Join history fan Liz Jeffery for a second time as she explores ghostly goings-on and a grizzly past in Tenterden
2nd November marks the Day of the Dead, a Mexican holiday that conjures up images of a carnival style celebration of life and death. Here, in the UK, we are slightly more reserved, today is known as All Souls Day a traditionally Catholic celebration of remembrance and prayer. What ever you call today, it’s certainly a day to remember those who have died and show our continued love and respect to their memory.
So, what could be a more appropriate day to share the second instalment of my Ghosts of Tenterden blog? Whilst researching for these posts I have learnt a great deal about Tenterden’s rich and colourful history, something that I knew very little about (to my shame) until recently, but thanks to Johnathan Harrison from Tenterden & District Museum kindly sending me the book “Forgotten Snippets and Gruesome History of Tenterden and District” by Dr. Adrian Greaves I plan to start to learn more.
It’s with the Museum that we resume our ghostly tales, with a sad story of lost love. The museum is housed in a pretty, weatherboard building, originally built as a coach house in 1850. Our story pre-dates the existing building, 1687 to be exact. A local girl named Elizabeth Cumber fell in love with a man who worked on the site where the museum now stands. As the man in question was married, the relationship inevitably broke down, the heartbroken Elizabeth took her own life by standing in the way of the rotating vanes at John Wybourne’s windmill, situated close by.
Overnight watchmen and guests at the museum have reported hearing a soft female voice calling a man’s name and a strong smell of lavender. Perhaps Elizabeth is still hoping to be returned to the arms of her lover?
A working spirit
52 High Street was known as The Lemon Tree in the past, a restaurant that also offered Bed and Breakfast rooms upstairs. Guests would complain of a grey-haired woman, who would open the bedroom doors, and stare at the occupants, before closing the door again.
Whilst this could be viewed as a nuisance, the lady in question was clearly more interested in being helpful, than causing mischief. Tim Moody who was a chef at the premises recalls one incident in particular, he explains “Every Tuesday morning, a Tenterden business breakfast was held in the rear room. One morning, I arrived to unlock the building and found all the guests already seated. I asked how they got in. They stated that a grey-haired lady had opened the door to them, then walked away down the corridor, without saying a word”.
A late-night visitor
Tim Moody has not only heard tales of ghostly visitors; he’s also had one or two experiences himself which he has kindly shared. Tim also used to work in a pub on the high street, called The Eight Bells. It was here he had a ghostly encounter. Tim recalls “One evening after hours, I was having a drink with the manager at the end of the bar adjacent to the conservatory area. The pub interior was lit by moonlight through the conservatory roof and the street lighting outside. As I sat at the end of the bar, a dark brown figure walked from the restaurant area and across the conservatory towards where I sat. It passed within 4-5 feet of me and walked through a doorway leading to the gents”
Tim describes the figure as being dressed in brown hessian, slightly ragged around the edges and could see the dining furniture through the shape of the apparition.
Shaken, Tim asked his colleague if he had also seen the figure. Calmly he replied he had, and as he lived above the pub, he often saw this ghost wandering around the ground floor, and often smelt pipe smoke.
Tim lived in another High Street property with a couple of friends, and whilst they saw nothing during this time, they did have a problem with small items disappearing and re-appearing.
Knowing that the residence had been occupied by Mrs Goldsmith, former mayor of Tenterden, upon searching for a mislaid item, such as a lighter, the friends would call out “Mrs Goldsmith, can we have the lighter back?”. And shortly after, the missing item would be back in its original place.
The Ghost in the window and other spooky situations
Not all of Tim’s experiences were as simply solved as calling out to a spirit to put things back there they were. When Tim moved to a property on Cranbrook Road with his wife and three children, things started to become very creepy indeed.
The house was cold and damp, Tim remembers that his wife had begun to spend more and more time in the kitchen, avoiding the lounge, but it was only after one night that Tim became aware of any issues in the house (other than the cold and damp).
One-night Tim was woken by, what sounded like a female voice downstairs. His wife pressed him to go back to sleep, and thinking it was their eldest son having the TV on too loud, he did.
It was only when Tim spoke to his wife the next day, that he began to realise all was not as it should be in the property.
Speaking about the night before, Tim’s wife knew that all of the children were in bed before 10pm, she had been woken initially by the sound of the stair gate banging at the bottom of the stairs, then a female voice started speaking which woke Tim. Terrified that he would go to investigate, she told him to go back to sleep
She then shared her experiences over the past months, doors would be stiff to open, on several occasions when Tim was working nights, the bedroom door would open and shut. One occasion, whilst putting on makeup his wife saw the door handle, reflected in the mirror, slowly move downwards, click, and the door swung open.
In an attempt to combat the cold and damp, the family uncapped the chimney and used the lounge’s open fireplace. Tim remembers that some days “the fire was so hot it was almost unbearable. On other occasions, it was cold, even when the fire was roaring, you could see your breath in the air.”
Things came to a head when the family discovered mould on one of the children’s bedroom wall. This combined with the uncomfortable happenings prompted the family to find another property and the evening they signed the paperwork for their new home is where Tim recounts a terrifying tale “We had a few drinks to celebrate. I went upstairs and foolishly shouted, “I hope you are happy, you have driven us away”. As I said this, my wife screamed from downstairs”.
“I ran down, she said that she had seen a pale figure shoot past the kitchen door, and then she had been scratched on her neck. She had three clear red scratch marks.”
On the day the family left, with the children at school, Tim took several photographs of the outside of the property. The ground floor had been emptied of furniture and there was no one inside. Later, when Tim examined the photos, zooming in on the lounge window, he found this looking back out at him….
So today, take a moment to remember the dead and let them rest peacefully, celebrate their lives and don’t have nightmares!
With special thanks to:
John Golfoyle – William Caxton Pub
Sue Ferguson – My Tenterden
Johnathan Harrison – Tenterden & District Museum
John Hippisley – Canterbury Ghost Tour
By Liz Jeffery