Ghosts of Tenterden – A Halloween Special

Join history fan Liz Jeffery as she explores ghostly goings-on in Tenterden

Halloween this year may not be how we have come to know it over the last few years, but there is no reason why we can’t mark the day with a more traditional version this year.  From the comfort of your home you can mark Halloween without the need for trick or treat.  Grab some pumpkins and let your creativity run wild carving them, relive your childhood by bobbing for apples and then after the fun and games, settle down with some ghostly tales. As these year’s All Hallow’s Eve falls during a full blue moon, you can be sure of a spooky atmosphere.

We are very fortunate here in Tenterden that we live in a place with a rich and varied history that has more than it’s fair share of ghostly goings on.  It’s no wonder that this area is a hotspot for mediums and clairvoyants.  Dim the lights, pull up a blanket and let us share some of Tenterden’s spooky secrets.

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The Brothel

At first glance, the William Caxton public house looks fairly unremarkable, you cannot imagine it as anything other that what it is now.  However, this pub has a grizzly past.  Originally built in the 1500s, the building has been chopped and changed about over the centuries. The private house next door was originally part of the pub and that part of the William Caxton was used as a brothel at one stage.  The brothel was frequented by (amongst others) workers from a nearby forge.  The story goes that there was a young girl named Edwina who worked in the brothel and she was murdered by one of the forge workers. Today she continues to dwell in the building where she once worked.

The current landlord, John Golfoyle, takes up the tale and explains how he knows so much about the mischievous Edwina.  “In the 1980s, regular spirit nights were held in the pub and they identified a presence here.  They organised a Ouija board evening and Edwina’s name was spelt out.”

“Since I moved in, lots of strange things have happened.  We have a bell in the kitchen that we ring to communicate with the bar staff that an order is ready. Very often I’m woken up by the sound of it being pressed, usually around 2am or 3am.  Also, I regularly come down in the morning, knowing that I have done my checks the night before and everything is turned off.  Only to find the lights are on, sometimes the grill is on too and unused switches have been flipped.”

Edwina is not a fan of change, and when things are moved around, she is at her most active. One such occasion involved the William Caxton’s cleaner. She had been doing a deep clean and moved all of the chairs away in the restaurant, as she went into the next room she heard the chairs being moved and, thinking it was John, called out to say she was done in there.  When she returned to the room she found that all of the chairs were back in their original positions and John hadn’t been anywhere near.

John is fairly relaxed about his unlikely housemate, and seems to accept that she is as much a part of the building as the fixtures and fittings.  He comments, “previous landlords had the same kind of experiences and she doesn’t bother me” though he did add that he had noticed Edwina has been much less active since lockdown!

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The hamlet of smallhythe, once Tenterden’s port and shipbuilding centre, has many a reported sightings from the spirit world.  Smallhythe Place, former home of actress Dame Ellen Terry, and now contains a museum dedicated to her life and career, is often mentioned as having a spiritual energy and feeling and Dame Terry is said to be spotted sitting at her dressing table.

Close by is a farmhouse that has had several reports of a resident ghost, possibly a nurse as this former resident is always looking out for the children who live and grow up in the house.  One former resident, Roger, shared his experiences with us. “ We moved there in the late seventies, we decorated before moving in.  We heard a noise upstairs and found newly hung wallpaper in one of the bedrooms ripped down.”

“We settled in with our new born daughter, we often woke to find the open fire had been made up or the ashes were blazing. Babies’ nappies went missing… then re-appeared in a cupboard, folded a different way. 

Strangest perhaps when a mate and I returned from work and saw my young daughter being held by a figure at the bedroom window… when we entered, my wife was in the kitchen and my daughter in her cot away from said window upstairs.“

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Ghostly sheep

Tenterden cattle and sheep market used to take place on the green at the bottom of the High Street.  The livestock were driven in down the high street early on a market day to the holding pens. Today, residents in this area have told stories of being woken by the sound of sheep right outside their windows… only to find nothing there when they lookDescription: 🐑

Ghost Train

What is now known as the Kent and East Sussex railway is just a small part of the old steam railway line that ran in the area from 1900 to 1954.  A ghostly train is not something I had come across before, however many locals claim, Tenterden has it’s very own Ghost Train!  There are various reports of people hearing the wheels running along tracks that have all long since been pulled up, along with a loud whistle.  Stranger still is that everyone says they hear it running around 2am, hours after the tourist trains stop running.  Even spookier is that there are some disused carriages parked off Turners Avenue and local residents have reported that these occasionally go missing.  Perhaps they go out for a late-night run?

My thanks

Many thanks to everyone that has helped to put this blog together.  We had so many stories, that we have another blog coming out on All Souls Day (The Day Of The Dead).  Look out for it, but don’t have nightmares

With special thanks to:

Stephen Rose

Paula Oliver

John Golfoyle – William Caxton Pub

Sue Ferguson – My Tenterden

Roger Finniss

Johnathan Harrison – Tenterden & District Museum

Tim Moody

John Hippisley – Canterbury Ghost Tour

By Liz Jeffery

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