DERBY AND MOAN
Discover the ghosts of one of Britain's most haunted cities!
The City of Derby has been important for almost 2,000 years, especially because of its location. It lies at the lowest crossing point of the River Trent where the high ground of the Peak District meets the lower ground at the start of the Midlands Plain. As such, over the centuries, many people have passed through the town on the way to somewhere else and some stayed!
Derby also has quite a crime history. It was the place where the last hanging, drawing and quartering took place and the last rebellion against the Crown in England. There were also at one time, five prisons. Derby was also the location of the last pressing to death in 1665 and where Lawrence Shirley, the only peer of the realm to be hanged for murder, was executed using the 'new drop' instead of the old system of standing on a cart with a noose around the neck. In addition, the very first performance of Hamilton Deane's stage adaptation of Bram Stoker's Count Dracula was performed at the Grand Theatre, Derby in 1924!
It has been said that where a particularly traumatic death takes place, energy is transferred from the person and absorbed into the material of the building. Then, for some reason, sometimes these events are replayed in the future.
There is also the theory that a sudden end to your life is not only the end of all your hopes for the future but it also denies a person of the chance to say their goodbyes. Many people believe that those who have met their end in this way, come back as ghosts because they did not have time to tie up all their loose ends on earth.
Therefore, probably as a result of its history, Derby is one of the spookiest towns in the country with haunted churches, inns, hospitals, shops and offices.
The Silk Mill, Derby
This was the sight of England's first factory, built in 1717 on the banks of the River Derwent. The Silk Mill itself was burnt down in 1910 and only the bell tower survived but it is this tower that is said to be haunted by a little boy. When it was a working factory, children as young as seven were employed in the mill, working from 5am until 7pm and the ghost is thought to be that of a young boy who was kicked down the stairs by one of the overseers for not working hard enough. This little boy's cries can still be heard at the foot of the stairs by staff of what is now Derby's Industrial Museum. They often go into the tower thinking there is a lost child in there, but it is always empty and the lift is always going up and down by itself.
The George Inn
The George Inn was built around 1693 and was one of the most famous and busiest coaching inns in Derby. Its ghosts include a long-haired man wearing a blue coat who has been seen in the dead of night walking along the landing and down the stairs into the bar area where he disappears. In addition, there have been many strange occurrences, crockery moves itself from the shelves in the kitchen, but doesn't ever smash, a member of staff had steel buckets thrown at him in the cellar and another had the plastic taps from the beer kegs thrown at him. A human groan has also often been heard and pint glasses have suddenly and inexplicably shattered.
The Bell Hotel
The Bell Hotel is another old coaching inn, built around 1680 for the Meynell family and is now reported to be the home of many ghosts.
In one of the downstairs bars, both staff and customers have seen a woman dressed in Victorian clothing while also in the downstairs area there is a poltergeist that throws items around.
Upstairs, there have been a number of sightings of an 18th century servant and a couple of these have been in connection with children which has led people to believe that she may have been a nursery maid or had some connection with children in the house. Once in the 1930s, the landlord heard his asthmatic son coughing and choking. He rushed upstairs to find him being tended by a woman dressed in 18th century clothing. She was patting him on the back but disappeared when the landlord arrived. In the 1950s, in the same room, a baby was being changed. The mother turned away to fetch pins and cotton wool and as she turned back she saw the same 18th century figure standing over the baby. The apparition soon disappeared as the mother returned to her child.
All Saints' Church in Derby became Derby Cathedral in 1927 after having been founded supposedly by King Edmund in 943AD.
Several ghosts are said to haunt the cathedral and its surrounding area, not least of which is that of Prince Charles Edward Stuart (Bonny Prince Charlie), who visited All Saints' in December 1745 after having marched with his army from Carlisle. When he arrived, the story goes, he ordered the bells of All Saints' to be rung and attended a service at the church. The ghostly shape of a man wearing Jacobite dress has on occasion been seen walking into the Cathedral and a similar figure has been seen at the nearby Silk Mill Pub.
Other Cathedral ghosts include a 'white lady' seen walking down the steps at the back of the church, a young woman seen crying and a small boy. The grounds are also thought to be haunted by the ghost of the executioner John Crossland. He is thought to be a tormented ghost searching for some peace as he first became an executioner after he agreed to act as the executioner for the sentence of death passed on his father and brother, in order to save himself from the same fate.
There are many tunnels and catacombs underneath Derby's Guildhall, one of which used to link the old police lock-up in Lock-Up Yard to the Assize Courts in the Guildhall. Many prisoners have walked these tunnels either towards the court for trial or back to lock-up before imprisonment, execution or transportation. Many people have said that they have heard ghostly footsteps walking along through the tunnels.
The ghost of a little boy has also been seen wandering through the tunnels and is so realistic that workmen have shouted at him, thinking that he is trespassing.
St. Mary's Church
St Mary's Church was designed by Augustus Pugin in the mid-19th century. There is a story that a new priest to the area attended a meeting with three other priests. As they were coming out, he casually remarked that he had not realised that he was going to be meeting four priests. Confused, the other priests replied that there were only three of them, to which the new priest replied that an older priest with grey hair had joined them as well.
Ye Old Dolphin Inn
This is Derby's oldest public house, dating back to around 1530 and naturally, it has various ghosts associated with it including a blue lady who walks through the walls.
The building also has an 18th-century extension that used to be a doctor's house and as such, would have had many bodies of criminals delivered to it after execution for the purpose of dissecting it for medical science. However, because it sometimes took a long time for the victims to die after hanging, some woke up as they were about to be dissected. If this happened, they would be left unattended to see if they were going to die or recover. Apparently, this kind of incident occurred in the cellar of the doctor's house, which is now part of the Dolphin. The cellar is now said to be haunted by a particularly mischievous poltergeist and staff never want to go down there alone.
Shire Hall, St. Mary's Gate was built in 1659 and was the scene of many Derbyshire murder trials. Underneath the building the cells are still preserved and said to be haunted by the ghost of a deaf mute woman who was 'pressed' to death in 1665. This was a particularly horrible form of execution where an iron weight was placed upon the naked body of the victim as the lay on the bare floor of a completely dark cell. The weight was made greater and greater as the days went on. If the accused was not dead after three days, the weight was removed and then replaced after a sharp stone was placed underneath them.
St. Helen's House
Built for John Gisbourne in 1767, St Helen's House is probably Derby's finest surviving Georgian town house. Prior to this, it is thought that he first monastery in Derbyshire is believed to have existed on the site
The building is said to be haunted by many ghosts, one being that of a young lady, who comes flying down the stairs as if something, or someone, is chasing her. Another ghost is said to be that of a monk who has been seen on several occasions in different parts of the building. Another ghost has been nicknamed 'The Whisperer' because many people have heard a chilling voice whispering their name but discovered no one else present.
There are many other buildings and areas in Derby that are said to be haunted. These include:
Seymour's Wine Bar
This wine bar is said to be haunted by an old lady dressed in grey. Many of the sightings are said to occur after an extremely strong smell of lavender has filled the room. In addition, many objects have been moved around or disappear, only to be found later in a completely different place.
The Headless Cross
The figure of a lady in grey and a dog have been seen near the Headless Cross at the top of Friar Gate.
Ye Old Spa Inne
The landlord has often heard his name being called by a voice he didn't recognise, when he was certain that he was completely on his own.
A vampire has been seen, always accompanied by the smell of rotting fruit.
Georgian House Hotel
This building in Friar Gate has strong naval connections and a ghostly apparition of a man in a blue suit has often been seen on the stairs.
The Noah's Ark
This pub is said to be haunted by the figure of Noah Bullock, a notorious 17th century Derby character, who lived aboard a floating home on the Derwent and coined forged money.
All in all, 14 ghosts have been reported at this house, Derby's first brick building, built in 1611. These include a phantom coach and horses seen outside, together with a headless coachman and the figure of another man standing in the Wardwick entrance. In addition, workers in the building have often encountered a lady in blue, usually in the vicinity of the stairs.
An elderly lady dressed in Victorian costume and who appeared to have no legs was witnessed gliding across the floor before disappearing. On other occasions, be a ring of children have been seen dancing in the Darwin Suite and have often reported the sound of eerie laughter.
Derby Tourist Information Centre Collins Ghosthunters' Guide to Britain