JAY HOLLIS tells why Enfield’s Haunted Trent Park needs to be saved from development
“It felt very cold. I didn’t like it at all. I’ll never go there at night alone again” These are the words that Middlesex University Head of Security, John Dedman told a local newspaper in the early 1990s about one of his encounters with the Grey Lady of Trent Park.
The ghost that haunts Trent Park mansion in Enfield, North London, is that of an unidentified lady from the nineteenth century and John Dedman is just one of many who have heard the rustling sound of her crinoline dress as she passes by unseen on the stairs, accompanied by the scent of flowers. This seems to be quite a common phenomenon as there are many similar, if not identical reports from haunted houses all over the country. Less common is the remarkable nature of her appearances, for most people expect a ghost to be able to walk through walls but this one glides through the floor!
Jay Hollis: I’m Just A Soul Whose Intentions Are Good
Originally built in the late eighteenth century and extended in the nineteenth century, Trent Park was drastically remodelled in the 1920’s by Sir Philip Sassoon, who had the levels of the first and second floors raised. Despite this, the Grey Lady continues to walk along the old floor levels. She was once seen by a petrified security guard in the second floor corridor. He fled down the stairs when he saw her from the chest up, emerging from the floor, only to see her bottom half seemingly suspended from the ceiling as he ran along the first floor corridor to continue his escape.
She has also been seen wandering the cellars. Trent Park was one of the first sites I visited when I began my research for Haunted Enfield in 2000 and I attended an open house event in September of that year.
Whilst in the cellars, our guide told us how the Head of Security (presumably John Dedman again) was locking up a room at the end of the basement corridor when the door flew open to reveal the Grey Lady.
Bizarrely, according to our guide, he was then chased down the corridor by a mattress!
But all of these stories are from a few years ago when the house and grounds were owned by Middlesex University. They vacated the building in
2012 and the Grey Lady has had the house all to herself since then.
However, she may soon have some permanent visitors as the house was bought last year by Berkeley Homes who propose to transform the house into a number of luxury apartments. Whilst, by no means dilapidated, Trent Park mansion has been in urgent need of repair for some years and Berkeley have a good track record of sympathetic renovations completed to a high standard and so it would seem that the abandoned and recently neglected house is now in safe hands. However, there is strong opposition to Berkeley’s plans, as Trent Park has a secret past from the Second World War that was only fully revealed little over ten years ago and is in danger of being forgotten.
Trent Park was Sir Phillip Sassoon’s weekend retreat, where he played host to the A-list celebrities of the 1930’s; from Hollywood film stars to leading politicians and members of the Royal Family. He died in 1939 and Trent Park was requisitioned by the military shortly after the start of the war for use as a prisoner of war camp for captured high ranking German officers. This much was always known, but what was kept secret for over sixty years after the war was the fact the house and grounds were riddled with hidden microphones and beneath them, in the basement, were a team of translators listening to the prisoners’ (or ‘guests’ as they were referred to) conversations and recording any that they deemed to be of importance to the war effort.
It was thus that we discovered the locations of the development sites for the V-1 and V-2 rocket programmes at Peenemünde, on the Baltic coast, and the V-3 ‘Supergun’ in Northern France. Both sites were subsequently bombed by the RAF and the raid on Peenemünde put Hitler’s plans back by six months, no doubt saving the lives of thousands of civilians. We also gained vital information on Hitler’s atomic bomb programme. It doesn’t bear thinking about what might have happened had he succeeded in producing a nuclear weapon.
But perhaps most poignant of all were the revelations concerning the concentration camps and the Nazi’s extermination programme. Most of those secretly listening in were German or Austrian Jews who would undoubtedly have had relatives and friends in those camps. One can only imagine their anguish as they listened to the ‘guests’ upstairs revealing just how much they actually did know of Hitler’s ‘Final Solution’.
Berkeley Homes plan to have a small proportion of the house open to the public but in the view of the Save Trent Park campaigners this does not go far enough to honour the men and women whose wartime contribution was never officially recognised or acknowledged. The campaign’s minimum goal is to establish a museum and learning resource throughout the basement and ground floor of the house and in the stable block, although I would like to see the entire house used for this purpose.
The campaign has gained the support of actors Sir David Jason and Helen Lederer, whose grandfather was one of Trent Park’s secret listeners.
Iain Standen, the CEO of Bletchley Park has publicly voiced his support for a museum at Trent Park, saying it will form part of a Secret War Museum network. Bletchley Park was saved for the nation by a hard-fought campaign that prevented it from being demolished to make way for a housing development and supermarket! Thankfully that has never been Trent Park’s fate.
Whatever happens, there is going to be a considerable amount of structural renovation and alteration at the house (as well as a brand new housing estate within the grounds) and such work has often been a trigger for paranormal activity. It would therefore not surprise me if the Grey Lady makes another appearance during this time. I certainly hope so!
More information on our campaign may be found by clicking on the following links. Please help us to Save Trent Park.