Our wonderful author, Stuart Miller Osborne, is fascinated with Hungerford Arcade and our ghosts, which inspired him to write this fascinating article. Hope you all enjoy it as much as I did.
I read with interest the front page article in a recent edition of the Newbury Weekly News about ghostly happenings at the Hungerford Antiques Arcade.
It did not surprise me that a ghost had been witnessed by the staff as although I have never seen a ghost at the Arcade, I have noticed an incredible silence and stillness in parts of the building which can be sensed even on busy days.
This is, in my view, most evident in the right hand passage near the unit that sells postcards. I stood there a few weeks ago and the silence and stillness of the area was very noticeable.
Knowing of the history of the building, I am not surprised if there are ghosts that do not leave the premises at closing time.
Some people say that there are ghosts all around us which, to some extent, I agree with. As with many people, I sit on the wall as to whether hauntings actually occur or not. Although, if I was pressed, I would say that I do believe that hauntings occur.
One has only to visit the nearby Littlecote House and the rooms made famous by our friend Wild William Darrell to witness the heavy atmosphere. Indeed, last summer I was chatting to a South African couple who knew nothing about Wild William’s deeds and the subsequent haunting, remarked to me of the cold and heavy atmosphere in the bedchamber and in the nearby chapel.
In connection with the report in the local paper, I thought it would be of interest to explore three recent hauntings.
I have visited the site of two of these hauntings and have researched the other one which is the famous Borley Rectory in Essex.
The Haunting at the Borley Rectory
Although I have been in the area of Borley, I have not had occasion to visit the rectory as sadly, after a fire in 1939, it was demolished in1944.
I have checked modern photographs of its site and little or nothing remains. Locals still report odd happenings although in this day and age, these reports may be for publicity only.
The rectory was a Victorian mansion built in 1862 in the Gothic style. In its time it became known as the most haunted house in England and was visited by the famous ghost hunter, Harry Price (1881-1948) in the late 1920s. An account of his investigation was published in the Daily Mirror shortly afterwards, adding further to the notoriety of the building.
In short, the first account of a haunting occurred in 1863 when unexplained footsteps were noted and soon there were reports of headless horsemen and other odd sightings.
In 1900, the four daughters of the then rector Henry Dawson Bull, saw what they believed to be the ghost of a nun who disappeared when they approached her.
When Henry Dawson Bull died in June 1928, the rectory became empty for a while but in the October of that year, the Reverend Guy Eric Smith moved into the building with his wife and that was when the fun really began.
One day, Mrs Smith was cleaning a cupboard when she found the skull of a young woman wrapped in brown paper and a number of unexplained incidents occurred which thoroughly unnerved the couple who left the rectory in July 1929.
However, in the period before they vacated the building, the couple had contacted the Daily Mirror and in turn Harry showed up and he immediately witnessed all kinds of hauntings such as poltergeists and ghostly messages being tapped out on mirrors.
This said, as soon as Harry left the rectory, some of these occurrences mysteriously ceased which made Mrs Smith suspicious of what Harry had really witnessed and what he had instigated himself.
But something (apart from the publicity) must have forced the couple to leave in 1929 and one must also take into account their faith which they must have turned to..
Later accounts of hauntings at the rectory were later discredited as a cover story for an illicit sexual affair but something rather odd happened in 1943.
On the 27th of February 1939, the new owner of the rectory a Captain Gregson was unpacking boxes in the hallway when he accidentally knocked over an oil lamp which set fire to the building and it was left a ruin. This is where our friend Harry comes in again.
A Miss Williams from the nearby Borley Lodge contacted him and noted that she had witnessed the ghostly figure of a nun at an upstairs window.
So Harry being Harry, came to the rectory once more and conducted a dig in the cellars and discovered two bones believed to be part of the remains of a young woman.
There was a lot of fun and games at the time and the poor woman’s remains had to be given a Christian burial in the Liston churchyard after the Borley Parish took notice of local gossip which supposed the bones to be those of a pig.
Although I am not sure what happened to the unfortunate woman’s skull, and whether it was buried with the rest of her remains, there was story researched by Harry about who the woman actually was.
It appears that she was Marie Lairre, a French nun who left her order to travel to England to marry a member of the Waldegrave family who lived at the Borley Manor House. It appears that she was murdered some time afterwards on the site of the rectory.
There may be an element of truth to this story as although Harry was not always to be believed, he did take his ghost hunting seriously and the earlier report of the ghostly nun in 1900 could not have been invented by Harry.
I do believe that the rectory was haunted as too many rational people (including the Smith’s) reported unexplained phenomena. As with anything of this nature, people are going to make up stories and if you are not careful you are going to end up with an episode of Most Haunted.
16 Montpelier Road, Ealing W5
For many years I used to live on the Ealing/Hanwell borders not far from the little known haunting at the above address. Again, the original building does not exist having been replaced by a block of flats some years ago.
The problems started in 1887 when a twelve year old girl named Anne Hinchfield threw herself to her death from the tower of the building without explanation.
This was followed in 1934 by the suicide of a nursemaid who had previously thrown her young charge to her death. Again, no reason was given for this tragedy which makes it much more sinister that the Borley hauntings.
The house was requisitioned towards the end of World War Two and in 1944 a Mr Green and his father visited the house. Mr Green who later wrote a book about his experience, noted that as he climbed up the seventy foot tower, it seemed that unseen hands were helping him up the ladder.
The most terrifying part of his story was when he was on the parapet, he received an unexplained urge to step into the garden as if it was only inches beneath him. He was in the process of stepping over the parapet when his father saved him.
Another unexplained thing also happened later that day. After Mr Green had recovered his senses, he took a photograph of the house to show to friends
However, when processed, it showed the clear image of a girl aged about twelve looking out of an upstairs window.
The house had such a reputation as a place of evil, it remained empty for many years with a number of people refusing to live there.
Even after the house died in the 1970s, there were unexplained smells in the new flats and odd noises.
I have visited the site of 16 Montpelier Road on many occasions most recently in 2012. Although I know the story well, there is heaviness in and around the flats (my most recent visit was on a hot summer’s day when everything was light and airy).
Also, and I noticed this first in the 1970s, was whilst the nearby trees were full of birds and squirrels, very few (if any), seemed to spend any real time near the site of this most evil house.
Ickenham Underground Station
Many years ago I used to go to college in Uxbridge (indeed this is where I met my future wife), and I remember being in the pub one evening with some pals and we ended up talking about ghosts. It was then I was told that Ickenham Underground Station was haunted.
At the time I thought that I was the butt of a joke, but nevertheless I researched it for fun and yes, what I was told was true.
It appears that from the 1950s onwards, the ghost of a woman wearing a red scarf was seen on numerous occasions. My researches indicated that near the end of one of the platforms a woman fell onto the tracks and was electrocuted.
When seen, the woman appears to wave to others on the platform to attract their attention before disappearing.
I have visited Ickenham Underground Station on odd occasions over the last thirty years and have witnessed nothing although, I have noticed an unusual silence (as with the Arcade) at the Uxbridge end of the platforms (this is where I believe the accident/suicide occurred).
There is no real reason for anybody to make up a story about a haunting at a suburban tube station and also, there have been numerous witness accounts.
I tend to believe this one. Nobody has made a big fuss about the story and it has yet to have more than a passing reference in the media.
The next time you are in the Arcade, do not look for ghosts (as it is unlikely you will see them) just let your senses take over and try to feel a possible presence even if it is a subtle change in the temperature of the air or an unusual stillness or silence.
You might just sense something that you cannot rationally explain.
Do not however be alarmed, as all you are doing is connecting with somebody from a previous year who,for whatever reason, has not moved on.
For all the latest news, go to our Newsletter at www.hungerfordarcade.co.uk