Guest writer PENNY LEGG shows us five great places to visit in Haunted Southampton.
When I was researching Folklore of Hampshire, I found that I had to restrain myself or the whole book would have been solely about things that go bump in the night! My publisher would not have been pleased by this, so I was really happy when said publisher asked me to write about the ghostly goings on in Southampton, for my book, Haunted Southampton. Great!
This was a chance to delve more deeply into the active areas of the city and write about some of the places I had not been able to put into the folklore book. Southampton is awash with haunted places! Here are a few of my favourites in and around the city.
The Red Lion Pub, High Street, Southampton
The Red Lion is something of an institution in the city. It is a bit of a mish-mash of time periods as the cellars date from 1148, parts of the main building are Tudor and the interior in part dates from the 1950s. This all gives scope for the building to be very active indeed!
The chief claim to fame for the Red Lion is the fact that it was the scene of the treason trial of the so-called ‘Southampton Plot’ conspirators, Richard, Earl of Cambridge, Lord Scrope of Masham and Sir Thomas Grey of Heton. They plotted the death of Henry V in 1415, were denounced by Edmund Mortimer, fifth Earl of March, the person they wished to put in Henry’s place, and ended up on trial in the Red Lion. Needless to say, they were all found guilty and were led to their fates from the pub to the Bargate, just up the road. There have since been numerous sightings of a ghostly procession of mournful people leaving the pub.
Other resident spirits at the Red Lion include the lady in her sixties who drifts through the bar area and the owner of heavy boots, whose footsteps reverberate through the cellar.
The Station Pub, Bitterne
The regular who sat at the end of the bar in the Station Pub is still there. The area has been extensively remodelled though and now her spot is within the ladies’ toilets. Visitors to the facilities are sometimes startled to be tapped on the shoulder while they are there!
CCTV has picked up the image of a man standing under the wall light by the snooker table, quietly guarding during the night.
The cellar is divided into two sections, one being much smaller than the other. This holds the boiler and is used as a storeroom for seasonal bits and pieces, like Christmas decorations. This room’s door is permanently wedged open. Whenever the door is shut, the contents of the room are thrown about. Staff find it easier to keep the door open rather than continually tidy the mess!
A former landlady reported the fact that she had seen plates move from a storage rack in the kitchen and smash on the floor. She had also heard whistling coming from the gents’ toilets when the premises were closed to the public. She thought it was the pub’s chef, the sole other member of staff on the premises, only to find him working in the kitchen.
The Medieval Merchant’s House, 58 French Street
This is one of the earliest surviving houses in England, dating from the end of the thirteenth century. That it still stands is something of a miracle, given the damage it sustained in the sack of Southampton at the hands of the French and Genoese in 1338. It also made it through the Southampton blitz in 1940, when many of its neighbours were lost.
Wine merchant John Fortin built the house for his family. Over time, it has been divided into flats, made into a house again and was Mrs Collins’s Lodging House for Theatricals. It was a pub in the nineteenth century, the Bull’s Head Inn, during which time it was known for the mischievous spirit that kept blowing out the candles in the cellar. Ian Fox relates the story of Sarah Jane Allen, married to the owner’s son, who often woke in the mornings to find a woman standing at the end of the bed, wearing a dirty dress. She would vanish when Sarah Jane tried to alert her sleeping husband to the woman’s presence.
During the Second World War, it was a brothel and there is a story of the killing of a sailor at the house by a resident prostitute after a dispute over her fees. There have been numerous reports of strange footsteps on the wooden staircase and a theatrical group that used the house as their base reported a woman’s shape seen in a bedroom, which then drifted through a bricked up doorway. Visitors are often pushed in the back by unseen hands and the heavy front doors slam shut without warning.
The Tudor House Museum
At one stage, the police must have been really fed up with the spirits in the Tudor House Museum! Local residents regularly called them to say that there were intruders in the house as the lights were on in the building. When police arrived and investigated, there were no signs of a break in and all was well in the house, apart from the fact that the lights were on. Calls stopped after a medium was called in and it was realized that the spirit was probably bored. The spirit was given a ball to play with. The ball disappeared and now the lights stay off.
There have been several paranormal investigations at the Tudor House Museum. Haunted Southampton Ltd reported the fact that their heat seeking equipment picked up the image of a man sitting on a chair in an area where there was a thick wall with a sturdy cupboard in front of it. Other investigators have reported seeing figures walk across rooms and disappearing through bricked up doorways.
The Brushmakers Arms, Upham
This quaint pub, just down Shoe Lane from the old brush-making factory that gives the premises its name, has a very long history of strange events. The most famous story is of Mr Chickett, supposedly a travelling brush salesman, although the landlords think he was either the innkeeper or the coach keeper. He was a regular visitor, staying in the upper front bedroom. He was known to sleep with his money under his pillow and this was his downfall. One morning, he was found in his bed with his throat cut. His money was gone. Mr Chickett has been sighted numerous times as he searches for his money, and his murderer.
When the pub’s upstairs accommodation was remodelled, there was much disgruntled activity, with reports of battery operated baby toys turned on in the middle of the night; the wardrobe doors in the front bedroom continually flung wide open; mirrors repeatedly found with cracks in them, being replaced and then discovered with identical cracks running though them once more; a cat ornament in the living room turned to the wall each morning; small items would disappear for weeks on end and then reappear sitting in their rightful place again. The list goes on and on, all pointing to an active poltergeist happily haunting the pub.
The current landlords are not sure of the name of the former landlord found hanged in the cellar, but they know he is still working there as he often moves the empty beer barrels about.
PENNY LEGG is a member of the Society of Authors and the National Union of Journalists. She has written for newspapers and magazines in the UK, USA and the Caribbean chain. She is the author of nine books on local and military history, with a tenth title due out in June, all published by The History Press. She runs Writing Buddies, the group for writers, which is based in Southampton. She edited the group’s anthology, Wordfall, which was published by The Thorn Press.
Several of Penny’s books have paranormal content. Haunted Southampton, which was a Waterstone’s bestseller, looks at ghost stories in and around the city, as well as delving behind the scenes to see what those ‘in the business’ get up to. Folklore of Hampshire has a large section devoted to things that go bump in the night and ghosts pop up in Winchester: History You Can See.
Penny is an associate member of the Haunted Southampton paranormal investigation company and often collaborates with Salisbury-based Medium, Andy Ford.