Saturday, 16 December 2017

The 'ghosts' of Landguard Fort

Landguard Fort, Suffolk, location of the last seaborne invasion of England (2nd July 1667), is a place that has gained popularity for organised ghost hunt events over the past ten years or so, although it’s yet to reach the dizzy heights of paranormal folklore that haunts such as Fort Amherst or Dover Castle enjoy.

However, from an historical perspective, the location is quite significant, the current fort being the last in line of three military buildings guarding the entry point to the Stour and Orwell estuary and, onwards to the important ports of Harwich and Ipswich.

None of the three buildings had been built on the same location, although the current Fort (dating from 1716) has one small corner, the Holland Bastion, that overlay’s the site of the previous building.  

The Dutch invasion of 1667 is recognised as the first ever engagement of the Royal Marines, so overall, a very notable location.

It was due to the Fort’s popularity as the venue for paranormal events, that we'd never really been interested in making a visit.

At the same time, we'd always avoided reading any reports or reviews from these events, or indeed the alleged paranormal history of the location, as not to taint any future visit that we could have possibly made, especially from Laura’s perspective.

Nevertheless, we eventually succumbed and finally paid a visit, on what turned out to be the final opening day of the 2017 season.

Subsequent research has revealed the reasons and motivations behind the Fort having a secondary role as a paranormal event venue and we’ve listed the alleged haunting and ghosts present at the location in the footnote following this blog.

After parking up outside the Fort, in the small car park, adjacent to the entrance, we found ourselves in front of an impressive 18th Century gatehouse, not too dissimilar to some of the medieval castles that we had visited in the past.

Crossing the stone causeway, which replaced the original wooden drawbridge in the 1930’s, across the moat, we paid for our entry, deciding to skip the free audio tour option and explore the Fort in relative ignorance, so to speak.

Taking the wrong turning once again.....

The Wash Suite
Leaving the gatehouse, we found ourselves in a curved, narrow area, which formed an outer courtyard. This had originally been part of a larger parade ground that had been divided into two as part of the re-modelling of the Fort between 1871 and 1875, resulting in an inner and outer courtyard that we now see today.

As we looked back towards the gatehouse, we saw a series of adjoining rooms lined up against the outer wall of the Fort.

Deciding that this was as good a spot as any to begin our exploration, we entered the nearest doorway and found ourselves in a shower room, Victorian or later in appearance, which we subsequently learned formed part of a wash suite, with baths and an old boiler being located in adjoining rooms.

Almost immediately, Laura began to relay information to me – in the past, the room had been a make-shift prison, where people had been kept chained.

Something had happened to a person in here. This person was very scared, a man.

I noticed that Laura appeared to be greatly affected by what she was sensing, going on to tell me that there was one person here, who had their...... At this point she found herself locking her hands together and telling me that her hands were held together with such strength that the blood was beginning to drain from them.

Laura described that it felt as if someone was wringing their hands really tight, or if their hands were bound, locked together.

Laura, clasped hands, in the wash suite

Turning to face me, she exclaimed that her hands were clasped together so tightly that she could feel them ‘pulsing’ strongly.

Laura felt herself compelled to keep her hands in this position, which she did so for the entire duration that we were in the wash suite.

With no further information and, having completed our inspection of the adjoining rooms, we left the wash suite, returning back out to the main court yard.

It was at this point we subsequently discovered that we’d recorded our first EVP, although unfortunately indistinct, of our visit.

Deciding to continue our tour in an anti-clockwise direction, we soon found ourselves in front of a concrete staircase to the upper level.

Laura, at the point on the stairs where she
saw the ghost of a young girl, walking
down towards us.

At this point, Laura grabbed my arm tightly and exclaimed that she could see a young child, a girl of around three or four years of age, three quarters of the way down the staircase, on the lower steps, walking down towards us.

With my camera already out, I took some photographs as quickly as I could, in the hope of capturing that ever elusive picture of a ghost on film, but sadly, not to any surprise, nothing of interest came out in any of the images that I took.

The Sally Port
Immediately to the right of the stairway, was the entrance tunnel into the bowls of the Fort, the Sally Port.

The tunnel ran through the outer defensive walls and allowing access to the casemates and powder rooms, a crucial component of the 18th Century fortification.

Again, within a minute of us entering the sally port, I noticed that something was up - Laura was clutching her leg and walking stiffly, with a limp.

Laura, indicating where the pain in her
leg was located.

Any questions that were beginning to form in my head were answered by Laura, who told me that she was experiencing a severe pain in Laura’s right groin, affecting her ability to walk normally.

With Laura attempting to walk the pain off, we made our way to the magazines. As we approached the entry barrier, Laura raised her hand to her left shoulder and neck and grimaced, she was feeling a sharp pain from what she thought was a wound, a wound to the left shoulder.

A couple minutes later, we later found that we’d recorded our second EVP, a chid asking “What’s down there?”, swiftly followed by a third, a couple of minutes later, answering Laura’s (general) question with “Yeah”

After completing our exploration of the lower level, we re-entered the courtyard and decided to walk through the secondary gateway, to the inner courtyard, where we found ourselves within an enclosed muster yard, or parade ground, with a two story crescent of what we assumed to be Victorian living quarters and related facilities now immediately behind us.

In the lower level of rooms, we spotted a shop and cafeteria, but finding the attendant preoccupied with customers, we took the nearest staircase to the upper level and explored each room, one by one.

The Upper Level
We found the rooms, as expected, to be very small, some with additional rooms, that could best be described as walk in cupboards.

The first room we visited was F7, which was nearest to the stairs that we’d just climbed up.

Hardly left impressed after being
told to "fuck off".....

This room which, along with F6, formed part of pair of rooms used as Fire Officers Quarters, had an adjoining bathroom. Entering the bathroom, Laura was immediately told to ‘Fuck off’ loudly by a male. She also picked up a symbol, possibly a badge (military), that we’ve yet to identify.

Moving onto the next room, F6, which could be entered by a short connecting passage, Laura picked up ‘Kirkaldy’, which she took to be a place. I assumed that this referred to Kirkcaldy, a coastal town in Scotland, which Laura had not heard of before. They’ll be dancing in the streets of Raith tonight......

We could only assume that this possibly related to an unknown serviceman, but with no further information forthcoming, we had no way of knowing.

Have you seen this badge before?

As we continued along the upper levels, we found ourselves on the opposite side of the inner keep, in what could be described as more functional rooms, related to World War 2, including an Operations Room, that was only rediscovered relatively recently, in August 1995, complete with large oval table, that had been sealed up when the Army vacated the Fort almost 40 years earlier (3).

In a gun bastion, occupied by a replica, 12 ½ inch, 38-ton cannon, reported feeling ‘heady’, perhaps an echo from the past, replicating the experience of a former WW2 gunner suffering from the fumes that emitted from the original gun.

In room 10, the radio room, inexplicably, Laura was given the phrase ‘Duke of Canterbury’ – a nonsensical name we knew, but could it have related to a code name used at the location in WW2? Subsequent research has revealed nothing unfortunately.

The Radio Room - no sign of the Duke of Canterbury here.

With the Sun getting lower we decided that it would be time to depart, but not before we’d visited the upper level above the gatehouse.

As we made our way along the battlements, towards Chapel Bastion, the breeze from the North Sea finally began to bite and the chill sunk in. It was at this point began to pick up some more information – “Rook”, “Lathwaite”, with the name “Daniel” possibly connected to the name Lathwaite. Again, I’ve found no reference to these names since but, with the number of people passing through the Fort other the centuries, information like this can be like searching for the proverbial needle in a haystack.

Just before we got to the Bastion, Laura asked to be left alone as someone had been trying to get her attention and she felt compelled to immediately sit down, so I left her sitting on a set of robust concrete steps that allowed you to look over the battlements.

It was here that Laura picked up the image of a man, together with the name “Toby Jarvis”, but no other information came through and Laura eventually rejoined me back down in the outer courtyard, where we made our way back to the car.

Laura, in the distance, sat alone to the right of Chapel Bastion, making notes of her impressions and, a sketch of 'Toby Jarvis'

Both Laura and I were pleasantly surprised by the condition of the Fort and could thoroughly recommend it to anyone who was looking for somewhere historical to visit for a day out at little cost.

From a paranormal perspective, Laura felt that there was more that she could tap into under more favourable conditions and that it would be a different proposition at night.

For myself, subsequent research revealed how significant to british history this location was and, how undervalued it was by the public, which I thought was a shame but, at the same time, I was looking forward to our next visit.

However, the question remains, what did ‘Toby Jarvis’ want? Will we ever find out?

Toby Jarvis

Footnote: The alleged ghosts of Landguard Fort
Over the last 15 years or so, with the ever growing popularity of paranormal groups sprouting up at a drop of a hat, complete with an army of mediums, the haunted history of the Fort has become very muddy indeed, resulting in what Laura and I generally refer to as two distinct categories of hauntings, namely ‘traditional’ - historically documented cases of hauntings and, ‘contemporary’ – those that have originated since the advent of the internet and social media.

Here follows therefore, a selection of hauntings at the Fort, for both categories:

1.       Traditional Hauntings
a.       Ghostly Footsteps
b.      The ghost of Nathaniel Darell, Governor of the Fort during the Dutch invasion; and
c.       The ghost of the Earl of Holland, first Governor of the original Landguard Fort, riding a white horse.

2.       Contemporary Hauntings
a.      The ghost of John Lowes, a clergyman, tried and executed for an act of alleged witchcraft at the Fort by Matthew Hopkins (the so-called Witch finder Genera), in the Holland Bastion.
b.     The ghost of a musketeer, the sole English casualty (at the Fort itself) of the 1667 engagement with the Dutch, patrolling the upper battlements in the area of the Holland Bastion.
c.      The ghost of a Portuguese lady, Maria, wife of a paymaster sergeant serving at the Fort, who threw herself from the battlements following the unjust execution of her husband, who allegedly haunts the areas of the Chapel Bastian from where she jumped.
d.     The spirit of a plague victim, in the ground floor of the Chapel Bastion, where he had been kept, in isolation, until his eventual death
e.      The spirit of a drowning victim, accidental or otherwise, in the wash suite
f.       The ghost of a suicide, full of remorse due to his involvement in the drowning in the wash suite, in the magazine corridor
g.      The ghost of a horse, witnessed in the area outside the Fort, during World War Two. It’s unclear if this horse in linked to the traditional ghost listed in 3. of ‘Traditional Hauntings’ above
h.     The sound of marching troops approaching the Fort, again reported by a guard during the Second World War; and
i.       The sound of workmen, accompanied by a possible time slip, in the 1960’s, after the Fort had been abandoned.

1.       ‘Suffolk Invasion’ – Frank Hussey (pub. 1983)
2.       ‘An Update on Landguard Fort’ – Doreen Rayner (pub. 1995)
3.       ‘Things that go bump in the Fort’ – Richard Bradshaw (pub. 2009)


  1. Fascinating, and beautifully written.