Haunted Liverpool Street to Mansion House
Last Christmas I bought my wife the book "Walking Haunted London" by Richard Jones. Since then we've been doing a few of the ghost walks in the book, which usually involves stopping in a good few haunted pubs for refreshment, which makes them a very enjoyable pastime in my book.
Since we are shortly leaving the country, on Thursday night my wife and I made probably what will be our last ghost walk in London, following the route that Jones calls "Alleyways of the Old City". It was a very cold and dark winter's evening, which we hoped would add to the atmosphere. It also gave us a chance to try out the new gear we had purchased for our expedition into the Eastern European winter early next year.
The first location is tucked behind Bishopsgate, at St Botolph's Without Bishopsgate. This church is famous for a photograph taken which appears to show a ghostly figure inside. Subsequently a corpse was disinterred from the church which visually resembled the woman in the photo. We got spooked ourselves on the way there, as in the dark tangled alleys leading to the church we stumbled upon one person in the shadows having a cigarette, and further along in the shadows an amorous couple also loomed out of the dark.
We moved on to St Peter upon Cornhill. Although this church is not reputed to be haunted, there is a great story about it. The building next door features two ugly stone dragons scowling down upon the church. They were added to the design of the building after there had been a fierce dispute with the vicar of the church over the land the building was to be built upon, and one is said to resemble the vicar who had been such a nuisance to the architect.
From Cornhill we ducked into a little alleyway that features both the Jamaica Wine House and the George & Vulture. The alleyway itself was used as a setting by Charles Dickens in A Christmas Carol, and the George & Vulture is a 400 year old restaurant said to be haunted upstairs by the figure of a woman.
Our next port of call was the Bank of England. On the streets outside a sorrowful woman in black is claimed to stop passers-by in her quest for her long lost hanged brother. Richard Jones' book also mentions a terrible smell by Bank station, that is alleged to be to do with the plague pit near the area. We certainly smelt something bad walking past on our way back, but it seemed to us to be more of a problem with modern sewage than anything with a supernatural explanation.
We next headed via Poultry and Cheapside to the Church of St Mary le Bow, one of the unhappiest of churches in London. Throughout a very long history the church has suffered calamity after calamity, ranging from murders and the tower collapsing in medieval times, to falling victim to The Great Fire, to German bombs in the modern era. The Church has a crypt as well, which dates from the 9th and 10th centuries, but sadly it is closed in the evening so we couldn't visit it.
We did though visit Williamson's Tavern. This pub is reputed to be haunted, and to reach it you pass through Groveland Court, which also has a mysterious history. The pub stands exactly in the centre of the City of London, and I was certainly reminded that we were in the city when my innocent request for a glass of red wine prompted the production of a wine menu. You generally get what you are given in Walthamstow :-)
The last stop on the walk was the Church of St James Garlick Hythe. This church boasts the strange tale of Jimmy Garlick, a corpse that for no readily apparent reason used to be on public display in the church, and whose ghost now haunts the church. Again as it was evening we were sadly unable to enter.
That was the end of the walk in the book, but we went on to visit one further location - The London Stone by Canon Street (named after the London Stone). This pub is reached by going downstairs from the street passed a statue of a demon, and is completely decorated in a spooky gothic style. The signs around the place look like the hymn-boards in a church, the booths have rich red leather upholstered seats that resemble the insides of coffins, and there are fake spider's webs and statues of goblins and devils around the place, and goth barmaids. By far the best feature is the doors to the toilets, which are fake bookcases, and have to be pushed in the right place to get them to open. With a soundtrack of Nick Cave, Bauhaus and a touch of This Mortal Coil it would have been the perfect hang-out.
...that the soundtrack wasn't Nick Cave or Bauhaus. It was karaoke. And 50 year-old karaoke at that. The guy running the karaoke could barely operate the machine or his mixer, and treated us to such contemporary gems as "Splish splosh I was having a bath". He opened the night's singing by doing an astonishingly bad version of "No particular place to go" followed by "Mustang Sally". The wife and I were quite mesmerised by the sheer horrible tackiness of it all.
It was a real shame, as had the music been anywhere approaching decent we would have felt right at home and probably stayed there all night. As it was we supped up as quickly as we could, and reluctantly headed back to Liverpool Street and on towards home.