating in Farnham Park and collecting in the mill pond that can still be seen behind the building. The first official record of any mill on the site dates to 1284, but it is certainly one of the six mills valued at 46s 4d registered in the Farnham Hundred for the Domesday Survey for Surrey. The site has a long history of occupation: just north of the mill an important Mesolithic (8,000 to 4,000BC) settlement was excavated between 1929 and 1947.
One of the ghosts that has been seen here is that of a Viking. Odd you may well think but Bourne Mill certainly has a good historical association with that period. A mill on the site was functioning in 1086 and it may well have been grinding corn in the late spring of 893 when Edward the Aetheling intercepted and routed the Danish invasion force as it attempted to unite with a smaller force under the marauder Haestan. This battle at Farnham is documented by the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles.
Another ghost that has been witness is that of a lady wearing a crinoline dress. A person sleeping at the mill awoke one night to witness the apparition standing by her bed. The crinoline lady spoke to her telling her not to be frightened, the witness apparently then turned over and went back to sleep. (Surrey and Hants News 29th October 1993).
Another account of the ghost comes from a Mr Ackroyd who ran a local business located at the mill. He confirmed to my friend that a previous manageress and her assistant - who have now both moved abroad - entered the premises one dark winter morning in 1999 and were about to switch on the lights in the first room they entered when they perceived the apparition of this lady standing in a corner. The manageress was so unnerved by this experience that she subsequently refused to enter this room again on her own.
On another occasion, several years earlier, the mill was shut down for the night when members of staff preparing to leave from the car park suddenly observed a face peering out through one of the upper windows. Thinking that a customer had been left locked inside, two of them re-entered to let him or her out, but nobody was there.
The estate I live on backs onto the mill and I can remember in the early 1990's my son and his friends talking about a face they had seen at one of the upstairs windows at the mill. They said it was an old lady!
Here ends the Ghosts of Farnham so far!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Many many thanks to my friend and local Archeologist Romano for all the information he gave me and which I could not have put all this together without him!
Happy Haunting Everyone! haha