Guest writer EDWARD NICHOLLS takes us on a crawl around 5 most haunted New Forest pubs in Hampshire.
The New Forest is one of the most beautiful, and most haunted, areas of all England.
Filled with magic and mystery, every village, wood and stream has stories of ghosts, pixies, witches and more, there is not a single pub in the area which does not have at least one story of a haunting or the paranormal.
Though I can’t hope to cover them all here, here are five of my very favourite haunted pubs, good for all kinds of spirits!
Haunted New Forest Pubs
Fleur de Lys, Pilley
The Fleur de Lys in Pilley is the very oldest pub in the Forest, or so people say. First built as a pair of cottages in 1096, there is a list inside of all landlords to the late 15th century. Carbon testing shows the building has fabric from the eleventh century, but the overall structural form is later, from the 16th.
At the pub is a medieval wishing well (reportedly a source of demonic activity), a dovecote and at least three ghosts. One is a malevolent, dark spirit, often seen rushing about on the edge of sight inside and outside, sometimes accompanied by bad smells or the sensation of thick smoke.
Another is a very old man, some say the first proprietor of the pub. The third, and most often seen, is “The Grey Lady”, an old woman with long grey hair (sometimes tied up in a bob, sometimes left hanging very long) who frequents the kitchen and its vicinity. There have also been reports of sightings through the windows of a strange lion like beast with red fur and antlers, which leads us on to our next pub…
The Red Lion, Boldre
Named after a mythical monster of local folklore, the Stratford Lyon, there have been many reports of sightings of the beast from the vicinity of the pub, especially in the 1970s and 1980s.
Said to be a giant blood-red lion, with a wild mane and huge tusks, it has yellow, saucer like eyes and enormous stag antlers atop its head. The creature comes from nearby South Baddesley, but there are have been sightings all around the forest, and in the Victorian times a poem was even written about it! In the 19th century locals often called the pub by the nickname of “the Stratford”, and in the 18th century a pair of monstrous antlers on the wall were said to have been shed by the Stratford Lyon himself.
Many revellers have claimed to have seen the “Lyon” staring at them through the windows of the pub, or to see it watching from afar, or caught glimpses of it running through the trees in the distance.
The pub also contains the ghost of a young despatch rider, sent by Monmouth to curry up help for his rebellion in the 17th century, who stopped for a drink at the pub on his way. There he was seduced by a local girl, who lured him back to her room and murdered him for his gold. He is said still to haunt the pub, the last place he was ever happy.
The Fox & Hounds, Lyndhurst
The village of Lyndhurst is the heart and capital of the New Forest, and the most popular pub in it is the Fox & Hounds, right in the middle of the High Street.
It is haunted by the ghost of a former landlord, who drunkenly fell into the fireplace one new years eve. He was hauled out and placed on a table, but died soon after. Some say he didn’t fall, but instead had been drugged and pushed by his wife or mistress and her lover, who moved in to run the pub after the landlord died.
Apparently his burned ghost kept them awake at night with his screaming, and terrorised them so much that they either moved away or killed themselves, depending on the story. He hasn’t been hear screaming since his revenge was taken, but is often seen or “felt” in the bar and the cellar, and staff often refuse to go down into the cellar when his presence is there.
Some say they have also seen the wife/mistress and the lover, weeping in corners, terrorised for all eternity by the burned ghost of the man they killed.
The Waterloo Arms, Pikes Hill
A beautiful old thatched building at Pikes Hill, on the outskirts of Lyndhurst, the Waterloo Arms dates to the 1600s, and in the 19th and early 20th centuries was a meeting place for local witches and spiritualists, who held many seances in the building.
Generations of “commoners” (the local word for families with rights to farm livestock on the wild lands of the forest) have been drinking here, and used to test their personalised cattle brands on the fireplace in the main bar, and these symbols can be seen to this day. It is said that every commoner who put their brand on the pub haunts it still, and at dusk people have reported hearing their chatter and laughter, the clink of their drinks, even seeing them all sat around the fire, enjoying refreshments after a long day of work.
There have been reports of mischievous and malevolent pixies wrestling in the beer garden and disappearing when they realise they’ve been found, but these sightings are all of strange, baby-size, naked old men with white skin and green hats – no pointy ears or pretty fairy wings here!
The Angel & Blue Pig Inn, Lymington
The most haunted pub in the New Forest, and one of the most haunted in the world, is the Angel Inn in Lymington. An old coaching inn, a phantom coachman can often be seen staring through the kitchen windows in the early hours of the morning, in shapeless, flowing clothes.
There are also sightings of an old sailor in a heavy coat with brass buttons, the ghost of a Naval officer who committed suicide in an upstairs room rather than face a court martial. Many guests report the sound of piano music playing in the night, though the room from which the sound emanates has not had a piano in it or hosted a dance for many years.
The ghost of a cleaner who died tragically is often reported, a young girl in a long white dress, sitting in a chair, as is the ghost of a beautiful girl with long blonde hair, who can be heard giggling and sometimes gropes male patrons. In the middle of misty nights the hotel is surrounded by the shadowy ghosts of excise officers who died pursuing smugglers across the mud flats, and now are on watch until the crack of doom, while the ghosts of smugglers can be seen laughing inside in the warmth of the pub, ale in hand.
There have been reports of guests who have woken in the night to the sound of the pub in full swing, and have walked down to be transported back in time, the pub filled with ghostly revelry and merriment.
EDWARD NICHOLLS describes himself as “just a Hampshire farm worker who’s spent a lifetime wandering round the pubs of the county and listening to every drunken tale from every drunken old local”.