Aldershot, a pleasant town in Hampshire, harbours a dark and ghostly side, reveals JOHN S TANTALON
Aldershot in Hampshire sits 31 miles southwest of London. Records dating back to The Domesday Book of 1086 refer to the location.
The name may have derived from alder trees found in the area (from the Old English’ alder-holt’ meaning corpse of alder trees).
I first travelled to Aldershot in early 2007. Close to where I stayed is the oldest church in the town.
The Church of St Michael the Archangel dates to the 12th century. There was almost certainly an earlier church on the site.
Not far from the church is a property with an incredible connecting story.
At the bottom of the long and steep Eggars Hill sits Weybourne Road.
Beyond a railway bridge and on the border of Surrey sits a charming and weathered house.
The building is the previous site of the ancient Fox and Hounds Inn.
Now a residential property, the house has a reputation for strange occurrences over the years.
Some locals refer to the location as The House of Old Mother Squalls.
The House of Old Mother Squalls, Aldershot
According to local records, an old woman lived here in 1640. She was considered by many to be a witch. Stories abounded of unholy activity carried out within the building.
On more than one occasion Old Mother Squalls had provided evidence of a supernatural nature to anybody foolish enough to cross her.
A story existed that the woman maintained the ability to main or plait a horse’s tail instantly and curl.
She could twist a cow’s tail just as quickly and terrify a dog or cat so the animals would flee with their tales between their legs.
The woman who gave birth was Nell Gwynne, and the child’s father was Charles II, but the illegitimate boy was born dead.
It was a secret birth that could have changed the course of history and been the cause of anyone who was concerned with the affair losing their heads.
In February 1678, she was hastily summoned to attend confinement in the dead of night.
There has always been a persistent rumour that the Parish Church of Aldershot received a grant from Charles II.
Legend states that the gift would continue if the yew tree flourished, but alas, the church records reveal no such transaction.
In the dark silence of the early morning, unknown individuals buried a little box under the yew tree inside the church gate, the village priest having been aroused from his bed to perform the required ceremony.
The sound of unexplained, unnatural footsteps along the path has been reported.
Accounts exist from residents who claim to have heard strange shuffling noises in the confines of the church grounds.
Tapping sounds akin to an older woman with a stick rattling the church window close to the famous yew tree are also documented. There have been few such reports since 1971-76.
In Aldershot city centre is Wellington Road. Directly from the Naafi Roundabout is a steep road called Gun Hill.
At the top of the hill amongst shady trees and fences is the ominous and imposing sight of the Cambridge Military Hospital.
Constructed in 1879, the hospital would serve the various military camps of the town.
After World War Two, the public also used the hospital until its closure in 1996. It would seem, however, that the hospital is not entirely vacant.
Ghostly grey lady at Cambridge Military Hospital, Aldershot
The frightening tale of a ghostly grey lady has existed for many years. It is stated that the legend of the Grey Lady stems from a sister in the Queen Alexandra Imperial Nursing Service.
She inadvertently administered a fatal dose to a patient and, in her remorse, afterwards committed suicide by throwing herself over the hospital balcony.
The Grey Lady is said to have been seen and heard by patients and staff at the century-old hospital many times, apparently making her rounds as she often did during her lifetime.
Her last recorded appearance was in 1969 when a night watchman saw her.
The ghost appears when the staff are under pressure, hectic perhaps, or understaffed; a spirit that attempts to be benign and comforting but can be very frightening for those who encounter it.
Ward 13 used to have a balcony, but the original hospital has been built around it, and various floors and corridors have been added.
However, it is still most frequently in the vicinity of the ominously numbered Ward 13 that the ghostly Grey Lady walks.
The location has now been converted to housing and renamed Gun Hill Park.
Much of the area is now completely redeveloped and unrecognisable, yet the main building remains.
The new tenants who occupy this legendary location enjoy an impressive view over Hampshire and Surrey from the one-time hospital tower. Does the Grey Lady stand beside them?
On the Aldershot’s border and the outskirts of Surrey and Hampshire is a location with a haunted reputation.
Alma Lane haunted by ghostly runner
Alma Lane is a steep stretch of road which, on record, has existed since before1815. At this time, a military runner would travel the extensive route to deliver a message to the military in Aldershot.
The news of Wellington’s success at Waterloo was tragically cut short when bandits brutally murdered the runner.
It is said that the tragic messenger continues to traverse the site of Alma Lane, still attempting to relay news of the victory.
Fellow travellers can hear his heavy boots pounding the road on winter nights.
Alma Lane is now entirely a residential area, but the path and legend of the tragic messenger remain.
The sound of ghostly footsteps has been observed sitting somewhere between Beam Hollow and The Alma public house.
However, it has been many years since anybody encountered the messenger’s tragic spirit.
Have you seen a ghost in Aldershot? Tell us in the comments section below!
JOHN S TANTALON is the author of new book, The Haunted Realms of Surrey and Hampshire, now available from Amazon.