Phantom Monks and the Ghosts of Bristol
I was born in Bristol though I admit to not knowing the place particularly well – I was just six months old when we moved. The city today is the eighth largest in the UK and has been home to mankind for some 60,000 years. So it’s not really surprising that during all that time, the city has picked up a few hauntings and here are a few of the ghosts of Bristol.
All Saints Church
The All Saints Church is an Anglican church found on Corn Street, part of which date from the 12th century. It has a ghostly black monk that has been seen for around two hundred years now, with the most recent sighting in Christmas 1948 when he was spotted walking down the aisle of the church. A sighting of another ghost around the church by the sexton of the church and his wife from 1846 was even recounted in the Bristol Times and can be found on the Mysterious Britain website. However, the gist of it was that they had seen flickering lights around the vicarage adjoining the house and heard footsteps when no one was moving around. When one of the servants finally saw the ghost responsible, she described him as a whiskered man who was standing by her bed, shaking it. She called for the sexton and the ghost promptly leapt out of the window without breaking it when he came to her rescue.
Arnos Manor Hotel
The Arnos Manor started out as a private home when it was built in 1760 for William Reeve, a wealthy local. The house features Georgian Gothic features and had its own chapel, which at one time was a girl’s school run by nuns. Legend says that one of the nuns fell pregnant and was bricked up in the wall – her body was said to be found by workmen in World War II. She is particularly associated with Room 160 where people have reported hearing her voice, seeing a figure walking up stairs that no long exist and even feeling as if someone was leaning on their chest when in bed. Minor poltergeist activity has also been reporting including baths filling without anyone turning the taps on and toiletries being tossed about.
Clifton Suspension Bridge
The Clifton Suspension Bridge was built in 184 and crossed the River Avon, linking Clifton with Leigh Woods in Somerset. It was built by William Henry Barlow following designs made by Isambard Kingdom Brunel and is now a grade I listed building. Sadly, its great height has also made it a suicide hotspot and over the years, these tormented souls have remained around the point that they left life. In fact, one study showed that between 1974 and 1993, 117 people jumped from the bridge and in 1998 barriers were installed to prevent jumpers, leading to a reduction in numbers. Whether these measures have deterred the ghosts around the bridge or not wasn’t mentioned.
The Lamb Inn was demolished in 1905 but became famous for being the centre of a poltergeist case in the 18th century. The pub had been built in 1651 and the problems started in November 1761 when scratching and rappings were heard around the bedroom of the children of the landlord Richard Giles. Molly was 13 at the time and Dobby (poor girl) was eight. The events continued for another twelve months and increased in viciousness including the girls being slapped, punched, pricked with pins and even being bitten by their invisible assailant. A local druggist Henry Durbin recorded the events and he himself saw a wine glass rise from a set of drawers and smash itself into a wall. The spirit began to communicate through a knocking code and identified itself as being summoned by a witch from Mangotsfield, hired herself by a business rival of Giles. Seven minsters including the Rev. Symes of St Werburghs and Rev. Camplin of Bristol Cathedral questioned the spirit while the attacks on the girls continued. Richard Giles finally died in 1762 after a suspicious fall from his horse when its bridle broke in the presence of an unidentified old woman. The spirit told Durbin that the witch was responsible and finally a local white witch was called in who exorcised the spirit.
Old Vic Theatre
The identity of the ghost of the Old Vic Theatre is no mystery because she was once an actress there – her name was Sarah Siddons. The theatre dates from 1764 and Sarah made her debut there in 1775 but the show was a flop. She would be described as something of a diva in modern times, temperamental and tactless and was often the recipient of cruel jokes because of her nature. She did become very popular however and starred in over 100 roles. She loved the theatre so much in the end that when she died she never left. It is uncertain whether she is also the lady in black seen around the theatre or if this is the spirit of another Sarah, the mistress and later wife of William McCready who was a manager of the theatre for a time. Finally, a paint shop worker who died in the theatre is often blamed for moving objects around in the backstage area.
The Knights Templar, those famous warrior monks from medieval times, once owned large parts of Bristol and their name carries through in many ways including Temple Meads. The fire station on Temple Back, home of the Avon Fire and Rescue, has had repeated sightings of a knight, possibly a Templar, hanging around the building. Over one period in 1975, the figure was seen on nine separate occasions by the firemen, though one did think he looked more like a man in waterproof clothing than a knight!
For more hauntings from Bristol, I can recommend (because I’ve read it!) Haunted Bristol by Sue le Queux.