Hot on the heels of our investigation of the Grenadier in Belgravia, London Haunts and Horrors managed to arrange an investigation of The Mitre in Lancaster Gate, a Victorian pub with a bloody past… JON KANEKO-JAMES reports
Please Note: There are too many people called Mary in this article. We had two possible ghosts called Mary, and a medium called Mary. Therefore the following names will be used for the various Mary’s:
Lady Mary Craven (Possible Murderess) – Lady Craven
Old Mary (Possible Murder Victim) – Old Mary
Mary Lowe (Meduim with White Light Paranormal) – Mary Lowe.
According to legend, Old Mary was a Jacobean scullery maid who came to London seeking work, only to catch the eye of the young Lord Craven, who took a liking to her and the two embarked upon an affair.
The young girl entertained fantasies of marriage and social elevation, which were brutally cut short when Lady Craven found out about the affair: the fiery noblewoman stormed into the scullery and plunged a knife into young/old Mary’s heart/throat (it depends on who tells the tale.)
Ever since, it’s said that locals can hear Mary, sobbing helplessly in the Scullery where she was killed.
Further researches also found an entry on the fantastic Shady Old Lady site, where it’s said that the ghost of a coachman is seen in the rear part of the pub basement, nearer to the mews behind.
(It’s also worth noting that one of our guests during the investigation said that his sister had run the place in the 1980s, and in those days staff had reported a terrible problem with an unseen force shoving them on the servants stairs, now used as the main stairs from the bar to Old Mary’s Restaurant, and it’s interesting that the Mitre Staff themselves seemed equally cautious, although I didn’t think to press them at the time.)
Coachman aside, Old Mary’s story isn’t one I’ve heard anywhere else. I checked for it in the usual places and came up with nothing. The Shady Old Lady’s ghostly coachman was the most haunted thing in the area.
A part of the problem is that the area is actually quite new. The oldest thing there is Craven Hill, an estate that starts showing up on maps from 1795, although the encyclopedia of London says it’s older, from the 1730s.
A part of the problem is that the entire are: Hyde Park, Bayswater, Belgravia was little more than marshy wasteland, fit only for smuggling luxury goods up the tributaries and dark deeds in lonely wilderness. Even the Craven estate of 1730 was only put there in an attempt by the Cravens to escape the growing City of London (their former marshy rural idyll had been absorbed in the developments of Soho, and rather spoiled by plague pits quite some time earlier.)
The Bayswater area was developed some time in the 1830s when technology advanced to the point where the land could be drained, and the Cravens started funding a number of ambitious building projects in the area, including the developments that would become Belgravia, and ‘Tyburnia,’ a luxury development for the rich that would become Bayswater, Paddington and Lancaster Gate, the eponymous terraces themselves only being designed and built in 1857 after the Bayswater Tea Gardens, which had formerly occupied the site, were closed in 1850.
With that said, there was certainly … something … about the Mitre pub. Even my initial visits left me feeling there was something to be found in the spooky nooks and crannies of “Old Mary’s,” their basement bar. Certainly enough to think it merited an investigation, and that some of the folks from London Haunts and Horrors might enjoy helping us to look around.
The pub itself has been a listed building since 1975: it has beautiful plate glass and plaster features listed by English Heritage as original, and the plaster work on the outside is equally fantastic.
Significantly, the tavern’s original owners obviously had respectability foremost in their minds, as what is now a dining room/nook area in the back was once a “Ladies’ Room” and has its own entrance. It reminds me of the clean, utopian idealism of the Victorian Gin Palace. The only thing it lacks is the window where drinkers would be asked to exchange their cash for drinking tokens, like Smithfield’s Viaduct Tavern (which, incidentally, is also haunted.)
If there really had been an affair, then the most likely perpetrator would have been either William Craven, the Second Earl of Craven, or George Craven, the Third Earl. Interestingly, William had a wife named Mary, who gave him nine children and outlived him by thirty years. I also found out that the Cravens had once owned a brand of cigarettes and cigars, called Craven No 1, which still exists in Asia to this day.
Even our visit for a risk assessment (because Health and Safety is everywhere) saw myself and Robin Blay of White Light Paranormal encounter activity in the form of orbing (about which I remain skeptical) and a strange shadow that darted from one side of an alcove to the other, vanishing into the wall (about which I remain slightly less skeptical, because unless I got the Mushroom Tea mixed up with English Breakfast again, I was perfectly well rested and completely compos mentis.)
I kept the team in the dark about both the history of the building and the precise nature of the ghosts they were here to hunt. They were on a no-search-engines embargo, so it was interesting when they decided to set up their control room in Old Mary’s Scullery itself.
The modern redevelopment of the scullery has seen the Victorian iron stove preserved, with beautiful copper-topped tables down the middle, as well as around the edges of the room. What looks like the remain of a brick oven break up the western wall, filled with prop bottles of Victorian-style ‘poison.’ We plugged our night vision cameras into the large monitor set onto the scullery wall, and replaced the electrical lights with candle light.
From the start, EMF was interesting. We had all the usual EMF traces from lights, power cables, plug sockets and other natural sources… yet there were still rogue sources, especially on the servant’s stairs leading up to the main bar of the pub.
These stairs were especially interesting, as they didn’t have their own bulb to light them, and we could find no sources of electromagnetism, like power cables, connected devices or plug sockets on the stairs.
Nonetheless, not only did our mediums get a fluctuating reading, but that reading appeared to respond to questions. Barbara, our team leader, managed to interrogate whatever was causing the reading, getting what appeared to be a yes/no confirmation that there was something deliberately influencing the EMF meter, and that the presence was female.
Later, Barbara also talked about a vision/communication of a young woman who might have been murdered on the stairs: pushed to the bottom, and then killed with a boot to the bottom of the neck. She believed the killer might have been a man.
Barbara opened a circle in the cactus room and protected everyone from any unwanted spiritual attacks of attachments, and we began.
Restaurant Rear Area
This is a more general dining are than the Scullery, and contains the bar. It’s a fairly open area, replete with two nooks: one just large enough for six or seven people, and another, more open area with lots of rather lovely round tables around the edge (this room also has a love affair with cacti: for some reason there are cacti on all of the tables, and not-entirely-unpleasing paintings of cacti-headed people on the walls, which I rather liked.)
Barbara’s team started here, forming a circle and creating a human ouija board, using a system of shoving to get yes/no answers from the spirit. The spirit, initially thought to be a relative from one of the guests, said that it was female but declined any further communication, much as the one on the stairs had.
When our other psychic and team leader, Mary Lowe, brought her team here they got similar results, with the spirit only agreeing to speak to members of the group who were young and female. Through the same system of ghostly shoving the ghost answered no to almost every question, except one asked by a male guest (“Is this questioning annoying you?”) to which it answered affirmative.
The Scullery itself had little to no activity initially. Mary Lowe’s team spent most of an hour trying to raise any contact using a talking board made from attaching letters to the smooth copper surface of the main table in the room. Mary Lowe’s guide Jack was reluctant to enter.
When contact was established, the results were strange: letters and numbers rather than words. Investigators reported a repeating sequence, and we’re eagerly awaiting a transcript of the audio from our recorders in that room.
Barbara’s team reported visions of three children running around the building, but no adults. Their experiment with the planchet was equally unsuccessful, although changing to the glass brought contact, yielding the same sequence of letters and numbers as before.
Things got weird when I decided to intervene. Working on my theory that IF there had been a Mary, her philandering Lord might have been William Craven, I decided that the Mary in question might not be a dead scullery maid, but Lady Craven, the possible killer herself.
This meant that I had to reveal a little of what I knew to Barbra, who agreed to try and bring Lady Mary to the board, if she was present.
The results were immediate. The spirit answered in the affirmative that she was Lady Craven. We asked her if she would answer some questions, but she returned to the same repetitive sequencing of numbers and letters, this time moving the glass violently and forcefully. After a few minutes Barbara agreed to ask her to leave the table so that other spiritual entities could come and speak.
Initially, the entity claiming to be Lady Craven refused to leave, and there was a struggle. Barbara managed, with the help of her guides, to banish Lady Craven from the room, and with Barbara’s help I decided to try and raise the ghost of the maid, Old Mary, mentioned in the pub’s mythology.
Verbal calls didn’t move the glass, but they did have an effect: the monitor we’d been using for the remote camera feeds started to behave strangely, with lines of interference flickering across it. The interference became so fierce that it formulated a visible light source in the scullery, and we hastily checked our equipment for any physical faults, of which we found none.
A final, all out, call for Old Mary to come created violent flickering interference on the screen, but unfortunately we were interrupted at that point by two passers-by from the street, and afterwards no further contact could be established.
This is the smaller nook of the two, just large enough for six or seven people around a table. Mary Lowe brought her group here after having little communication in the rear area of the restaurant. They turned off all electronic devices, and blew out any lit candles. When I joined them, leaving Barbara’s group attempting to establish contact with other spirits than Lady Craven, they had just started to get jerky, erratic movement on their glass, which was slightly hampered by the uneven surface of the table.
Once more, I intervened, asking the question whether this was Lady Craven (under the theory that she might have come over to this side of the pub now she couldn’t enter the scullery) and received an affirmative. Once more, the spirit showed a preference to the younger, female members of Mary Lowe’s group, indicating that it would like to communicate with one of them, but not giving any actual message.
Flatteringly, when Mary Lowe asked Lady Craven whether she liked me, it provoked a wild and uncontrolled spiralling of the glass so violently that we quickly decided that it was better if we once more banished Lady Craven and asked her to leave the table (I did notice though, that while her reaction seemed quite emphatic, she didn’t actually answer that, yes, she liked me.)
This was the most active part of the cellar space. This was where Robin and I saw the shadow when we were walking around checking for plugs and tripping hazards on a sunny evening, and where mediums repeatedly felt sensations of running water, cold and electricity.
There was also a lot of orbing here, but orbs that didn’t behave like dust motes: they moved in more than one direction, stopped suddenly and reversed course.
We decided to do some EVP here. I questioned a digital recorder for a few minutes, but it gave no answers except a faint sound that might have been a glitch on the recorder.
Barbara used her dowsing rods here towards the end of the night, suspecting that there might be some sort of line of earth power there. She detected something, but was unable to say what it was…
But I might, you see, on the other side of the door was a source of cold, water and electricity: the pubs ice machine. One of the guests reported seeing one of the bar staff going in there to get a bucket of ice at the end of the night, and said the room was packed with freezers full of ice. That doesn’t, however change the nature of the other activity we felt there.
A lot of the Mitre’s mythology doesn’t hold up, and even the mighty Guy Lyon Playfair fails to mention it as haunted in his 1970s book on haunted London pubs. It’s certainly a beautiful place, but is it haunted?
I’m willing to say there’s something there. Even if we disregard everything said by the mediums as being too subjective (although some of the things that happened between groups of people who had no knowledge of what they was happening to each other and no way of communicating is very persuasive,) we still had a great deal of anomalous activity: strange things on the EMF; orbs that don’t behave in line with how dust blowing on the air currents should behave; the strange activity with the TV. For me, this is enough to think there’s something hanging around at Old Mary’s.
My concern is that it might not be right in the head.
The repetitive number and letter codes, the excitability of entities during glass moving… it makes me wonder if perhaps Lady Craven isn’t the one haunting the cellar, trapped there after killing her love rival and living out a long life.
After the lights were turned off we did a last few checks: took some video, did some dowsing. I used my pendulum for a series of yes/no questions and got more results than I’d seen through the evening.
“Is there some thing here?”
“Are you lonely?”
“Is Lord Craven with you?”
“Is Old Mary there?”
Who knows, maybe the Mitre doesn’t have the ghost of a scullery maid, but the ghost of her killer, and the man whose heart she broke.