The Thomas A Becket Pub on the Old Kent Road is so haunted, it scares even the most brutal hardmen of South London, says EDDIE BRAZIL

The Thomas A Becket Pub, on the Old Kent Road in South London, is a haunted place with a most incongruous connection.

The pub was, for many years, south east London’s boxing nursery. Its first floor contained a gymnasium and boxing ring, and it was here that at least one contender for the world title, Britain’s Henry Cooper, did his training back in the late 1960s and early 70s.

Champion boxers like Henry Cooper trained at the Thomas A Becket pub.

For many years, the Thomas A Becket Pub has been a meeting and socializing spot for those tough and fearless fans, who love and partake in the noble art.

Therefore, it is all the more remarkable to learn that there are many pub-goers and fight followers who would rather go 10 rounds in the ring with an undefeated champ than spend a night alone at the “Becket”.

Haunted goings on at the Thomas A Becket Pub

One landlord refused to sleep there on his own after experiencing paranormal phenomena.

Doors would lock themselves and were impossible to open.

The publican’s two dogs refused to go upstairs to the top floor and constantly cowered at something invisible.

On several occasions, the fire places in many of the rooms were found to have been made up with coal, paper and wood ready for lighting.

One day as a customer scoffed at the idea of ghosts, his beer glass shattered in his hand covering his clothes in shards and lager.

Butcher takes wager to stay in haunted room

Another pub goer, who also ridiculed the notion that the Thomas A Becket Pub was haunted, accepted a bet that he wouldn’t be able to remain in the room where the phenomena was most active for more than 15 minutes.

Albert Williams, a tough, no nonsense local butcher made his way alone up to the alleged haunted room confident that he would win the bet and prove that the landlord and cowering customers downstairs in the bar were no more than superstitious fools for believing in such nonsense.

He remained no more than a few minutes in the room before fleeing back down to the bar with a scared and anxious look on his face.

Saying nothing, he quickly left the pub losing the bet.

Why is the Thomas A Becket Pub haunted?

But what is it that haunts the pub?

One landlord believed that the building was, or possibly still is, haunted by three Sisters of Mercy who were said to wander the second-floor corridors whispering to themselves.

Indeed, the ghosts of three nuns are said to have been seen and heard on several occasions walking the landing on the second floor by Joe Lucy, a former British welterweight champion.

But why would three nuns haunt a 19th pub which would appear to have no connection with a religious establishment?

The answer possibly lies in the ancient history of where the Becket now stands and its ill-fated namesake.

Who was Thomas Becket?

Thomas Becket was appointed Archbishop of Canterbury by King Henry II in 1162, but was slain in his own cathedral just eight years later on the orders of the King.

Becket had refused to accept that the King was his overlord before God.

After his assassination the Archbishop was canonized and entered an eternity of martyrdom and sainthood.

The Thomas A Becket was named after Saint Thomas Becket, whose followers would pass by the area of the pub when making pilgrimage to Canterbury where he was murdered.

Following Becket’s canonization Pilgrims flocked to his tomb and shrine at Canterbury Cathedral in Kent.

The main route to Canterbury was along the now, A2 trunk road, or, as many know it today, the Old Kent Road.

Many of the travelling pilgrims, including nuns, would have stopped off along the way at a watering hole which Chaucer mentions in the prologue of his Canterbury Tales:

“And forth we riden a little more than pas unto the watering of St Thomas, and there our hoste began his hors’ arest.”

River flows underneath haunted pub

This watering hole was the Earl’s Sluice, a tributary of the River Peck, from which Peckham derives its name.

Today, the water course still flows under the Thomas A Becket Pub on its way to the Thames.

Back in the dim and distant past when it flowed above ground it was a welcome respite for weary travellers and their horses travelling into London from Kent, and one may presume for those going in the opposite direction.

The site was still in existence in to the 18th century for it appears on a 1746 Map of London and by the updated 1799 version can be seen to be in the parish of Camberwell.

More gruesome tales from the Thomas A Becket Pub

Haunted places such as the Thomas A Becket Pub also generate their own spurious, gruesome associations as a possible means of explaining the ghosts or to lend the location an appropriate macabre ambience.

A gibbet was said to stand on the site of the pub from where criminals were hung and then left to rot until picked to their bones by ravenous birds.

In 1888, a man suspected of being Jack the Ripper was arrested in the pub after a dagger, a clasp knife, and two pairs of scissors. were found in a bag in the bar.

Could science explain the hauntings?

However, there may well be a more acceptable, scientific explanation as why the pub has been the site of paranormal incidents.

The notion that ghosts and spirits are the dead returning from the grave to haunt the living is firmly and contemptuously rejected by parapsychologists and scientists.

If a house, location, or in the case of the Thomas A Becket Pub, is reported as a site of paranormal phenomena, then the probable reasons are hysteria, fraud or natural causes.

Yet, there is another theory which has just enough rational mileage to find a place on the scientific table for serious discussion and debate.

It is known that running water produces changes in the magnetic field, and significantly, magnetic fields are how sounds, and pictures were once recorded on to tape with iron oxide.

The haunted Thomas A Becket Pub on the Old Kent Road in South London.

It is interesting to note that the waters of the Earl’s Sluice still flow underground below the bricks and mortar which make up the Thomas A Becket Pub.

It has been suggested that human trauma, and negative emotions, which are basically electrical activities in the human brain, can affect, and indeed be affected by changes to the magnetic field of an area.

These alterations might result in people, who enter the alleged haunted site, experiencing sounds and visions or perhaps feeling uncomfortable when they enter a certain room.

To those who encounter the anomalies, such phenomena could indeed convince them that the location is haunted.

Nonetheless, both the stone tape and magnetic fields theory remained conjecture for they have yet to be proven conclusively by science.

Even so, be they phantoms from beyond the grave, or the playback of recorded sounds and visions from another time, there are many who would still refuse to spend the night alone at the “Becket”.

The Thomas A Becket Pub is situated at 320-322 Old Kent Road, London SE1 5UE.

Eddie Brazil
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