Stories of a strange spectre that rattled chains mournfully and the apparition of a lady in blue have been reported by a number of persons living and working in Agard Street and particularly in a former factory there.
The bottom of Ascot Drive has something sinister lurking, for there have been reports that it is the haunt of a vampire, accompanied by the smell of rotting fruit. There are no other details at this time sited by Anthony and Felix, so are we to judge from this that the vampire in question is a vegetarian?! A wooden bridge near here is said to be haunted by a headless man, although his identity is a mystery.
The Babington Buildings stand here, and until 1826 so did Babington Hall. The ghost of Mary, Queen of Scots (right), haunts a number of places in the county, including here at Babington Lane at the site of the place where she spent the only night of her captivity in Derby on 13th February 1585.
Workers in the Babington Buildings have claimed to experience “an unearthly presence”, whereas others have attested to having seen a ghostly coach and horses in the area on the anniversary of her stay at Babington Hall. The “forlorn” Mary Stuart has been sighted where Babington Hall once stood.
The custom of Pace-egging takes place at Bunkers Hill in Derby. The word “pace” means Easter or Pascal, and the symbolic rolling of the egg is demonstrative of the moving of the stone blocking the entrance to the tomb Jesus was interred in.
However, others argue that the egg was a pagan fertility symbol, therefore giving the festival an alternative meaning. The pre-Christian Saxons had a spring goddess Eostre, whose feast was held on the Vernal Equinox, around 21 March. Her animal was the spring hare, and the rebirth of the land in spring was symbolised by the egg. Pope Gregory the Great ordered his missionaries to use old religious sites and festivals and absorb them into Christian rituals where possible. The festival is enjoyed all over the world, most notably on the White House lawn, with the one pictured in 1929!
For further information, please read Haunted Britain by Antony D. Hippisley Coxe.
The Windmill Pit was located on the Burton Road in Derby, but is now the site of a church. However, it was once the location of a number of executions in the 1500’s, most notably that of Joan Waste.
Joan Waste was born in 1534, and was a twin (the other being her brother, Roger). However, unlike Roger she was born blind. However, this disability did not deter her from becoming a learned woman of theology and Christian faith. Unfortunately, that century was marred by the religious fanaticism that swept the country, leading to the deaths of many simply for having a different faith. Joan was one of those unlucky victims for refusing to renounce her Protestant faith.
She paid with her life, and was burned at Windmill Pit on 1st August 1556, at the tender age of 22. She has become one of the renowned Derbyshire figures, and her ghost is said to haunt the area of her cruel demise.
The grand Assembly Rooms were built on the Market Place in 1763, replacing a previous building of the same purpose. However, this new building was badly ravaged by fire in the 1960’s. In 1977, refurbished Assembly Rooms opened to the public. An “elderly lady dressed in Victorian costume” allegedly haunts this new building, and she does not appear to have any legs. This gives the impression that she is floating through the Darwin Suite in which she is sighted. Security guards have also reported a phantom group of children doing a ring-o-roses in the same suite, and heard what has been described as “eerie laughter” when the building is empty.
This former Assembly Room is now part of the Derbyshire Building Society building on the corner of Iron Gate and the Market Place. On 5th December 1745, a reception was held there to welcome Bonnie Prince Charlie as he marched south to claim the throne. A great number of people came to the building, and during the commotion, a table bearing the Royal Standard, was tipped over and the Standard broken. This was seen as an indication of bad luck. As we know, during the stay in Derby, a decision was taken to abandon the rebellion and return back to Scotland. Was this one single act simply an accident, a coincidence or something uncanny?
Sources state that Bonnie Prince Charlie is just one of a number of ghosts to haunt the vicinity of the cathedral, however it could simply be a different apparition in Jacobean dress and the romantic conclusion drawn that it is Charles Edward Stuart. Other ghosts include a White Lady that walks down the steps at the rear of the cathedral, a young woman seen crying, a small boy, and that of John Crossland. He was an executioner responsible for hanging his own father and brother. It is because of these acts that his tormented soul is said to wander the side of the cathedral.
Derby Museum has some fascinating exhibits, including a room known as the Bonnie Prince Charlie Room. It has been recreated to recount the visit and the stay of Charles Edward Stuart on 4th December 1745. Obviously, Stuart did not stay in the museum building. He lodged at Exeter House. This was demolished in 1854, but the panelling from the drawing room that hosted the meeting between Stuart and his commanders, was saved and installed in the museum exhibition. Some have argued that the negative emotions of that meeting have etched themselves into the fabric of the panelling, so that those sensitive to such feelings of “foreboding... hopelessness, despair” experience them when they enter the exhibition in the Bonnie Prince Charlie Room.
The death of Henry Mosley's son in 1857 has been cited by some as an explanation of why various guests have reported a man in Victorian attire walking through a wall in their bedroom. The owner’s son shot himself in what was then the family home. The apparition of a friar dressed in black (the Dominicans wore this garb), has been reported in the basement corridors, as has that of a brown monk seen hovering approximately a foot above the floor level. Also reported is a “headless figure... in a black robe” seen walking through panelling in the bar area. Disembodied hands and odd moaning are amongst the audible phenomena reported at the Friary Hotel.
Another account of an apparition comes from a boarding house that once overlooked the car park of the Friary Hotel. A man reported being awoken in the early hours to see a nun pacing around his room ringing a bell. Not long after that experience, human remains were found as preparations were being made to construct the hotel car park. It was believed that these remains were that of a Dominican Friar. Since then, “strange garbed figures and ghostly nuns” have been sighted in the area.
Since the fire of 1886, the theatre building has attracted a reputation for being haunted. People reported feeling a presence and a figure has been seen on the main staircase.
Below the Guildhall Theatre is a maze of tunnels that are known as the Guildhall Catacombs. These link various locations, from the police station in Lock-Up Yard to the Assize Courts that took place in the Guildhall above. These tunnels were once used as a means to walk prisoners between the two locations, and today there are occasional reports of phantom footsteps trudging through the darkness. There are also reports from workmen of the apparition of a small boy “dressed in rags” walking through the catacombs.
The ghost of a sad-looking man, thought to be that of a suicide, has been near to what Anthony and Felix refer to as the Holmes Recreation Ground. However, we can find no information that verifies this location within the Derby area at this time. If the name has been changed, or you know of it, please feel welcome to contact us.
The Howard Hotel was located on Friar Gate, and had a reputation for being haunted, possibly because it was the site of the Friar Gate prison. The basement beneath the hotel was home to a number of cells, complete with original cell doors hanging on their respective frames. Reported visual phenomena included a significant number of apparitions of a “strange caped figure”, “grey smoky figures”, an “old man with grey hair... melancholy face... wearing a brown leather waistcoat”, a child and phosphorus lights. Auditory phenomena included the sounds of chanting, whistling and groaning. Some claimed to channel the spirit of a former executioner, whilst others experienced uncomfortable sensations and cold spots. There are also accounts of “transfiguration” by some with mediumistic qualities.
The Jacobean House can boast of having a haunted reputation, which even drove one solicitor to vacate the premises! There are reports that the building has 14 different ghosts. Our research has so far uncovered three. Outside the house on the left-hand side of the building a headless horseman walks through the coach archway and approaches a ghostly coach and horses. At the Warwick entrance, the apparition of a “mysterious” man in dark clothing has been sighted. Inside the property, an apparition of “a lady in a blue dress” has been reported on the stairs by a number of witnesses. For a full account of encounters with this particular apparition, we recommend that you read Anthony and Felix.
According to sources, in one particularly old house in the area there are some very unusual phenomena indeed. Reported phenomena include the drawing of open curtains, the washing of dirty dishes and rubbish being cleared!
Elsewhere, the figure thought to be a Roman Centurion “with very large eyes” that glared at a man walking home has been in the area.
Also on a Roman theme, a whole regiment of ghostly Roman soldiers has been sighted at night walking along the banks of the River Derwent.
Near a Roman well, the apparition of “a child with snow-white hair” has been reported.
The site of the former Normanton Barracks is host to a number of reported paranormal phenomena. A phantom coach and driver being pulled by two headless horses have been reported, possibly recreating the scene of a tragic accident that occurred some years before. During the subsequent development of the barracks site, there were reports of disembodied voices calling the names of workmen, rustling noises, strange sweet smells, the feeling of being watched and “sudden blasts of cold air”. The apparitions of a soldier, described as being aged in his mid-30’s, with dark hair and “pleasant face”, and that of an old lady, were seen.
The house is haunted by a number of apparitions. These include one of Joseph Pickford’s sons, a gardener and that of a female. Employees have also experienced presences whilst working there. Pickford’s son died tragically young, and understandably his father never totally recovered from the personal loss. The apparition of the boy has been reported in the front rooms and the garden. The ghostly gardener has been seen dressed in Georgian clothing. Naturally, he is reported in the garden and leaning on a spade. The female phantom has been reported in the kitchen area and it has been suggested that she was a former cook employed there.
The Riverside Gardens are located on the banks of the River Derwent and they look up towards Exeter Bridge on Derwent Street and extend down towards Bass Recreation Ground. They were created before the building of the Council House and were officially opened in 1934. They provide a peaceful spot away from the hustle and bustle of the city centre. There are reports of “curious lights” hovering near there on the river.
Beneath the Shire Hall in St. Mary’s Gate there remain the cells that once bore witness to some of the most barbaric executions in British history. Some believe that the result of this inhuman treatment has left a ghostly mark on the environment, and that the ghost of poor deaf mute woman roams the place where she was pressed to death.
The ghost of a little boy reputedly murdered there, reputedly haunts the tower of the Silk Mill (pictured above). Children from the age of seven were sent to work at the mill, and were abused and maltreated by some of adults employed there. The murdered child was allegedly kicked down the stairs because he did not work hard enough, and bled to death as a result of his injuries. It is his cries that sometimes emanate from the tower, and museum staff attributes the lift operating of its own volition to his playful spirit.
Apparitions are also seen in the waters of the River Derwent outside the Silk Mill. These include two boys aged about 7 or 8 years of age, seen splashing in the waters near to the Silk Mill. A witness stated that they were “fully clothed in a style which seemed old and scruffy”. One had “mousy coloured hair and the other boy seemed darker of hair and complexion”. The witness felt that the scene was not a happy one of boys larking about, but one that left her with a feeling of “icy coldness”.
The waters from the well once garnered a reputation for having tremendous healing powers. However, today it is known as the haunt of a monk dressed in a dark brown habit, who has been seen to wander around it. It is also believed to be the same phantom that frequents Darley Playing Fields in the near vicinity. Flats in the area close to the well are also said to be known for unusual phenomena, including knocking on doors and internal knocking noises.
The house is said to be haunted by a number of apparitions. These include: a young woman who hurries down the staircase; a monk seen in a number of parts of the house; a grey “smoky figure” that was seen coming down from a ceiling and disappear through a wall; a disembodied “eerie and chilling voice” of a ghost nicknamed ‘The Whisperer’; and the tactile phenomena of cold spots.
Check out ‘Jimmy’s Bar’, where some have claimed to have seen the ghost of a former worker, whereas others have reported that the lift moves up and down of its own volition. Beneath the foundations of the old William & Glyn’s Bank, there are tunnels in which the apparition of a young boy has been seen.
Near to where St. Mary’s Bridge spans the River Derwent, ghostly screams have been heard. However, we cannot find any more information about the source of these sounds.
The Black Death ravaged much of England in 1349. However, the parish of St. Peter’s bore the brunt of the deaths in Derby, losing a third of their 3,000-strong population. As a result, the cemetery was filled with so many corpses, that they had to resort to burying victims vertically. However, as one of the signs of plague is a coma, some of the “dead” were buried alive, and there are reports of people clambering out of the ground some time afterwards. The result of this is that the churchyard has quite a haunted reputation! The church is still however, a beautiful Derby landmark.
According to sources, one act caused an indelible mark upon the hallowed ground of St. Werburgh’s in 1322. Hugh Meynall assaulted a person, spilling blood in the church. This was seen as sacrilege, and such was the vileness of the incident that any defiling of holy ground would not be made pure until “elaborate ceremonies” were undertaken to cleanse it. Since that day, some believe that the church is cursed.
On 5th November 1601, the stone tower fell. The main part of the church collapsed another two times – once in 1648, then again in 1894. In 1817, the leaders of the Pentrich Revolution were the last three persons to be hanged, drawn and quartered in England, then buried in the churchyard in unmarked graves.
It was closed as a place of worship in the 1980’s, and later became a shopping centre headed by a Dutch property developer, but most of the businesses were said to have failed, including that of its developer. In the conversion to become shops, two unfortunate workmen fell through the floor into the crypt full of decaying coffins and corpses. It understandably took days for them to have the confidence to return to work.