The ghosts and phantoms of Hammersmith in London are diverse and many. Here are five examples of real life ghost stories, one of which changed the law on self-defence, says paranormal expert PATSY SORENTI…
Hammersmith was a busy thoroughfare from London to the West Country and the South West. It was well used, both by road and river. Indeed, the name ‘Hammersmith’ is derived from the Anglo Saxon ‘Hamm’ meaning ‘bend in the river’ and ‘hythe’, ‘landing place for boats’.
Over time, and with an ever-transient population, the history of Hammersmith and its lives lived, have made the place what it is today. Not surprisingly, some of the residue of these lives have made their presences felt into the modern day and here we find tales of ghost and phantoms, many of which are sad, scary, extraordinary and the downright hilarious.
St Mary’s Church and Convent, Hammersmith
The modern church here replaced the original, which was bombed during World War 2. It was rebuilt in 1961. There are two ghosts here: one of a nun dressed in grey, who walks the corridors of the school house behind the church. She dates from the early 1930’s and has been seen and heard here.
She may have a connection to the ghost of a young boy who was savagely beaten for not doing his lessons correctly and who subsequently died. She may haunt the place in remorse for going too far with her punishment.
St Paul’s Churchyard, Hammersmith
This place has been largely grassed over and the memorial stones moved elsewhere, but the place still has ‘atmosphere.’ It is the resting place of Francis Smith, who was involved in the infamous case of The Hammersmith Ghost in the early 19th century. His ghost has been seen here by several people, usually very early in the morning and takes the form of a ‘white shape.’
Black Lion Lane, Hammersmith
Francis Smith was tried and convicted of murdering one Thomas Millwood in 1803. For some months, a story of a ghost having been seen in Black Lion Lane and who had been going about scaring people in the early morning had been the subject of frenzied gossip; an elderly lady and a pregnant woman died of fright following the encounter.
Smith, and an accomplice decided that they must put a stop to all this, and so armed with a pistol, crept around the area of Black Lion Lane after imbibing copious amounts of drink in The Black Lion, on the lookout for the ‘ghost.’ Spotting a workman dressed in white overalls, Smith opened fire. The plasterer, Thomas Millwood died as a result. Smith was tried and convicted and normally the crime would carry the death penalty.
However, Smith’s punishment was one year’s hard labour. This revealed the true ‘ghost’ – James Graham, who had dressed up in a white sheet to scare local people in revenge for their chastising his children. He was never brought to trial. Francis Smith was left a pauper and died in poverty. Smith’s court case centred on self-defence and what constituted it.
It was argued for many years, lawyers and judges making argument and counter argument, on the matter. The Hammersmith Ghost Case set the precedent in law and the matter wasn’t resolved until 1984, when it was finally decided that Francis Smith had acted in self-defence when he shot Millwood. He received a Royal Pardon.
The Black Lion Pub, Hammersmith
The ghost of the murdered plasterer Thomas Millwood has been seen here by bar staff and customers alike.
The Palais de Danse was opened in 1919 and served the area as a social venue for nearly 90 years. Many jazz and big bands played there, including Glenn Miller. Following a change of fortunes and way into decline, the place closed in 2007. However, this has not prevented an outbreak of ghostly phenomena: the phantom here is of a woman who was killed during an air raid and who comes back to finish her dance.
Another ghost is of a young black man, seen running past the building late at night. Who he is, and why he runs past the newly built flats on the site is unknown.
Have you seen a ghost in Hammersmith? Tell us about it in the comments section below!