ANDREW HOMER reveals a haunting of The Green Inn, Llangedwyn, and his own search for the horrors linked to the Shropshire inn…
One question I am sure to be asked when giving talks on ghosts on hauntings is whether I have had any experiences myself. What follows is one such personal experience associated with the research for one of my books.
When I was writing Haunted Hostelries of Shropshire (Amberley, 2012) I came across a rather poignant ghost story with a connection to Lake Vyrnwy in Wales. It required a drive out to The Green Inn, Llangedwyn, situated in the beautiful Tanat Valley. Despite the Welsh sounding name, it falls just within Shropshire.
The Green Inn, Llangedwyn
During the building of the Lake Vyrnwy reservoir and the dam in the 1880s, something like a thousand workmen were living in the area during the eight-year construction project for Liverpool Corporation. The desperate need to provide clean water for grossly overcrowded cities during the Industrial Revolution led to ambitious schemes such as the Vyrnwy Waterworks Project serving Liverpool and Merseyside. Many men understandably wanted their families nearby and moved them into the area during the lengthy construction period.
A ‘lost’ village lies beneath the flooded valley of the River Vyrnwy. When conditions are just right the eerie ruins of the original Llanwddyn can be glimpsed beneath the waters of the reservoir. The whole village including the church was relocated further up the valley before it was flooded. Even corpses were exhumed and reinterred in the new village churchyard.
According to local legend, the lake was used for practice bombing runs in preparation for Operation Chastise during World War Two. Now famous as the ‘Dambusters’ raid, the German Möhne and Eder dams were breached and the Sorpe dam damaged in May 1943 by Lancasters of 617 Squadron. This mistaken belief seems to have originated because at least one scene in the classic 1955 movie, The Dambusters, was filmed at Lake Vyrnwy.
The haunting of The Green Inn
In the 1880s, the landlord of The Green Inn was renting his upstairs rooms to the families of workmen employed on the dam. One such family had a little girl who always liked to sit in one of the upstairs windows waiting for her father to come down the road from Lake Vyrnwy. One fateful day he was killed in a dreadful accident at the dam. His name was inscribed along with other poor souls on a memorial obelisk overlooking Lake Vyrnwy. Health and safety left much to be desired in Victorian engineering and such tragic accidents were all too common.
To this day, visitors entering this quaint country pub for the first time have been known to enquire who the pretty little girl is, sitting in the upstairs window of what is now the restaurant and staring out along the road in the direction of Lake Vyrnwy.
On completion of the dam the obelisk was erected by the workmen themselves as a memorial to the 44 men who died during the construction project. Of these, ten men are listed as being killed on site. Given the awful working conditions and scant medical care at the time it is highly likely that those not killed outright in accidents died later of injury or disease.
Having obtained the story from The Green Inn and hearing about the memorial obelisk I determined to pay a visit. Unfortunately, the deadline for the book meant that publication took place before I was able to visit the area again.
It was some time after publication that a friend and I decided to explore the Welsh Highland Railway.
Search for the hidden obelisk
On the return journey from Wales, we took a slight detour to enable me to finally visit the memorial obelisk. It was not easy to find. On the approach to the dam a large memorial built by Liverpool Corporation commemorates the dignitaries who were responsible for commissioning the Vyrnwy Waterworks Project, but not the men who lost their lives.
A drive along both sides of the dam gave no clue as to where the obelisk might be. Eventually, we stopped to enquire at a local shop and the local lady in there seemed quite surprised that I even knew about the obelisk. She also wanted to know why I was trying to find it! Explanation given, the directions she gave took us to a local hotel, The Lake Vyrnwy, with instructions to follow a path leading off the car park. Finding the path at all required further assistance from a helpful gentleman doing some work on the outside of the hotel. By this time, it was getting late on a wet, dull afternoon.
My friend opted to stay in the car rather than venture up the tree covered hillside. Judging by the overgrown state of the path, and the absence of any signs pointing the way, it was obvious that few people ever visited this sadly forgotten memorial. The path eventually petered out altogether and I was on the verge of giving up and going back down to the car when suddenly the memorial became visible through the trees. The sheer size of the obelisk came as quite a surprise when I finally reached it.
The names of the 44 workers who died are recorded around the square base of the obelisk which, to give some idea of the scale, is itself over six feet tall. The names of the 10 men who were killed on site are inscribed on the side of the obelisk directly facing the lake and dam which claimed their lives.
The 10 men killed on site
As I stood there reading the names of these 10 men and wondering who the father of the little girl might be, I heard my friend making his way along the path. He came up and stood right behind me. As I turned to speak to him, I realised there was nobody there. The path and the woods were deserted.
Walking back down I felt a strange sense of closure, as though I had opened a door to a tragic event in the past by publishing the story of the girl in the window, but then closed it again by paying my respects at the obelisk. On reaching the car l asked my friend if he had decided to get out and walk up the path after all. He hadn’t.