Monday, 31 January 2022

The few experiences I’ve had that could possibly have a paranormal origin – Part 2

Part 2: Shadow Person Sighting (and other anomalous phenomena), Ipswich, Suffolk  



A welcome I would always remember

 
Once upon a time........
Many years ago, when I first came to work in Suffolk back in 2001, I initially stayed with a friend for a couple of months, to test the water before relocating fully, as I wasn’t sure that I would remain with the company I was working for at the time, which was moving its Head Office from my native South Wales to Ipswich.

As things transpired, I was very fortunate to have my friend’s house all to myself for the first week - she had previously booked a holiday and had already departed before I arrived, allowing me to settle in and...... clean up any mess I’d made during the week on the seventh evening.

I picked up the keys for the property from a relative whilst driving through Ipswich, on my way to work, then took the decision to continue onto the office, rather than pop into the house quickly beforehand.

My first day in the office passed quickly and the working day soon came to a close. I decided not to stay on at work for too long and left, arriving at the house at around 5:30pm – it was a hot sunny evening, during the height of summer. Too hot and sunny for my liking, the truth be told.


The adventure begins 

The house is here, somewhere.

I had only one thought on my mind, simply to get out of the suit and switch into some comfortable, light clothing.

I parked up and walked down the path to the front door, keys in hand. Little did I know what the next couple of minutes would hold.

Alone?
Unlocking the door, I opened it and entered. I  found the house empty, as expected and didn’t give the matter any further thought.

Walking along the hall and past the staircase on my right, I made my way to the lounge at the rear of the property, on the left hand side of the hallway.

Finding the door slightly ajar, I pushed it open and headed right as I entered the room, to face the French doors overlooking the garden. 

Immediately and totally unexpectedly, I saw what I can only describe as a ‘shadow person’, approximately six foot tall, leaning slightly over the dining table next to the patio doors, as if studying something.

It was not blurry in anyway shape or form, it was clear and sharp, totally black and I, for some reason, perceived it to be male. 

It did not have a hat on as far as I could see.

Having caught my eye, the figure disappeared in an instant, it didn’t fade away, one second it was there, the next it was gone, vanished into thin air.

My immediate thought when I initially spotted the form was that it could have been another family member, who possibly had access to the house, but it quickly registered that what I’d seen was nothing of the sort. 

Although it seems strange, looking back at the event now, I didn’t really think much about what I’d seen at the time - I just simply put it down to the possibility I was seeing things, although for transparency, I must say that I was well aware of the shadow people phenomena at the time of the sighting. 

However, at this moment in my life, due to the pressures of work and the challenges of relocating, the paranormal and all its wonders was as far away in my mind as far as it could have ever been at that precise moment and, it would remain so for some time after. 

But, I haven’t really finished yet – there quickly followed another curious event that could possibly be linked to the shadow person, which occurred early the following morning.


Seconds out, round two.
After a good night’s sleep, I awoke to the alarm and went downstairs to prepare breakfast. 

In no particular rush, I slowly made my way to the kitchen, which was next to the lounge at the rear of the property, with a solid wall (as opposed to a partition) separating the two. When I entered the kitchen, to my complete astonishment, I found that all of the cabinet doors and draws in the kitchen units were swung wide open or, pulled out fully. 

Now, whilst I freely admit I wasn’t the tidiest of people at the time (Laura convinced me to see the errors of my ways when we met several years later), I have absolute confidence I didn’t leave the kitchen that way when I went to bed the previous evening. The odd draw or door slightly ajar, perhaps – but most definitely not all of them and, the draws fully extended.


An interesting disclosure
Despite the apparent flurry of anomalous activity that greeted me during my first twelve hours of being in the house, no other events occurred (to my knowledge) during my stay. However, when the time had come to move to my own house, I was enjoying a glass of wine with my friend on my final evening at the property, when she unexpectedly came out with “so, your last night in the witches’ house then?” 

My ears pricked up, curiosity piqued. 

I immediately pressed her as to what she had meant by what she had said. She replied that she believed the house to be haunted and, she frequently saw shadows scurrying out of the way when she entered rooms, even in the daylight. 

Not wishing to cause any alarm, I never told her of my experience on my first night, but her comment made what I’d witnessed all the more interesting and, possibly provided validation that I was not the only one who was experiencing similar phenomena there.

Not a shadow person......




Epilogue
A few years later, I eventually sat down and decided to research the property in earnest.

I was able to establish that the semi-detached house was constructed in the mid 20th Century, during a period of housing expansion in Ipswich, upon agricultural land which has previously seen service as an orchard. 

Indeed, to this day there still stands an old apple tree, in the centre of the garden, which presumably remains from the former orchard.

However, apart from this sparse information, I was unable to find any further history from my initial searches that could help provide an insight relating to what I saw, or indeed what was being witnessed by the family in general during their day to day life there. 

Neither could I be sure that any deep dive into the history would throw any further light to the narrative. 


Mark.

 


For my next article, although there will be a delay for the final final submission in the series, due to 'technical challenges', I shall discuss a curious event I experienced at a rural Suffolk Church which, some have said, has a dark and ominous, more recent history.


Monday, 24 January 2022

The few experiences I’ve had that could possibly have a paranormal origin - A Series

 Part 1: Tutbury Castle, Staffordshire, England


Tutbury Castle - the sole surviving buildings

When I look back at the length of time I’ve spent researching the paranormal, I can only recall three, perhaps four occasions, outside of my research with Laura, where I’ve been witness to something which left me thinking perhaps......., events that even to this very day, I am at a loss to explain rationally.

Whilst none of the events in themselves could be described as particularly earth shattering, they have left a significant mark on me at a personal level. In the general scheme of things, I think perhaps now is the time to share the experiences, possibly in case any others have experienced similar phenomena in their lives at some time and wish to have the opportunity to discuss them, or simply just to record part of my paranormal journey to date.

A word of warning, the events are not in a chronological order, nor a decreasing level of importance to me. In reality, my chosen order of disclosure is probably a reflection of how easy I was able to decipher my personal notes more than anything else.

The first event I shall share occurred in the early hours of a cold winter’s morning, in the Undercroft at Tutbury Castle, which is located near Burton on Trent.


The Tutbury Castle Incident
All the way back in January 2006 I was contacted and asked if I would like to help out at a paranormal event that had been organised at short notice, at Tutbury Castle.

I usually steer clear of these sort of things, as I’ve written many times before. However, as it was a call for assistance from a friend, I felt that I really couldn’t decline the invitation, although I could really do without the likely eight hour round drive it would entail.

After detour for a rendezvous with the organisers near Chesterfield, we drove back south and found ourselves eventually arriving at the Castle.


Background
The event progressed through the evening and into the early hours, without incident. My only real lasting impression being of how little of the indoor areas of the Castle actually remained, contrary to how it was usually presented in the television shows in which it featured. 

As prearranged, at around 3 am, everyone packed up their equipment and gathered at the muster point in the entrance hall for refreshments, with many wisely taking the opportunity to take a nap.

I welcomed the opportunity to grab a hot cup of coffee, as I was, by now feeling the effects cold and, with my cameras having already given up the ghost.

With only a few people remaining awake, I poured myself another coffee and thought about the long drive home, when the peace was disturbed by the caretaker (of the Castle), who had accompanied us throughout the evening to ensure that we got up to no mischief, unexpectedly shouted out an invitation, to those still awake, to accompany him to the Undercroft and attempt a ‘calling out’ session. 

This raised a few eyebrows amongst us, as we’d earlier been informed (and it had been made very clear to us) that we could NOT have access to this area, not in this lifetime anyway.

The Incident
And so, it came to pass that the few hardy souls amongst us who were still conscious, found ourselves, braving the cold icy early morning air, locked away, huddled together in the even colder Undercroft.

Looking around, I did a head count and quickly calculated there was probably only ten of us, plus the caretaker, from the total group of attendees, who were present in the Undercroft.

After a short time spent acclimatising to the dim lighting provided by a couple of barely concealed torch beams, questions were asked out aloud, in no particular pattern and the claimed ‘sensitives’ amongst the group started, or so we were assertively informed, picking up information and, even being ‘touched’.

As proceedings progressed, a gentleman volunteered to stand on the spot where one of the spirits that was said to haunt the Undercroft, was allegedly ‘standing’.

The gentleman concerned was a mature chap, who I judged to be in his mid-fifties and didn’t seem the type to stand for any nonsense, which I presumed was why he put himself forward for the task in the first place.

He later confessed to me that he had no real interest in proceedings and was only present that evening to accompany his wife, a keen paranormal enthusiast.

Now by luck or by fate, the choice is yours, the spot where the ‘spirit’ was said to be standing just happened to be immediately in front of where I was sitting - on a bench, against the outside wall, about 15 feet to the right of the entrance door, as you entered the Undercroft.

As you can imagine, even in the dim light, this afforded me a great view of proceedings, with the gentleman stood about three feet away, my head directly level with his chest.

The gentleman was instructed to stand perfectly by the Caretaker and, soon one of the sensitives in the group asked the 'spirit' to touch him (the man).

Tobacco Tin - other brands are available

Almost immediately there was a loud clicking in response, which I can best describe as being very similar to when a tobacco, or sweet tin lid is flexed back and forth, as people of a certain age will probably remember very well.

This noise, as far as I could tell, came from the left breast pocket of the thick flannel shirt that the gentleman was wearing, which was his side nearest to me.

The gentleman himself had his hands clasped behind his back for the entire time the clicking was occurring, in full plain view.

The clicks continued for a couple of minutes, to order, in response to the questions now being asked, although there was no apparent pattern to the clicks that I could discern.

For further clarification, there was nothing at all contained in the gentleman’s breast pocket, which was flat against his chest. I particularly made a point of noting this, as by this stage of proceedings I was absolutely certain that the noise was originating from the area of his chest pocket, on his shirt.

After a couple of minutes the gentleman was, by this time, becoming visibly distressed, which was perhaps understandable in the circumstances, so the session was brought to a swift conclusion which, in turn, finally brought the whole event to a conclusion.


Aftermath
Whilst most of the group started to file out of the Undercroft, back to the muster point, the gentleman remained in situ, talking to his wife who had now crossed the room to join him.

Likewise, I remained behind, with the intention of discussing the incident with the man, to establish his perspective of events. 

When I suitable moment arose, I took the opportunity to ask the gentleman if the noise was originating from his breast pocket, as I had assumed, or elsewhere.

Without hesitation he confirmed that this was indeed correct, the noise had came from his breast pocket, which was clearly empty of any contents. 

I then asked if he had physically felt anything during his experience, which he confirmed this was indeed the case, going onto describe that he had felt a strong tapping on his chest, in time with the clicking and confirmed the physical tapping and the clicking were related and, was the same event.

The whole incident was captured in full, on camcorder, albeit from the gentleman’s rear and observed or heard by all present in the Undercroft and, from my perspective, right in front of my own eyes.

Unfortunately, although I was aware of who possessed the video, I was never able to secure a copy, in spite of promises, although I was informed that, having being shot from behind the gentleman, the video only recorded the clicking sound and nothing else of interest.

In the cold light of day, I have on many occasions tried to reason out what I had witnessed, although I will not bore everyone with my deliberations here.

Still, to this day, I haven’t a clue as to the cause of the phenomena, nor do I have any rational explanation for it.

Ever since, I've sought out and diligently read any reports of ghost hunts or investigations I could find, that have taken place at Tutbury, but, to this day, I've yet to read about any similar phenomena being witnessed.

Some seven years later, I was encouraged by a respected member of the paranormal community to contact Lesley Phillips, who has been the curator at Tutbury Castle since 2000, to discuss my experience and establish if any similar reports had been received by Leslie or her team directly.

I received a very quick response from Lesley, who thanked me for reporting the event, but at the same time unfortunately advised that she wasn’t aware of any reports of similar phenomena being witnessed in the Undercroft, although she commented that this was the area which produced most reports from witnesses of paranormal phenomena, in her experience.


Mark. 


In the next article, I shall be discussing my possible sighting of a shadow man, in full daylight, in the hot summer sun.


Friday, 11 December 2020

The Pontefract Poltergeist - In search of a lost well, by Kester Lee




30 East Drive, Pontefract (Kester Lee)

In the United Kingdom at least, many elements of a reported haunting fail when historical research is undertaken.

In spite of claims to the contrary, in depth research rarely occurs. This allows for an alleged haunting to provide numerous witnesses prepared to vouch for its authenticity, witnesses to a haunting based upon an absolute lie, often propagated by those with a vested interest for doing so and other, not so innocent purposes.

To this end, we have found that the amount of time engaged in historical research far outweighs the time we spend upon paranormal research itself.

Fortunately, there are others that also recognise this, although they tend to be few and far between.

One such researcher that we’ve worked closely with over the past couple of years, Kester Lee, recounted to his disappointment with a paranormal investigation at Leicester Guildhall that he attended back in 2015 and, his subsequent dealings with the organisers.

More recently, at an investigation in Manchester he took part in, two film makers arrived unexpectedly, who later released a sensationalist video about an ‘incubus demon’ within days, that no way reflected what the family at the property claimed to have experienced, nor what happened that evening.

Due to these and other, similar experiences over the years, Kester adopted the methodology of observation, where accounts of ghosts, preferably written, are studied with the aim to then visit the location.

Those circumstances to which ghosts are said to have been encountered are emulated as far as possible according to who, where, when and what happened. His objective is to then evaluate the credibility of those accounts by means of observation, photography and audio.

With this in mind, Kester has recently researched the background to a supposedly attested fact at a property he is very familiar with, 30 East Drive, in Pontefract, West Yorkshire. Here are the result of his findings, subject to further revisions.

Was there actually a well beneath 30 East Drive?

L&M



The Pontefract Poltergeist

In search of a lost well

Those who know the story of 30 East Drive, Pontefract, probably have a fascination for ghosts and poltergeists.  Colin Wilson wrote the definitive book on the house entitled, ‘Poltergeist’ in 1980 having been in the position to interview the witnesses first-hand a decade after the events.  His work covers the story remarkably well, but he was never in a position to say why it happened.  

Poltergeists are unlike ghosts in that ghosts tend to have a connection with their location, poltergeists tend to move in and cause all kinds of disturbances for no obvious reason. While looking for an explanation for the events at 30 East Drive it has been assumed that there had been a rape and murder of a young girl by one of the local Black Monks – yes, they really existed and were called so by the black robes they wore.  

In the History of Pontefract by George Fox, published in 1827, it mentions an abbey of Black Monks, Cluniac Monks, brought in during the reign of William II as residents of the then hospital, by Pontefract Castle.  His source of information on this subject comes from the antiquarian John Leyland, born in 1503, died in 1552.  

It has to be mentioned that there is no record anywhere, so far, of a Black Monk guilty of the rape and murder of a child, and subsequently hanged on the site, and his body thrown down a well where 30 East Drive stands today.  

Over recent years that story has expanded into not one, but two monks having the innocent one die in place of his evil twin.  Where did this account originate from?  

The origin of the story has it that the Lady of the house, Jean Pritchard awoke one night to see a tall figure dressed in robes standing in her bedroom doorway. Contemporary to that experience Elsie May ‘Ma’ Mountain, the then next-door neighbour had her own experience in in her kitchen.  While washing the dishes one day she turned and came face to face with the apparition of a monk standing silently behind her.  His face was covered, like in the account of Jean Pritchard, with a cowl, but this time it appeared to be curious of her washing her dishes.  

It should be easy to conclude that the house was haunted by a local Black Monk based on witness testimony.  The difficulty is, the insertion of the claims from an unidentified local historian who is supposed to have suggested to the Pritchard family, prior to the arrival of Colin Wilson, that a deceased Black Monk is responsible for what was going on.  

That suggestion may have been overheard by the poltergeist who decided to play along and then reveal itself as a Black Monk.  Poltergeists are known for puerile pranks.  Furthermore, the rumour of a book allegedly discovered in a wall giving account of a murderous Black Monk has been attributed to this same unidentified local.  Who this person is, nobody is sure, but possibly the same person who invited Colin Wilson to visit the Pritchard family.  

Local legend now has it that the book was discovered in a Victorian built house to near The Cir, a circular road between East and West Drive, south of number 30 during the late 1960s or early 1970s.  It has been described as a thick book bound in yellow leather, the dimensions being 6x6x9 inches.  

This brings us to the point of this essay.  It seeks to answer one simple question, based on maps – what was there before 30 East Drive was built, and is there a well beneath 30 East Drive, Pontefract?


Chequerfield, Pontefract in 1953

On the 1953 ordnance survey map the location of 30 East Drive is easily identified, as indicated by the orange dot.  

On closer inspection it is apparent that number 30 had not yet been built.  The map was held as relevant and in circulation until 1957 by which time the house may or may not have been built, but the common speculation was that the house was built in the late 1950s.  One could assume it was built between 1957 and 1959.  

From what we see, East Drive was built in the Chequerfield part of Pontefract as a normal, modern, post war housing estate on the Southern side of Pontefract.  By using image overlay, 30 East Drive can be located on the antecedent 1938 map.  



1953 OS Map


Chequerfield, Pontefract in 1938

The 1938 O.S. map was overlayed to the 1953 and aligned by a contour line on the right of the map.  What is seen is largely an undeveloped area, probably put to agricultural use.  

To the north one can see urban Pontefract approaching Chequerfield.  Most notably the infectious diseases hospital which was disused by 1953.  

Further to the east is the site of the Battle of Chequerfield which occurred on March 1st, 1645. Here, Sir Marmaduke Langdale defeated the Parliamentary forces and reclaimed Pontefract Castle.  

To the north west and south east of where 30 East Drive would come to be are two letters, the letter ‘P’ which is presumably for a pump.  A third pump is located towards the south of the second one just mentioned.



1938 OS Map


Chequerfield, Pontefract 1907

On the 1907 map, below, the contour line is clearly seen and numbered 200.  By following it around one may notice a thin line where details are missing.  

Thankfully, this does not lead to any misrepresentation for the reader.  It merely indicates where one page of the map has been brought towards another page to cover a blank margin.  What is interesting is the presence of another letter ‘P’ beneath the first one mentioned while the other ‘P’ beneath the south east ‘pump’ is labelled, ‘W’ which will be relabelled as, ‘P’ in 1938.



1907 Map


Chequerfield, Pontefract 1892

Moving back to 1892 (see below) it becomes clear that ‘W’ stands for a well.  

This becomes an interesting prospect if the story of the Black Monk is true.  Could he have been disposed of down this well?  It is, however, far from Pontefract Castle, nor close to where 30 East Drive would be.  Furthermore, there are other pumps in the area, being closer, and must also have been wells before being modernised into pumps.  

What the map does, however, is confirm that ‘P’ stands for ‘pump’ and that the infectious diseases hospital at this time is not on the map.  A clear indication that it had not yet been built.  This suggests that the hospital was in operation from around 1907 until 1952, possibly a little earlier and a little later. 



1892 Map

Chequerfield, Pontefract in 1851

The next map dates from 1851.  There are earlier maps, but they are not particularly easy to find, nor commonly available.  The five maps so far used in this essay are available and can be independently checked.  What is clear, and expected, is the lack of man made features in 1851.  30 East Drive does not yet exist, Pontefract is a way off, the site of the battlefield is not mentioned, but labelled as Chequer Field.  

Field boundaries are displayed suggesting aggricultural use of the lands, but no clearly marked orchards as it has been suggested that was what the local monks used the land for.  

The most notable feature is that number 30 was on what was called, ‘Chequer Field road.’  That road still exists today as East Drive, and runs right besides the house.   At this point in time the already noted wells and pumps do not appear to exist at all.   

One can explain the location of pumps and wells based simply on where water was found.  Unlike today, water back then was found and drawn up, whereas today water is ‘pumped’ into millions of homes.  

Going back further in time it is difficult to suggest when the first well was sunk in the area, but one may fairly assume the first well was sunk no earlier than the 16th century when Leland wrote of, ‘…an abbay of blake monks.’  

If there was no well in the area then the narrative of a Black Monk being thrown down a well probably never happened, certainly not nearby, and it did happen that bodies were thrown down wells to poison one’s own water supply, but monks held all possessions in common so it is unlikely the monks would have permitted such an act.  

What remains is an unanswered question, why was there a haunting at 30 East Drive, Pontefract?  

The history of the surrounding land offers no visible clue, in fact it disputes there ever being a well.  It also disputes the sub-story of a small bridge over a stream formerly at the site of number 30.  The maps do not indicate any course of a stream.  Unless events are lost to earlier times of history where one reaches further into speculation and further away from any evidence.



1851 Map


Chequerfield, Pontefract in 1851, the West View

Looking further to the west on the 1851 map can be found a rectangular building marked, ‘pump’.  

Towards the north-west of it is a circle of dots possibly indicating a small quarry or possibly, an orchard.  

When overlayed on a contemporary map it is located in a part of Chequerfield called, ‘Friars Nook’.  A nook being a secluded place.  It is possible then that monks did frequent there as a place of quiet contemplation, but it also calls into question, has it always had a monastic connection or is the name a modern creation?  

It is not easy to tell, but it does encourage one to attempt to validate the reliability of the maps used here.  


1851 Map - West View




2020 Aerial view of the area, 30 East Drive to the top right


Andrew Kenrick Jones in his thesis, circa 1980, entitled, ‘The Maps of Yorkshire in the period 1577-1857, as sources of topographical information’ questions the reliability of maps within that period for topographical information, but he does make one very useful observation on pages 431-432.  Of the 550 maps printed for Yorkshire during that period, 85% can be described as publisher maps as opposed to surveyor maps in that the, ‘content of maps which are reprints or derived maps is to a large degree a duplication of features recorded on earlier maps’.  

The implication is on one hand that the maps used here are reliable based on the regularity of features, but equally unreliable in what could have been missed out.  

For that reason, a complete overlay should help the reader understand the features of the area in question.  What one sees is the reliability of the maps.  On the one hand the maps are reliably consistent, and on the other clearly show new features as they came into being.  Furthermore, the maps used here largely fall after Jones’ period of unreliability.  

What one can safely suggest is that there was never formerly a well, stream or bridge on the site of 30 East Drive.  What there was, was a road called Chequerfield Road from Waterloo Monument, passing by Chequerfield battle site up to the east side of Pontefract surrounded by fields.


The 1851, 1892, 1907, 1938 and 1953 maps combined.



Five Maps combined - 1851 to 1953 inclusive


We return here to Waterloo Monument.  One could be forgiven for being so focussed on the immediate location of 30 East Drive that one forgets to take a wider look.  

Waterloo Monument is approximately the same distance from Friars Nook although further south at approximately half a mile distance.  In the Pontefract: Geographical and Historical information from the year 1835, states that in 1818 a monument was raised there in commemoration of the battle of Waterloo.  

It goes on to describe the environs as,‘…pleasant, and abound with interesting and diversified scenery, are several noblemen’s seats.  The gardens and nursery grounds produce abundance of excellent fruit and vegetables for the supply of the neighbouring markets, and are famous for the superior quality of the liquorice, which is cultivated extensively’.

The problem with the extract is that one could make the mistake of thinking the environs was around the monument whereas in fact the environs is probably the whole town of Pontefract, but it still gives us a clue as to the agricultural nature of land around where 30 East Drive would come to be.  One of those noblemen’s seats might have been Edward Trueman as the monument was built on the grounds of The Grove, his home.  It is thought he lost his son in the battle of Waterloo.  Due to the lean in the monument it became known as the Cranky Pin and during a heavy gale it collapsed in 1943.  In 1946 the remains of the monument was demolished and the new Council house estate was begun.  That housing estate was known as the largest council estate in Europe and was to home servicemen and families returning from the second world war.

Benjamin Boothroyd in his, ‘History of Pontefract containing an interesting account of its castle, and the three different sieges it sustained  during the civil war with notes and pedigrees, of some of the most distinguished Royalists and Parliamentarians, chiefly drawn from manuscripts never before published’, 1807 gives us an interesting insight into the Black Monks themselves.  

In Part II, page 319 he wrote of the Priory of St. John which was founded by Robert de Lacy in 1090.  Nothing remained of the priory during his day but it was located near the castle on what is called today Monkhill.  The monks were not permitted to leave their confines but only to occupy themselves with prayer, silence, solitude, and work on their farm.  Their diet was meat and wine free surviving off a pound and a half of bread per day.  

The black gown they wore reached down to their boots and their cowls were also black.  As for how many Black Monks there were the number given is around 200 with little consideration to the population changes through time.  

Boothroyd goes on to account for another group of monks which arrived in 1221 during the reign of Henry III.  They settled in Friar Wood which is about 0.7 mile west of 30 East Drive close to the hospital.  They initially settled in the house of one Symon Pyper that is described as situated in the centre of a garden with a well.  That well was later removed along with the foundations.  This order was founded by St. Dominic and so called the Dominicans.  

Within their confines they wore a white cassock with a white hood except when they left.  Then they would wear a black hood and a black cloak over their white vestments.  Although dedicated to austerity they acquired considerable wealth which caused them to relax their discipline and so became particularly, ‘odious’ to many Catholics.  Their number at the house is given as low as, seven.

In conclusion one can say two things.  The first is that the stories of a well under the house is almost certainly not true.  

Following on from that the idea of a stream and small bridge is equally not true; the maps simply do not support the idea of a well ever being there.  

Furthermore, those that were executed and thrown down wells, were thrown down their own well, monks held their possessions in common which would have punished all the monks of the abbey, but as Boothroyd notes, the Cluniacs were not permitted to travel and so probably never left their grounds near the castle.  

That leaves the Dominicans, they did have a well located where they were living, but there are no records of one of their number committing a crime so terrible as to be hanged and then thrown down the well.  The second thing is that the alleged book that holds the secret as to who this monk is has never been clearly identified.  Originally it was supposed to have been found by builders in the wall adjoining two houses – Victorian houses in an area where the first houses were built in the 1940s.  

That leaves us with a few final observations.  Chequerfield rests between where a monument to a war once stood and where a battle once happened as a place to live for servicemen returning from war, but it is actually a very peaceful area with a great community spirit.  That suggests no reason why a poltergeist came to 30 East Drive.  Like many poltergeist cases, they just start for no obvious reason, and in this case, there is no evidence for a lost book, a well, or a terrible murder.  What Colin Wilson found was a normal family with all the hopes, troubles, and aspirations as any other family whose lives were interrupted by something nobody really understands.  

As a final word, having visited the house a number of times, something is still there.  On the first evening in 2012 a loud choking laughing was recorded at the top of the stairs; it was recorded again on the second visit when the area was cordoned off so freeing one of the problems of human contamination.  On two subsequent visits the word, ‘never’ was heard to interrupt our recorded conversations.  Both the weird unarticulated gargling, which we recorded four times in total and the voice, differ.  It was speculated to have been the voice of Joe Pritchard who died in the house in the late 1980s or early 1990s.  

Whether or not the poltergeist is, or was, a Black Monk is highly unlikely, but what is not doubted is that the house is haunted, and for a reason known only to the poltergeist.


Kester Lee
Ghosts of England 
2020


Wednesday, 5 February 2020

The ghosts that just won’t rest – an addendum

As we’ve written previously (The search for the answers...), we have an attachment to a mysterious location that is possibly far more than just an ancient redundant church in the wilds of Essex.

Whilst our ongoing research relating to the site is currently on hiatus, during an attempt to make sense of a pile of loose notes from Laura tucked away in a box recently, I came across a sketch with comments which, with hindsight, has clearly added to the puzzle surrounding the church.

However, before I discuss the sketch itself, it would be worth placing it in some form of context, to provide further insight.

Having moved away from the area following our initial visits to the church, we found ourselves living back in the area again, after a gap of seven years, although we had no motivation to revisit the location.

However, this was about to change.


The Missing Notes
In March of 2015, I was looking forward to the release of the updated Andrew Collins’ seminal work, The Black Alchemist, some 27 years after the original was first published. I had followed Collins’ work for more years than I care mention, so I was very interested in learning what new information had been included – had the Black Alchemist been identified? Was he still alive? Where did he live?




The ‘new’ book, retaining its striking cover, an image, heavily influenced by Salvador Dali’s 1951 work, Christ of Saint John of the Cross.


In anticipation of the impending arrival of the book, I put out an innocuous post on the Twitter social media platform, in an attempt to generate some discussion, as there appeared to be little discussion about the release floating around.

An innocuous little Tweet....

Sadly, the post generated little interest, other than a short reply from someone who we’d never came across before, Sam, who it turns out has become our very good friend and, subsequently invited us to Greenwich Park, which we wrote about HERE.

In discussion, we found that we both had a longstanding interest in the works of Andrew Collins and indeed psychic questing itself, with Sam being involved in the ‘movement’ himself in the 1990’s.

Despite this interest, he’d not had the opportunity so far to visit the well known locations that featured in many of Collins’ works, many which were now local to where Laura and I were based, so it naturally followed that we made plans with Sam for him to travel up to us for the day, where we could undertake a tour of the sites, such as the church and Griffin pub in Danbury, Rettendon Church, Runwell Church and, the Running Well itself.


The Essex Safari
Unfortunately, come the day, Laura was unable to make the journey with us, so it was left to just Sam and myself to take the tour on our own.

As we walked away from the Running Well, the final location of our tour, Sam turned and asked if Laura and I had any favourite locations of our own in the area?

Thinking about it, the only one that came to mind that was relatively close to where we were now was ‘the church’ so, agreeing that this was as good a site as any, we made our way east through the Essex countryside, until we found ourselves pulling up in the unofficial car park, next to the church.

At this point I did not know what was going to great us - when Laura and I had last visited the church seven years earlier, the conservation process had just commenced and the building was completely surrounded by a secure protective metal curtain and we’d not kept in touch with any progress or what we could expect now.

Looking across to the building, I breathed a sigh of relief – the protective curtain had obviously gone, but so had the surrounding scrub and desolation and the church looked quite serene in the afternoon sun.

I guided Sam around the church, following the steps that Laura and I had trod many times before.

It felt odd now actually being able to walk among the gravestones, which were previously heavily overgrown with brambles and nettles, but pleasing that the church was now in a far better state of repair from when we’d last seen it.

Walking to the main porch, I pushed at the heavy wooden door, but it wouldn’t budge, as expected.

The North Porch

It was a pity, as Laura and I’d never been inside the church and I was secretly hoping that it was unlocked so that Sam and I could go inside, now that the structure had been made safe.

Disappointed, we continued our walk around the church, stopping here and there to study the memorials, in particular the one that had always troubled Laura.







Having exhausted everything of note that there was to see, we made our way back to the car. As we passed the wooden, Tudor Bell Tower, I noticed that the door no longer had a metal clasp and padlock fitted.

I paused, looked at Sam and then walked over to the door and turned the door handle.

To my complete surprise it moved and the door slowly creaked open as I pushed the handle downwards.

After all these years I was finally going to be able to enter the church. I wondered what Laura would say when I broke the news to her later.

We examined the interior of the bell tower, its timbers exposed and, walked through an archway into the Nave itself.

Amongst the pews there was a small table, containing a selection of leaflets and brochures for visitors.

Something caught my attention.

Not quite believing what I was seeing, there, on the table was a leaflet advertising a concert, which had been held at another church a couple of weeks earlier.

Looks familiar..........
Admittedly, this in itself was not particularly remarkable, however, the background photograph for the leaflet most certainly drew both our attention.

The leaflet vs the book 


As can be seen from the photograph above, it was Dali’s Christ of Saint John of the Cross, the image used as the cover for Collins’ book, The Black Alchemist (and another variant for its follow up, The Second Coming), the very book that drew Sam and Laura and myself, complete strangers, together.

Synchronicity at work? A strong coincidence at the very least.


Departure
After exchanging a couple of words, we continued our exploration of the church for a while, then Sam and I drove back to my house to finally meet Laura, where we discussed how our tour had gone and, revealing the fact that the church was now open.

Laura was surprised and suggested that we should visit in the near future sometime (which we finally did some four weeks later) and the conversation soon turned to other matters.

And that, we thought, was that.


An eventful end to the day
In the late evening, as we were preparing to retire to bed, Laura unexpectedly received a vision.

She began to describe what she was seeing, as it unfolded and I quickly passed her a pen and paper so she could sketch the details, whilst it was still fresh in her mind.

This vision was particularly vivid and her hand moved quickly across the paper as she continued with her description, in an attempt to document the details.

As the scene began to fade, we discussed what it could mean.

As a reminder, at this point Laura had not been inside or even seen the interior of the church from photographs and, I was not that familiar, only having had a fleeting visit hours earlier.

It did not immediately strike us that the vision related to the church, so our discussion focused on other options that we had been working on at that time.

However, as things on a psychic level had been relatively quiet for Laura in the preceding months and, my first visit to the interior of the church having taken place only hours earlier, it was difficult to avoid the conclusion that it must relate to the church.

We would need to visit at the next convenient opportunity which, as it happened, took place four weeks later.


The Vision

Laura's notes, taken directly from her vision
Studying Laura’s notes, nothing appeared to be linked, no matter how much we tried. However, looking retrospectively, Laura has picked up some of the information on the few subsequent visits that she’s made to the location, so it will be worth discussing each point here.


“Someone lying on table people gathered around them. Not dead or sacrificial.”
Trying to make sense of this, Laura clarified that she had no idea why the ‘sacrificial’ element came up, but she felt that, a need, that this was important in the scheme of things to provide clarification that it wasn’t any such thing.


“Round tiny plaque on wall under beam?”
With what we know now about the location, there is now a small metal plaque attached to a beam in the bell tower, commemorating the District Council Conservation and Design Award for 2010, following the conservation work undertaken in 2009.

However, this is relatively modern and Laura stated that ‘her’ plaque is much older than this.

There are two other candidates that are still present in the building following preservation. As you leave the Tudor bell tower and enter the nave, there are two oval texts, or plaques, painted on the walls opposite each other, immediately to your right and left, above the North and South Doors.

Crucially, in the context of Laura’s vision, they are both directly below a roof beam.

The texts are taken from the Book of Isaiah and have been professionally dated to the 18th Century.

The text on the South Wall is Isaiah c55 v6:
Seek ye the Lord while he may be found. Call ye upon him while he is near.

The text on the North Wall, also from Isaiah, c48 v17:
Thus saith the Lord thy redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: I am the Lord thy God with teacheth thee to profit, which leadeth thee by the way that thou shouldest go.


Profound, but Laura is against accepting either plaque as whilst they are in the context of the correct location, they could hardly be described as ‘tiny’, in spite of them fitting the location, due to the size.

Hopefully further research will identify the plaque or indeed a further search, in case we’ve overlooked anything during our visits to the church.


“Body hanging from a beam, with a distinctive archway behind”
We are comfortable with our identification of the archway and, where this alleged hanging took place.

As you enter the church via the bell tower walk through to the Nave, you have to walk through a double archway – a large archway with a ‘flattened’ top section and, right above it, a smaller archway, with a peaked top section.

Both archways, as seen from the Nave.



The upper archway, with the top of the flattened archway just visible below. 

Either side of the archway, i.e. in the Nave or the tower, there are timber beams that would prove suitable to secure a rope.

Having considered the possibilities, we feel that the scene took place on the bell tower side, with the rope being secured where the beams cross, thus ensuring that the rope didn't slip and placing the suspended body in the correct position, at the centre of the ‘flattened’ arch, when comparing to Laura’s sketch.


“Under floor, something, tight chest”
In retrospect, this was the first time that Laura had received information that there was something under the floor.

This information has been repeated during subsequent visits to the extent that the information has been expanded to include a small room or crypt, of which we now know did exist, although there is no longer access and, the possibility that it no longer exists.

As for the tight chest element, again, Laura has felt this during our visits but, for the moment, she is not aware what this relates to.



Epilogue
Our research relating to this location is ongoing, as ever, but, the re-discovery of Laura’s vision has provided fresh impetus for us after a period of inactivity, leaving us with the questions –

What was the event with the body on the table?
Who had been hanged and what were the events that had led up to this?
Was there another plaque and, is it still there to be discovered?

No doubt another visit could reveal more and open the lid of the box of secrets even wider.

The question remains, when?

Monday, 4 November 2019

The Lion, the Ditch and the Water Mill

Beeleigh Locks, Essex



Not all researchers follow the common model
In the world of the paranormal, the standard model in relation to suitable locations with a haunting to investigate is usually to identify such a location or, on rare occasions, be approached by someone affected by a haunting or some other form of alleged paranormal occurrence at their property.

Clearly, whilst this model works well for most, it is far removed from the one that we follow, where locations, often obscure and with no previous history of paranormal phenomena, are usually identified, via Laura’s ability to tap into the atmosphere there.

This approach has continued to work well for us, although admittedly it is a stretch to call it a model.

In the general course of everyday life, many such locations, be they buildings or outdoor areas, are identified but often never progressed any further by us.

We simply note what we’ve observed and move on.

The majority of what we’ve written to date takes place after some progress has been made with a location, so we thought that it would be interesting, for a change, to document the beginning of a potential case, so we can share with you how it commences and, hopefully, provide further updates as things progress, if at all.

We are fully aware that documenting a potential case may turn out to be a damp squib from a reading experience, but it may still be of interest to some, who are perhaps leaning towards the model that we follow.

To facilitate this, we will be completely transparent and disclose locations and other identifying factors.  

Some matters will be pending and may always remain so, therefore, with this in mind, if anyone is able to help with any aspect of the case as we progress, we would welcome any contribution to the discussion.

We hope that this will provide some insight.


Beeleigh Locks, Essex – 27th June 2019
The day started innocuously as any, with the school holidays soon to commence, we decided to take a walk to the weir at Beeleigh Locks, simply for the opportunity to get some fresh air and take some photographs.

Beeleigh Falls

The paranormal could be no further from our mind, so we had no reason to take any recording equipment, although I carried my notebook

The Locks are where the River Blackwater, River Chelmer and, the Chelmer and Blackwater Navigation (canal) converge, near to the ruins of Beeleigh Abbey, part of which is now the home of the Foyle family, of renown bookshop fame.

Here, you will find a large weir, known as Beeleigh Falls, canal locks and a couple of pools, as well as the remains of a former Victorian steam powered Corn Mill.

The original weir
The weir that you can see today was constructed in the 1950’s, replacing a previous  weir (the remains of which are a short distance away), which was destroyed on the evening of the 31st January 1953, in the devastating East Coast Floods.

In the UK alone, 531 people tragically lost their lives that night and remains a grim memory in East Anglia even today.

Turning to the Mill, it was thought likely that there had been a Mill at the location at least 1,000 years, a watermill being recorded as being there as early as the Doomsday Book of 1086. The last mill was destroyed, by fire, in 1875 and never rebuilt, its remains now protected, with plans, well advanced, to reopen as a museum.

A rare image of the Corn Mill, caught in its prime

Approaching the Locks, we decided to stop for a while and take some photographs from the weir, looking down the River Blackwater to Maldon in the distance.

After spending some time in the area, waiting for people to clear so we could take some unobstructed photographs, we decided to take the path to Beeleigh Abbey, following the path through a wooded area, leading away from the canal and, across a bridge, where the sorry remains of the pre-1953 weir lay, scattered beneath the bridge, the debris trail leading down to an old pool.

We continued walking and eventually came to the end of the track, finding ourselves at the end of a metalled road, outside what remained of Beeleigh Mill.


Beeleigh Mill
Whilst we were outside the old Corn Mill, Laura, without warning, began to receive information psychically, over a period of 9 minutes.

The Corn Mill today
As I paused, to take photographs of the Mill, Laura turned to me and advised that she had been given the word ‘Carving’.

Taking notes, I pressed her to be more specific.

Laura felt that she needed to find a carving, sculpture or similar, on the side of a tree.

I asked what the carving was, but she was unable to progress this any further.

As I continued to ask questions, Laura advised that she’d received the name, probably a surname, ‘Clindell’ – this was a male and was immediately followed by the name ‘John’, possibly in relation to ‘Clindell’ i.e. ‘John Clindell’.


Beeleigh Falls House
At this point, we decided to look for the tree with the carving / sculpture and moved on, following the road around the Mill, heading towards Beeleigh Abbey.

An old photograph of Beeleigh Falls House, with the Corn Mill behind it
As we passed the entrance to Beeleigh Falls House, Laura picked up the name ‘Beatrice’, who she advised was connected to the ‘John’ that she’d picked up a couple of minutes earlier. She then she picked up the name(s) ‘Beth / Betherley’ (pronounced Beverley).

I decided to let Laura continue and said nothing as we walked, as not to disturb her focus.

Laura then received ‘Quaits / Quaites’, but unsure as to its context.



Nothing further was forthcoming for now, the flow of information had ceased.

As we were unsure as to how much further along the track the Abbey was, being unfamiliar with the area and not planning to spend as long as we had on our walk, we decided to turn around and retrace our steps back to the weir.


Back to the wooded area
Upon reaching the path back through the woods, adjacent to the Mill, Laura picked up ‘Candle Maker’, but nothing else.

The track through the wooden area, looking towards the Corn Mill
I took the decision to let Laura walk along the track a bit, whilst I scouted around for a carving (or similar) on any of the trees in the area, but with no luck.

Dejected, I briskly walked along the path and soon caught up with Laura.

Reaching Laura, she told me that she’d been getting the word (or possibly the name), ‘Clean’ or ‘Clein’ – pronounced clean,  during the entire time that we’d been in the area, but just couldn’t get the context.

We continued walking.

A little further along the path, before we had reached the bridge over the remains of the original weir, Laura picked up ‘Hedgerow Drive’.

Laura then stopped and turned to me, advising that she was sensing an ‘old style car – white’, ‘an American style square car’.

As we were in the middle of the English Countryside, not stateside, I immediately thought of a Mk1 Ford Cortina.

I described the vehicle to Laura, but she wasn’t sure. This was something that we could easily check back home, so I parked it......

Next, she advised that she was observing the car travelling towards her, along a road that had two bends (see Laura’s sketch below) – with two people in the car.


Mark’s writing, Laura’s sketch, we hope to improve both our
writing style and artistic skills soon....

Nothing else was forthcoming and we soon left the wooded area and retraced our steps along the canal path.

As we continued our walk, passing Maldon Golf Club Clubhouse, Laura advised that she had been picking up the name ‘Ken D’ since we arrived at the weir, until we left the area.


Summary
At home, adopting my usual practice, I soon set about reviewing my notes and summarising what Laura had picked up.

With no audio recorded, I had to take the timings from the photographs that I’d taken along the way and noted that Laura had received all the information from 09:52am to 10:01am (not including the information disclosed on the walk past Maldon Golf Club), a period of 9 minutes, as previously discussed.

Altogether, I had noted that Laura had picked up the following information:

1.       At the Steam Mill, Laura got:
a.      the word ‘Carving’; and
b.      ‘Clindell’ – name of a male, followed by ‘John’, possibly in relation to Clindell.

2.       At the entrance gate to Beeleigh Falls House, Laura received:
a.      the name ‘Beatrice’, who was connected to ‘John’; and
b.      the name ‘Beth / Betherley’ (pronounced as Beverley).

3.       Just past Beeleigh Falls House, Laura was given ‘Quaits’ or ‘Quaites’

4.       Back at the start of the path through the wooded area, next to the Steam Mill, Laura picked up:
a.      ‘Candle Maker’; and
b.     advised that she had been getting the word, or possibly name ‘Clean or Clein’ (pronounced clean) throughout the time that we’d been in the area.

5.       Along the path through the woods, Laura received:
a.     ‘Hedgerow Drive’;
b.     sensed an ‘old style car  – white’, ‘American style square car; and
c.      observed the vehicle travelling towards her, along a road with two bends, with two people in the car.

6.     Walking along the canal path, as we passed the Maldon Golf Club Clubhouse, Laura commented that she had been getting the name ‘Ken D’ since we arrived at the weir.

Satisfied that I had noted everything, I then turned my attention to attempting validating each piece of information, to determine whether or not this case was worth pursuing any further.


Initial Fact Find
To my disappointment, my attempts to tie any of the information down was frustrating, the only positive being the positive identification of the vehicle noted in 5 b. above – the old, American Style white car.

As I alluded to in my notes, my initial feeling when Laura first mentioned this vehicle was that it was an early Ford Cortina.

Finding some shots of a white example online, I asked Laura to take a look, who immediately verified the vehicle that she had ‘seen’ as a white Mk1 Ford Cortina, which was available in the UK from 1962 to 1966 inclusive.

A white, Mk1 Ford Cortina, this example was registered in 1965

However, for me, this was not enough to proceed any further with what Laura had picked up, so my notes were completed and filed away for safe keeping.

And that, we thought, was that.



Everything changes – 9th September 2019
A couple of months later Laura was helping one of our elderly neighbours de-clutter their house, putting some books aside to take to the local charity shop later in the week.

Amongst the books set aside, there were a few covering the local history of the area, some scarce that I’d only seen referred to in later books, so Laura placed these to one side as she knew that I would be keen  to add these to my library rather than dispose of them.

Later that evening I cleaned the books, removing all the dust and cobwebs, and had a quick look through them.

Selecting a book at random – Maldon and the Blackwater Estuary, by John Marriage (1985), I opened it and it fell open on a series of postcards covering Beeleigh – there, top right, was a photograph of ‘The Lion Tree’ an unusual deformity to be found on the trunk of an Elm Tree, located in the hedgerow near Beeleigh Mill.  

The Lion Tree
The growth was said to resemble the side profile of a Lion’s Head and was much admired by Victorians, who dubbed it ‘The Lion Tree’.

It proved so popular that the track around the Mill was often referred to by the local people as ‘Lion Avenue’.

Had I finally found the carving / similar that Laura needed to find, albeit by pure chance?

I discussed the discovery with Laura, who immediately confirmed that she could accept that this was what we should be looking for.

Progress, finally.

However, there was just one minor inconvenience that remained, which we needed to overcome.

The tree (or what was left of it), had been removed in 1934 and no longer existed.


Picking up the pieces, do trees come back as ghosts? – 12th September 2019
Over the next couple of days I began to research the tree, with the hope of finding its former location.

Over the course of our journey we’ve frequently found that it’s not the object itself that’s important, it’s the location. Hopefully this would prove correct in this case and Laura would find what she needed there.

I undertook an extensive search, online as well as in the reference books that I held in my collection, for any commentary relevant to the Lion Tree.

Sadly, I found few mentions of the tree and, even fewer clues as to where it once stood.

In total, I was able to find three clues as to its location, listed below, with the reference text included:

1. Maldon and Heybridge in old picture postcards – Peter Came 1st February 1994
As you pass through a five bar gate into the grounds of Beeleigh Falls House a Gothic cottage is passed on your right. Almost immediately opposite the cottage stood a remarkable elm which had developed an excrescence resembling that of the head of a lion.

2. Essex Field Club:
The tree was in a hedgerow near the entrance to Beeleigh Falls house, at Beeleigh near Maldon.

3. The website of the Chelmer Canal Trust  (http://www.chelmercanaltrust.co.uk/nl31.htm)
A hundred years ago this ancient deformed tree near Beeleigh Mill was a well-known local landmark.



The picture of the tree comes from a photograph that is truly one hundred years old. Beeleigh mill house is just visible at the far end of the road in the picture.

Not much to go on but, in the scheme of things, a lot more than what we started with almost three months ago.

Positively, the descriptions of where to find the tree appeared to be consistent. I concede that this could be as a result of sharing the same (unknown) source, but at least it gave me hope.

Less could be said as result of putting my quest to the mercy of social media.


An appeal to the wider community
I then decided to cast my net further and seek possible assistance from a local history page on Face book, in my own name, to avoid revealing the true nature of my request - the page had been set up by a local historian and, in the past, our own experiences had shown that sadly, history and the paranormal rarely mix, so discussing the real reason for my post would not be wise at this formative stage.

The post gained a healthy amount of interest, but only three responses with regards to the former location of The Lion Tree.

Two of these were entirely left field, although they both placed the tree at the same location in (Beeleigh) Abbey Chase, a side road off Abbey Turning. A map was also helpfully included, where ‘X’ marked the spot in true treasure map style!

X marks the spot.....

However, the road was aligned in entirely the wrong direction and it was impossible for the Corn Mill to be seen at the end of the road, as indicated by the Chelmer Canal Trust Image - unless the description accompanying the image was wrong and it was actually Beeleigh Abbey that could be seen at the end of the track. This could not be dismissed as a possibility.

It was also curious that two complete strangers had placed the tree a distance away, although it was, of course, entirely possible that the information had again originated from the same source

Then, the next day, there was a final reply that confirmed that the tree had actually been situated in the area that the reference texts had indicated.

I appeared to be going around in circles, there was clearly only one way to clear this up, we needed to pay another visit to the falls and attempt to search for the location, hinted at in the Chelmer Canal Trust image.


Additional Interest? – 13th September 2019
Friday the 13th, a full moon too.

Before we could decide on a suitable date for another trip, on the early morning magazine programme on Radio Essex, the news broke that The Cage, in nearby St Osyth, had finally been sold (Subject To Contract), after spending over ten years on the market, for sale.

We had a research interest in The Cage, so whilst this was newsworthy to us, what really caught my ear was the Paranormal ‘Team’ featured on the show to discuss the sale, briefly mentioned that they’d spent the previous evening at Beeleigh Locks and found it very interesting, although they didn’t expand much further on this during the broadcast.

Three months of nothing and now Beeleigh Locks appeared to be the hot topic of the moment.


Reflection
In the days that followed, I re-examined the information that Laura had picked up in an attempt to glean any information from it.


Hunting the Lion – 25th September 2019
With Laura tied up for most of the day, I decided that it was time to visit the locks to try and locate the (former) Lion Tree without her.

Critics could levy that it would’ve been better to search for the tree with Laura, for us this was not essential – after all, Laura was only required to go to the location, not find it.

In addition, Laura is not the most patient soul you will ever have the pleasure of meeting, so searching alone would allow a thorough, focused examination of the area by myself, increasing the chances of finding it.

Sitting down to re-examine the scantest of hints available to me, I felt that there were only two real clues:

1.       The short paragraph from Peter Came’s book, that stated passing through a gate into the grounds of Beeleigh Falls House, a Gothic cottage is visible on the right, where the Lion Tree is almost immediately opposite; and

2.       The image from the Chelmer Canal Trust website, that showed the tree to the near left, with a track stretching off into the distance, where a tantalising glimpse of a left turn could be seen and, Beeleigh Corn Mill in the far distance, straight ahead.

It is often said that a picture speaks a thousand words, although after 100 years or so, I conceded that the effectiveness of the words could be far less.

There was little else that I could do so sitting at my desk, so with rucksack, camera and umbrella in hand, off I ventured into the dull, dreary morning, to seek out my targets – Abbey Chase, on the approach to Beeleigh Abbey, as suggested by the history group on Face book page and, where I calculated the tree to have been located, using the historical clues, nearer to the Victorian Corn Mill, that was also supported by a solitary Face book user.


False Leads...
Approaching Abbey Chase, it became evidently clear that this was not the true location.

Abbey Chase, NOT the former home of the Lion Tree
As previously established, it was facing entirely the wrong direction and, in addition, had not got the length indicated by the Chelmer Trust image and the Abbey could not be seen, if indeed this was the building incorrectly identified in the image.

 One down, one to go and, quietly satisfied that this was not the location, I continued my walk along what was becoming a single track road, each step taking me nearer to the Corn Mill.


Onwards to the Gothic Cottage
As I walked, I kept an eye out for any ‘Gothic Cottages’, preferably to my right. Rising out of the tree line, albeit to my left, was a detached property, painted white.

Did it look Gothic? I took some photographs, but didn’t really think so. Besides, it would have represented the largest cottage that I’d ever seen, if I was entirely honest.

Just ahead I could see a bend in the road; I knew that I was nearing the Mill.

I was running out of potential locations fast, I calculated there was little road left, reducing my chances of locating the tree.

As I walked towards the bend, I spotted two properties getting ever nearer.

To the right, a large dwelling, appearing to be of no great age and, almost opposite on the left hand side, almost on the far bend, a small square building, barely visible through the thick hedgerow, overlooking the River Blackwater.

This appeared promising, or was I just reaching the end of my journey regardless.
Reaching the bend, I peered through the hedgerow and strained for a clear view of the cottage. It was barely visible.

I noticed the entrance to the property a short distance on, so hopeful of a better view, I walked to the gate only to be faced with the same issue – a very tall hedge.

The Gothic Cottage, a little shy, preferring to hide behind the hedge.

Looking over the gate, I studied the panorama. I could see a bit more of the property, although still not able to view it in its entirety. It didn’t particularly look that gothic, but I had to recall the meaning of the term back in the 1920’s, which was a lot less dramatic than the present day meaning.

Not wishing to invade the owner’s privacy and enter the gate, I contented myself with a couple of photographs from the road, which returned fine examples of Essex shrubbery.

Task completed, I turned to look along the road. There, at the end of the stretch was the Mill, to the right, with Beeleigh Falls house just in front, further to the right.


The ‘Lion Tree’
After 100 years the scene was not as tight as it appeared in the Chelmer  Canal Trust’s photograph but, it wasn’t that dissimilar either. I was almost there.

Recalling Peter Came’s words “...a Gothic cottage is passed on your right. Almost immediately opposite the cottage stood a remarkable elm which had developed an excrescence resembling that of the head of a lion.”, it appeared more than being almost there. I’d found it – the location of the Lion Tree.

Opposite the gothic cottage, was the entrance to a field, which clearly explained why the tree was photographed from that position.

The Lion Tree was located next to the entrance to the field, if the photographer had stood just a couple of inches further back, they would have included the entrance gate in the photograph, so, to save themselves having to crop the image later, they simply positioned the shot so the gate wasn’t visible.

100 years on and still no yellow lines, the Lion Tree would have
been located in the same spot as the tree in the left of the picture.

Inspecting the area more closely and taking a few photographs for future reference, I saw that the Lion Tree would have stood on the edge of a ditch, between the ditch and the road, which was now really a single vehicle track.

Examining the Chelmer Trust Image closely, it was possible to make out a ditch seemingly running alongside the length of the road, behind the hedge where the Lion Tree had been located.

The edge of the ditch had numerous small trees and saplings near to where the Lion Tree would have stood.

Inadvertently, the ditch had proven the final key in finding the Lion Tree.

Inspecting the trees, I was able to identify them as Elms from the leaf samples I took – perhaps putting to bed the modern day dispute as to what type of tree the Lion Tree was. Only one of the old references had stated that it was an Elm and the general lack of identification since had led to open discussions as to what the tree actually was, with many choosing to favour the theory that it was an Oak, for no logical reason.

Admittedly, without a sample of the tree available, there would still be some element of doubt but, the fact that the immediate area was peppered with young Elm trees was probably as good as we were going to get a hundred years or so later.

Top - the Lion Tree in it's prime
Bottom - the same scene today

I had found the location of the Lion Tree, all that was needed next was for Laura to visit.

However, that's another story.

Perhaps.