Nottinghamshire Hauntings

by Frank E Earp

It is said that there are more legends and stories of ghosts per square mile in Britain than any other place in the world. How can we explain this remarkable fact? Perhaps one of the overriding factors is the rich and varied history and cultural heritage of the British people. These elements are woven into the very landscape in which we live.

There are many different kinds of hauntings. Here, we will look at four Nottinghamshire cases that I believe fall in to the category of ‘genius loci’ – (guardian) spirits of the place.

Bramcote; All that remains of the medieval church of St. Michael in Bramcote is the square tower. Popularly known as ‘The Sunken Church’, the tower, – within the remains of the church-yard, – stands high above the road – Town St., – almost opposite its junction with Cow Lane. In 1978, a motorist driving by the church reported seeing a black hooded figure, – which he described as ‘monk like’, – in the church yard. Later the same year a police officer, driving the same route reported seeing a similar figure.

The 'Sunken' Church. Photo Credit: Joe Earp.

The ‘Sunken’ Church. Photo Credit: Joe Earp.

Calverton; From Nottingham, the ancient road into the village of Calverton begins in Arnold as Calverton Rd. It passes north over the hill known as Dorket Head and crosses the B684 – Lime Lane, Woodborough Rd. From this junction, it takes the name Georges Lane. For just over one mile Georges Lane snakes its way over the wooded Georges Hill and descends into the village where it terminates at Main St. Georges Lane has become infamous for its hauntings. It is said that taxi drivers will avoid using this route into the village. On a dark winters night the lane, – particularly in the wooded section – seems to generate an air of terror. On a number of occasions this has been manifested by an actual presence. Several motorists have reported seeing, – through the rear view mirror, – an old lady sitting in the back of their vehicle and at least one reported a hooded figure. These phantoms usually disappear when the driver attempts to investigate their presence further. A young student returning home one evening was shaken, when her car struck a dark figure that ran out in front of the vehicle. Stopping the car, she got out expecting to find an injured pedestrian lying in the road. However, she could see no one and so she ran home to get help. Although she return with her father and search the area by torch light, no trace of an accident victim was found. The earliest recorded report of the strange haunting on Georges Lane comes from the 1930’s. At around midnight, a young man, – by the name of Bardhill- encountered a strange and frightening entity whilst walking home from the Goose Fair. He had reached the point where Georges Lane begins at Dorket Head, when he saw a dark mass immerge from the hedge-bottom on the left-hand side of the road. Mr Bardhill, – keeping an eye on the ‘thing’ – continued walking. He quickly realised that it was keeping pace with him and as it did so had changed into the form of a tall man wearing what seemed to be a cloak and a broad-brimmed hat. Around the figures shoulders he could clearly see a large silver chain. Although Mr Bardhill could not make out his companions features he could discern a large hooked nose. The figure appeared to glide rather than walk and effortlessly paralleled Mr Bardhill course, even when he had quickened his pace and crossed to the other side of the road. Understandably, Mr Bardhill became very alarmed and began to run, pursued at a short distance by the sinister figure. It was not until he neared the village and home that the phantom disappeared back into the hedge-bottom. Mr Bardhill eventually arrived home in a very distressed state and reported feeling unwell for a number of days after the event. A number of years later, the wife of a local farm was driving along Georges Lane at around dusk. Through the rear-view mirror she could clearly see a figure, – which matched the one described by Mr Bardhill, – sitting in the back of her car. The unwanted passenger stayed with the unfortunate lady all the way to the village where it disappeared as she turned into her drive.

George’s Lane, Calverton. Photo Credit: J Thomas.

Gotham; December 1976 saw the village of Gotham covered with a light blanket of snow. On a cold and frosty night, just before Christmas, Fred Talbot, – a respected member of the community, whose family had lived in the village for generations, – set out to meet his friends for his weekly game of whist. Fred took his usual short-cut through the church-yard. Here, he was to encounter a frightening apparition. Gliding between the tombstones and keeping a parallel course to his, he saw what he later described as a spectral figure of a wild looking man. However, this wasn’t the usual hooded phantom. The man was naked and Fred was later to state that his manhood was decidedly prominent. Keeping the figure in sight, Fred retreated from the church-yard as quickly as possible and arrived at his destination visibly shaken.

Rufford Abbey; Rufford Abbey is said to be one of the most haunted sites in Nottinghamshire. Founded in the 12th century as a Cistercian Priory it became a ‘country house’ at the ‘Dissolution’, later passing to the Savile family in who’s hands it remained until 1938. It is now a country park with the remains of the Priory and house managed by English Heritage. The park is most famously haunted by a tall, black, hooded figure with a skeletal face. He is said to come-upon people from behind and ‘tap them on the shoulder’ and in the early 1900’s is believed to have literally frightened a man to death. There are a number such phantom monks in the county but Rufford is perhaps the best known and most frightening.

Haunted Rufford Abbey. Photo Credit: English Heritage.

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Beeston’s Green Man

by Joe Earp 


A Green Man is a sculpture or other representation of a face surrounded by or made from leaves. Branches or vines may sprout from the mouth, nostrils, or other parts of the face and these shoots may bear flowers or fruit. Commonly used as a decorative architectural ornament, Green Men are frequently found in carvings on both secular and ecclesiastical buildings.

Usually referred to in works of architecture as foliate heads or foliate masks, carvings of the Green Man may take many forms, naturalistic or decorative. The simplest depict a man’s face peering out of dense foliage. Some may have leaves for hair, perhaps with a leafy beard. Often leaves or leafy shoots are shown growing from his open mouth and sometimes even from the nose and eyes as well. In the most abstract examples, the carving at first glance appears to be merely stylised foliage, with the facial element only becoming apparent on closer examination. The face is almost always male; green women are rare.

Beeston does indeed have its very own Green Man. Blink and you might miss this one. For those wishing to take some time out from the Town’s busy shopping streets it is recommended that you take a little stroll, – as Beestonians have been doing for over 100 years, – through Dovecote Lane Park. This wonderful wooden sculpture entitled ‘The Green Man’ is located in the enclosed garden area of the park at the Trevor Road end. Rather than saying anything about it, we will let him speak for himself.

The Brass plaque attached to the stone base tells the whole story:

‘This sculpture was carved by Stan Bullard (1920 – 2012), a Beeston sculptor, from a piece of yew tree in autumn 2008. It was undertaken as a commission from Broxtowe Borough Council to replace the ‘One World Sculpture’ on this site which commemorated Earth Summit 1992. The new sculpture has as its theme “man’s interaction with the natural green world.” The sculpture also marks the 100th anniversary of Dovecote Lane park which was opened in 1908′.

The ‘One Word’ sculpture replaced by the Green Man, was another of Stan’s works. It consisted of a ‘totem pole’ type carving of a man’s head, with falcon like shoulders and abstract tree like body. It was painted yellow and black and gloss varnish.

Once again we will let the original plaque tell the story:

‘This sculpture was carved by Stan Bullard, a Beeston sculptor, from a beech tree, felled at Strelley after storm damage. Work commenced in Beeston Square on One World Day, 30th May 1992 and was completed as a commission from Broxtowe Borough Council to commemorate Earth Summit 92′.

Note that Stan gave a live demonstration of his work before completing and installing it in the park.

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Carmelite Friars or Whitefriars of Nottingham

by Joseph Earp 

Carmelite tradition traces the origin of the order to a community of hermits on Mount Carmel, which succeeded the schools of the prophets in ancient Israel or the Crusader states. There are no certain records of hermits on this mountain before the 1190s. By this date a group of men had gathered at the well of Elijah on Mount Carmel. These men, who had gone to Palestine from Europe either as pilgrims or as crusaders, chose Mount Carmel in part because it was the traditional home of Elijah. The foundation is believed to have been dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Virtually nothing is known of the Carmelites from 1214, when Albert died, until 1238. The Rule of St. Albert was approved by Pope Honorius III in 1226, and again by Pope Gregory IX in 1229, with a modification regarding ownership of property and permission to celebrate divine services. The Carmelites next appear in the historical record, in 1238, when with the increasing cleavage between the West and the East, the Carmelites found it advisable to leave the Near East. Many moved to Cyprus and Sicily.

In 1242, the Carmelites migrated west. The Order grew quickly after reaching Europe. By the end of the thirteenth century, the order had around 150 houses in Europe, divided into twelve provinces throughout Europe and the Mediterranean. In England, the Order had 30 houses under four ‘distinctions’: London, Norwich, Oxford and York, as well as new houses in Scotland and Ireland. It has been estimated that the total Carmelite population in England between 1296 and 1347 was about 720, with the largest house (London), having over 60 friars, but most averaging between 20 and 30.

Sometime before 1271 a small group of Carmelite Friars acquired a plot of land to establish a new Friary between St. James Lane and Moothall Gate in Nottingham. They also acquired a row of houses which bounded their property to the north along the side of Beast Market Hill. The Friary itself was a modest group of buildings for the Carmelites were an order bound to a vow of poverty and relying on begging and charity for a living. Very quickly after the establishment of the Friary, Moothall Gate became known as Friar Lane, – a name by which it is still known today. The Friars where to remain on this site for the next 250 years.

The friary was dissolved as part of Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries. It was surrendered by Prior Roger Cappe on 5 February 1539. The friary was, at the time, home to six friars: William Cooke, William Frost, John Roberts, William Smithson, William Thorpe, Robert Wilson. The friary site was granted, in 1541, to James Sturley of Nottingham.

Nothing remains of the former Friary. It stood near to the south-west corner of Old Market Square; the priory precinct occupying the area between Friar Lane and St James Street. The area has been heavily developed since the dissolution and the site has been “almost solidly built over” It is remembered locally in the street name: “Friar Lane”.

Plan of the Carmelite Friary at Nottingham.

Carmelite Friar

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The Monks Way

Monks Way LogoMonks Way, Monks Path, Monks Steps and Pilgrims Path are all terms used locally to describe the traces of stone paving or causeway which can be found in Cossall, Strelley, Ilkeston and beyond.

The term ‘Monk’s Way’ is a general term frequently used to describe the network of ancient tracks which often linked monasteries and settlements to facilitate trade and communication.

The monastic connection for the paths around Cossall, Strelley and Ilkeston is not clear but it is known that the monks of Dale Abbey, Newstead Priory, Lenton Abbey, Felley Priory and Beauvale Priory had land and mining interests in the areas around the Erewash Valley as early as the 14th century. It is therefore possible that the stones are all that is left of routeways that perhaps linked the monasteries and provided access to Nottingham and the River Trent.

Ancient Routeways

As long as man has needed to trade there have been transport routes from the place of production to the point of sale. Many roads and paths originate from medieval times or even earlier when packhorses or mules were often the main method of transport for goods. These early tracks often linked to rivers where goods could be transported in bulk.

Canals and railways were a further development requiring new or adapted transport links to feed the barges or trains. Man’s activities, including mining and road construction, have obliterated many ancient tracks, but it is still possible to discover the signs of old pathways if you know where to look!

Who laid the stones?

Legend has it that the stones were laid by monks who brought a slab on the back of a mule each time they used the path. This may be true but equally there are theories that the stones are more recent having been laid for the transport of coal by packhorses during the 18th century.

No-one knows for sure the origins of the Monks Way although the stone paths almost certainly pre-date the canal ere (the Nottingham Canal was built in 1796) and may well be laid over an ancient route.

Where can the stones be seen?

The map of the Monks Way shows where the stones can be found. They are most obvious at Main Street, Strelley where they are incorporated into the footpath from the Broad Oak Public House up to the church. Traces can be found on the paths and bridleways linking with Cossall village and several sections have been uncovered on Mill Lane at Cossall between the Nottingham Canal and the railway.

It is known that the stones were removed from Park Road at Ilkeston when the road was constructed. A number of stones salvaged from this area can be found at the Erewash Museum, High Street, Ilkeston.

There is little doubt that other stones remain intact buried under grass or road surfaces, however sections were also borrowed to find new purpose as barn floors or walling in nearby farms and cottages.

Small areas of sandstone paving exist away from the route shown on the plan, one example being the path which links the Nottingham Canal with Nottingham Road near to Furnace Road on the Ilkeston/Trowell border. This seems to be an isolated path and is believed to be a remnant of the original Nottingham to Ilkeston Turnpike which was realigned in 1874.

Map of the Monks Way



All information above by kind permission of Peter Woodeward of the now defunct Broxtowe Hundred Website and Broxtowe Borough Council. 

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Franciscans or Greyfriars of Nottingham

by Joseph Earp 

In the year 1224 the Franciscans, – the last monastic order to come to this Country from France, – arrived in England. The Franciscans are among the few orders who, alongside their conventional brethren, have monks known as Friars. Today we might consider Friars as being a sort of ‘out-reach worker’ administering their faith amongst the local community rather than being confined to their Priory. Franciscan Friars were known as ‘Grey Friars’ after the colour of the habit. Nottingham seems to have been one of the first places in England to have a Franciscan Friary, which is mentioned in documents of 1230.

The Friars came to Nottingham soon after their arrival in England and immediately appealed for land to build their home. They would have found that there was no open space large enough within the town walls to accommodate their needs and so they were given, – possible by King Henry III, – marginal land to the east of the town along the banks of the River Leen, – Broad Marsh. Here they quickly established their Friary, which naturally enough became known as ‘Greyfriars Friary’. Perhaps the first thing they did was to erect the massive stone ‘Preaching Cross’ we know to have existed on the site. The precinct of the Friary extended between the road Broadmarsh, (now gone) to the north and Canal Street to the south and included all of the land now occupied by the Broadmarsh Shopping Centre. The first buildings on the site were of wood. Records show that between 1230 and 1261, the King donated to the Friars, vast amounts of oak timber, a valuable building resource, from the Royal Forest of Sherwood. In 1256, beginning with a new church, work started on rebuilding the Friary in stone. Once again Henry fulfilled his religious obligation by granting the Friars permission to use stone from his quarry in Nottingham. The church was not completed until 1303 the year in which it and the surrounding churchyard were consecrated. It took another seven years to complete the additional side-chapels which were consecrated in 1310. The new church would have served both the Friars and the community (as a parish church) and whilst in use was considered one of the finest in Nottingham.

The Franciscans monastery building in Nottingham did not survive past the 17th century. This photograph show us the ruins of the Franciscan monastery in Gloucester and gives us a good idea and scale of what the Nottingham monastery would have looked like. Photograph Credit: Joseph Earp/Nottingham Hidden History Team.

The Greyfriars had its beginnings with the help of King Henry III and it is somewhat ironic that it met its end 300 years later at the hands of another Henry, King Henry VIII. Like every other monastic site in the Country, was ‘dissolved’ (closed) with Henry’s ‘Dissolution of the Monasteries’. Greyfriers was surrendered to the authorities by its Warden (Prior) Thomas Basford and seven other Friars on the 5th February 1539. It is interesting to note that the last Warden was, judging by his name, a Nottingham man. Basford, once a rural village, is a suburb of the City.

We do not know what happened to the site in the nine years following the Dissolution, for it is not until 1548 that we get another mention of Greyfriars in the records. It was in this year that the Friary and all its estates were granted to Thomas Heneage. By 1611 we find that the site had passed into the hands of Nottingham’s Corporation. In that year the Corporation demolished the Friary’s boundary wall and removed the foundations of the Cross. From this time on the name Greyfriars disappears from the pages of history only to appear briefly as Grey Friar Gate as a street name. But that too has now gone, swallowed up by the shopping centre along with the memories of the Franciscan Grey Friars who for 300 year made the Broad Marsh their home.

A Franciscan Friar.

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Beeston Pubs of Today and Yesteryear

by Jimmy Notts

Renowned the world over, the great British pub is not just a place to drink beer, wine, cider or even something a little bit stronger, it is a unique social centre, very often the focus of community life in villages, towns and cities throughout the length and breadth of the country.

Pubs can be traced back to Roman taverns, through the Anglo-Saxon alehouse to the development of the tied house system in the 19th century. In 1393, King Richard II of England introduced legislation that pubs had to display a sign outdoors to make them easily visible for passing ale tasters who would assess the quality of ale sold.

Most pubs focus on offering beers, ales and similar drinks. As well, pubs often sell wines, spirits, and soft drinks, meals and snacks. The owner, tenant or manager (licensee) is known as the pub landlord or publican. Referred to as their “local” by regulars, pubs are typically chosen for their proximity to home or work. Beeston is and has for a long time been known for its great many public houses. It has been suggested that Beeston has one of the highest concentrations of pubs-per-person in the United Kingdom. The town has clearly a lot of public houses for locals to call at least one of them their “local”.

Pubs of Today 

We will now turn to look at just some of Beeston’s existing pubs and have a look at a brief history of each establishment starting with The Jesse Boot. Known until very recently as The Greyhound, The Jesse Boot was built in 1741, one of the earliest owners were the Stone family who actually brewed on the premises. The present building was modernised in 1984. In the early 19th century in the days of the Industrial Revolution, it is said that Luddites called here and after raising the landlord from his bed to serve them refreshments, marched onto Nottingham to wreak their havoc. This Inn and the Durham Ox (now a Chinese Restaurant), were visited by Reform Act rioters in 1831. Having burnt down Nottingham Castle they marched to Beeston and caused the Silk Mill at Beeston the same fate.

The Last Post is a Wetherspoon’s chain pub which opened in 2000. It is situated in the building of the old Royal Mail sorting office and was adjacent to the town’s former post office. The Hop Pole is a local traditional community pub situated in Beeston. It is a very old, unspoilt pub dating back to 1870. With its lovely original beams and 2 fireplaces, this gives the pub a very warm, homely feel.

Beeston’s Old Post Office and The Last Post Public House, 6 September 2009- Photo Credit: Alan Murray-Rust.

The building, on Church Street in Beeston, we now know of as The Crown probably became associated with beer sometime between about 1835 and 1841, although the building itself probably dates from about 1800. The Crown Inn traces its history back to a Mr Samuel Starr who can be recognised as the man who established the pub. He had been brewing beer on the premises since at least 1841. As a ‘common brewer’ he would have sold his beer to anyone wishing to purchase it for consumption at home.

Crown Inn, Church Street, Beeston, Nottingham, 1998- Photo Credit: Bernard And Pauline Heathcote Photographic Collection.

The Victoria Hotel was built around 1839, named after Queen Victoria (1819-1901) – a popular monarch who is often featured on pub signboards. The pub is situated next door to Beeston Train station and like so many Victorian establishments was built to serve the passengers who used the station. In 1971 an eccentric landlord used to keep a small zoo at the rear end of the pub, as well as a python inside!! The collection included a puma, a lion, a leopard and a baboon.

The Star Inn located on Middle Street is an old Shipstones Pub. Not many people know that it has a connection with the television show Auf Wiedersehen Pet. Unlike many other pubs or bars used in Auf Wiedersehen Pet, The Star Inn is an actual pub used in the show, which fans can visit and have a drink. The pub featured in ‘The Return of the Seven – Part One’ episode, when Barry and Wayne take Pippa and Linda for a quick drink. Barry forgets the time, and ends up leaving his Fiancé Hazel and ‘The Wey Ling’. Dennis and Neville turn up in the Jag, and then Bomber, in a pink Ford Cortina.

Pubs of Yesteryear 

Quite a few of Beeston’s pubs have disappeared over time with a great majority closing in recent years. We will now look at some of these closed pubs.

The Royal Oak was situated on Villa Street, Beeston. This was a smallish Shipstones tied  house in the centre of Beeston.  The Cow was situated on Middle Street, Beeston. This pub used to be called the Beech Tree Lodge and was one of the oldest pubs in Beeston. Tesco bought the pub and demolished it c. 2005 – the store was finally built 2010 and there is now a Tesco petrol station on what was the pub. The Three Horseshoes was situated on Middle Street. This was a Shipstones tied house. The pub was demolished to make way for a tram line.

Three Horseshoes Pub, Middle Street, Beeston, 1998- Photo Credit: Bernard And Pauline Heathcote Photographic Collection.

Other pubs to have closed in recent years include the Prince of Wales which was located on High Road. Although the Durham Ox has not closed its doors it is no longer ran primarily as a ‘traditional pub’ and is now ran as a Polish restaurant.

Prince of Wales Pub, High Road, Beeston, Nottingham, 1998- Photo Credit: Bernard And Pauline Heathcote Photographic Collection.

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May in Nottinghamshire: The Wellow Maypole

by Frank E Earp

Wellow is a pretty, red brick village, made even more picturesque by the tall ‘English Maypole’ on the village green. The village was once a part of the estate of Rufford Abbey and is partly surrounded by a medieval earthwork and has the remains of a second circular earthwork nearby which is described as ‘probably Norman’. The maypole stands on a triangular green close to the parish church of St Swithern. How long a pole has stood on this spot we can only hazard a guess, but like other maypoles, the expression ‘since time immemorial’ has been used.

We know from Dean Hole’s ‘Memories Then and Now’ that there was a maypole on the green in 1835. In his book, Hole records the fact that both Washington Irving and the artist John Leech expressed their delight at seeing the maypole at Wellow. In 1856 the pole is mentioned in an account of a ‘public dinner’ held on the green to celebrate the signing of the treaty with Russia after the Crimean War.

Sometime early in 1860, the pole was sawn down by an inebriated person or persons unknown. On the 9th May 1860, a replacement pole was erected on the green. This had been brought to the village from Pittance Park in Sherwood Forest in the traditional manner, – carried on the shoulders of the villagers.

In the Folklore Journal, Vol.2 1884 there appears the following account of the Wellow maypole; ‘Passing through the village of Wellow, Notts, a few days ago I saw a maypole in the centre of the village. It was about sixty feet high and had three cross-pieces near the top, at intervals apart. I found that it was a real maypole and had been standing about a quarter of a century; It had replaced an old one which had become rotten and tottering; Many people remember when dancing round the maypole, climbing it when greased and other games were in full vigour’.

On 22nd June 1887, Sir John Savile of Rufford gave a new pole to Wellow, to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Jubilee. The pole had been allowed to ‘season’ in the yard of the Red Lion public house before being erected under the supervision of a Mr Cartlidge, who had also supervised the erection of the previous pole. Sir John’s pole lasted 23 years before it needed to be replaced in 1910. The 1910 pole stood for only 11 before it was burnt down in a freak accident. Fireworks, which had been stacked around the base of the pole ready for a firework party, were somehow prematurely ignited and the pole literally burnt to the ground.

There is no evidence to show that like a number of maypoles, Wellow’s, was ever taken down during the periods covered by the two World Wars. The maypole erected in 1921 was considered to be in an unsafe condition and was taken down in 1949. A replacement was erected early in 1950 and stood until 1966. In October 1974, the weather vane and iron work on the 1966 pole were removed for restoration work and it was found that the top third of the pole was rotted and decayed. The rotten portion of the pole was subsequently removed and May Day celebrations for 1975 were held using the reduced pole.

The current maypole at Wellow was erected on the 7th Feb 1976 and was paid for by a grant from Nottinghamshire County Council. It is 55’ high, – around 60’ including weather vane and is made from steel.

May Day celebrations still take place at Wellow annually on or around the late  Spring Bank Holiday. It is an event well worth visiting as the Wellow pole is one of only a handful of English Maypoles still standing. Money raised at the event goes towards the next year’s celebrations and preservation of both the maypole and the customs of May.

Foresters & Adelaide Morris at Wellow Mayploe, 2010- Photo Credit: Foresters Morris Men.

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