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Haunted Farnham

Haunted Farnham

Guildford Road

Bourne Mill:

One mile east of the Borough along East Street stand Bourne Mill at 61 Guildford Road, just before the Shepherd and Flock roundabout.

This is one of Farnham's oldest buildings. Little is known about its very early history, but internal evidence reveals lat Tudor construction within the eastern commercial wing, and eighteenth and nineteenth century interior facade within the western residential wing.
Adjoining the building on the western extremity are two cottages at one time separate from the mill but which have since been incorporated into the structure. Bells Hill Cottage (or Pond House), a third cottage a little north of the mill, and Rock House were also associated with the property, the whole formerly occupying nineteen acres of land on both sides of Guildford Road and known as the Hamlet of Bourne Mill.

As a working mill on episcopal ground, the four properties were formerly owned by the Bishops of Winchester who leased then out to various millwrights. In 1808, this was Thomas Simmonds (1769-1840), scion of a widespread local family who ran two other mills in the locality. Willey Mill, ran by his brother William Simmonds ( 1777-1833), was held on a joint lease with Bourne Mill until 1814. In 1840, Bourne Mill passed to Thomas's son William (1810-1892) and then to William's second son Alfred (1846-1925). Alfred's elder brother William Thomas (1843-1933) and his twin sister Elizabeth (1846-1931) remained on the property until Alfred's retirement in 1906 when Bourne Mill was sold, the freehold having been purchased from the bishopric. In 1881, William Simmonds employed eleven men on the mill, while the cottages were occupied, as they always had been, by agricultural labourers and other millers.

After remaining empty for twelve years, the mill was acquired in 1932 by William Edward Grace, whose widow took it over on his death. Grace Mary Grace (1904-1996) then became the proprieter of a 'charming and hospitable house for all wayfarers' offering bed and breakfast, luncheon, afternoon teas, dinner and supper. After her retirement it was purchased by Farnham architect Harold Falkner (1875-1963), who in October 1958 sold it to Domald Miles Collins, owner of Farnham Fine Art Galleries at 67 Castle Street. He converted one part of the building into an antiques emporium and another into a living craft centre with the basement functioning for several years as a night club.

Following the widening of Guildford Road in 1900 with the active participation of Alfred Simmonds, Mr Collins rebuilt the front of building in 1962 and installed the car park in 1970.

After a brief hiatus, in March 1972 Bourne Mill passed to Mrs Leone Edwards of London who refounded the antiques emporium in conjunction with furniture specialist Major Anthony Philip Martineau Walker (1916-1984). Difficulties inherent in running such a commercial enterprise resulted in the further decay of the property, and it was not until the current ownership that this historically neglected building was properly saved for what ought to be a long future.

The building takes its name from the fact that there was a post-mill as far back as the eleventh century, fed by streams originating in Farnham Park and collecting in the mill pond that can still be seen behind the building. The first official record of any mill on the site dates to 1284, but it is certainly one of the six mills valued at 46s 4d registered in the Farnham Hundred for the Domesday Survey for Surrey. The site has a long history of occupation: just north of the mill an important Mesolithic (8,000 to 4,000BC) settlement was excavated between 1929 and 1947.

One of the ghosts that has been seen here is that of a Viking. Odd you may well think but Bourne Mill certainly has a good historical association with that period. A mill on the site was functioning in 1086 and it may well have been grinding corn in the late spring of 893 when Edward the Aetheling intercepted and routed the Danish invasion force as it attempted to unite with a smaller force under the marauder Haestan. This battle at Farnham is documented by the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles.

Another ghost that has been witness is that of a lady wearing a crinoline dress. A person sleeping at the mill awoke one night to witness the apparition standing by her bed. The crinoline lady spoke to her telling her not to be frightened, the witness apparently then turned over and went back to sleep. (Surrey and Hants News 29th October 1993).

Another account of the ghost comes from a Mr Ackroyd who ran a local business located at the mill. He confirmed to my friend that a previous manageress and her assistant - who have now both moved abroad - entered the premises one dark winter morning in 1999 and were about to switch on the lights in the first room they entered when they perceived the apparition of this lady standing in a corner. The manageress was so unnerved by this experience that she subsequently refused to enter this room again on her own.

On another occasion, several years earlier, the mill was shut down for the night when members of staff preparing to leave from the car park suddenly observed a face peering out through one of the upper windows. Thinking that a customer had been left locked inside, two of them re-entered to let him or her out, but nobody was there.
Farnham Castle

The ghost of a monk has been spotted at the castle on several occasions. This is thought to be the ghost of the Bishop of Morley, who lived at the castle for some time and spent the last years of his life sleeping in a coffin in a tiny room. It has been reported that there is a strange atmosphere around this room by the staircase of the castle, and any dog who is brought near to the place becomes terrified. 

Other apparitions include a young dancing girl (said to have been forced to dance until she collapsed in exhaustion and died), and a woman dressed in costume typical of the thirteenth century.

Waverley Abbey

Waverley Abbey was the first Cistercian abbey in England. It was founded in 1128 by William Giffard,Bishop of Winchester. Located in Farnham, Surrey, about 2 miles (3.2 km) southeast of the town centre, the abbey is situated on a floodplain, surrounded by current and previous channels of the River Wey. It was damaged on more than one occasion by severe flooding, resulting in rebuilding in the 13th century. Despite being the first Cistercian abbey in England, and being motherhouse to several other abbeys, Waverley was "slenderly endowed" and its monks are recorded as having endured poverty and famine.

The abbey was closed in 1536 as part of King Henry VIII's Dissolution of the Monasteries. Subsequently largely demolished, its stone was reused in local buildings, including "Waverley Abbey House", which was built in 1723 in the northern portion of the former abbey precinct.

Waverley Abbey House, the ruins of the abbey and the surrounding land are all part of a conservation area. The house is a Grade II* Listed building and the ruins a Scheduled Ancient Monument.

The ruins of the abbey are currently managed by English Heritage and open to the public.

Farnham Church

The largest parish church in Surrey, is haunted by an old lady dressed in white.

The ghost is seen standing at the top of the church tower. She re-inacts her death by jumping from the tower into the churchyard. A former curate has witness a ghostly high mass complete with a congregation of ghostly worshippers, and Latin chanting.

Private House: 

This house was formerly occupied by P.G. Wells Booksellers of Winchester, established in Farnham in 1947. The building was originally designed as a single timber framed house with a large southern fireplace (now in number 16), the property was bricked and separated into the current arrangement of three cottages in the eighteenth century with a single story brick addition built onto the rear of each dwelling. Mr Dennis George Edgington was the manager of the bookshop when early in 1951 the top floor and attic behind the dormer windows was restructured as a flat to accommodate him and his fiancee after their marriage, which took place that spring. What happened next gave rise to one of Farnham's more engaging paranormal stories. 

During the rebuilding work, a small dancing shoe inscribed 'C.M.May 1813' was discovered behind the former staircase leading up into the attic where it had been secreted in a small box. It was flat with no heel and with a rounded toe, of cream silk satin lined in blue, all hand sewn onto a leather sole trimmed with a ribbon bow, avantpied. It was a little faded and dirty, but otherwise in good condition and reckoned to fit an adult female, modern size three.

The news of the discovery resulted in a number of possible theories, one being that a wicked father, or husband, had immured the shoe as a symbolic gesture after having forbidden a member of his family to dance. Another theory involved Sympathetic Magic, in which a 'holding spell' is invoked associated with an important item belonging to the victim. This practice was once widespread throughout England. In 1619, two alleged witches were executed for supposedly bringing about the death of the eldest son of the 6th Earl of Rutland by malevolently burying his glove and allowing it to rot in the earth. It is not inconceivable that two centuries ago a similar spell was cast involving the dancing shoe. One thing is certain, however: the shoe could not have been a lost item, as it would have to have been placed deliberately behind the boards of the old staircase.

At the time of the discovery it was already widely known that the ghost of an elderly lady haunted the bookshop. The premises had been subject to numerous unexplained events over the years. However, a regular customer reassured the newly wed Mrs Edgington explaining 'Oh you've no need to worry - she's a delightful old lady and she often stands at the foot of the stairs. That shoe is probably hers' [Surrey and Hants News 24th March 1951].

In order to exorcise the ghost Mr Edgington put the shoe on display in the shop so that the ghost could see that it had been found. There were no more reports of the haunting after 1951. The shoe remained in the bookshop until 1979 and was then donated to Farnham Museum where it still remains.

No former occupants with those initials have been found as yet - I will continue to research! In 1835 the building was occupied by Charles Restall (1794-1869), a painter and decorator who remained there until his death. The bookshop owners had acquired it from two spinster sisters who had run an Edwardian drapery shop that had hardly changed across four decades.

Downing Street

The Hop Bag Inn:

On the corner of Downing Street and Victoria Road once stood the Hop Bag Inn. The building in 1989 was known as the Downing Street Club which had been closed in 1987 following a murder in the street. It was replaced in 1989 by a new building called Clarendon House.

The Downing Street Club was the former Hop Bag Inn that had been built in 1906 to replace an earlier Inn that had burnt down.

Originally known as The Adam and Eve, in 1792 the name was changed to The King of Prussia as a mark of respect and sympathy for Friedrich-Wilhelm II who in that year allied Prussia with Austria against Republican France. The name did not last long, however, and within a few years of the king's death in 1797 it was changed to The Pockey of Hops, reflecting Farnham's key agricultural economy at the time, which in turn became the Hop Bag Inn half a century later.

Owners and Managers of The Hop Bag from the 1830's to 1932:

1835 - George Rivers

1840 - Charles Hawkes

1855 - John Britton

1869 - John Vanner

1878 - Thomas Blake

1880 - John Shier

1881 - George Rapp

1890 - Arthur James Barnard

1893 - Frederick Dollery

1907 - 1932 - Charles Chuter


The best known account of a haunting at this spot dates back to the original Coaching Inn of the eighteenth century when it is said that a young woman was waiting at the Inn for her fiance to arrive from Winchester. The coach was waylaid by highwaymen and in the struggle her fiance was killed. She had no knowledge of this until the coach turned into the stabling yard behind the Inn carrying his lifeless body.

The screams of the young woman and the clattering of coach wheels have been heard by many a guest staying at the Inn before its final closure.

Another story told by the last landlady of the rebuilt Hop Bag, Cheryl Reece, was of a terrifying personal experiance on one occasion when she felt something grab hold of her. 'I couldn't move' she explained. 'I was fixed to the spot and just screamed until I eventually collapsed on the floor. Even our two dogs had sensed there was something odd there. One day one of them was so scared that he ran around like crazy and wet the floor'. (Titbits August 1986)

Zizzi Italian Restaurant: 

Formally The Castle Theatre. It is to be found at the end of a narrow passage between 68 and 69 Castle Street. Originally an unlisted annexe of the Castle. The building was converted into The Playhouse Theatre opening on 5th December 1939, having had a life as a barn and a roller-skating rink which closed during the Great War and then reopened as a small cinema. By 1950 it had become The Castle Theatre.

During all these phases the building appears to have been haunted by a somewhat mischievous spirit who at first annoyed neighbours by roller-skating at night and then cinema patrons by interfering with film projectors. The phenomenon seems to have functioned as a poltergeist, subsequently rearranging theatrical material and even having the decency to help with the major cleaning up operation in 1939.                  

Sir Michael Redgrave (1908-85) is on record as describing the Castle Theatre to be the most haunted theatre he had ever worked in. In a press statement, Gerald Flood (1927-89), associated with the Farnham Repertory Company from July 1949 until he embarked on a successful television career said: 'None of us liked to be left alone in the place. There is a most odd atmosphere. Once during rehearsals the floodlights went off and we found the switches had been moved' [Surrey and Hants News 2nd February 1952]. In the same report it was stated that the ghost was that of a local farmer who had killed his wife and her lover before hanging himself from a beam. At the time of the incident the building had been a barn. The ghost became known as 'George'. 

The Castle Theatre closed in 1974. The last production I saw there was A Phoenix Too Frequent with William Gaunt.

The Colony Chinese Restaurant: 

'George' was unusual in that he did not limit his activities to the old theatre. What was once called The Castle Coffee House and now a Chinese Restaurant is a substantially altered fifteenth century building (number 68) on the corner of the alley leading to the old theatre. In the 1850 it was occupied by a property sale agent while number 69 was held by a chaplain. By 1871, number 68 had become a coal and pottery merchants under the same owner, while 69 was occupied by a cabinet maker. Subsequent census returns reveal that Thomas Diamond (1824-88) established a building firm at 68 employing 30 men and eight boys and that his widow and sons continued this business after his death. Its neighbour changed from a licensed victualler to plumber to coal merchant manager to the home of a surgeon. 

In all these cases the old barn at the back was used as a storehouse, and it is interesting that 'George' first troubled number 68 when Philip Gibbon was the proprietor during the 1970s and 1980s when the former barn had lost its old ruinous aspect. Footsteps and minor poltergeist activity were reported, but on the whole Mr Gibbon confessed to having an easy relationship with his unusual customer. 

Interestingly enough is the fact that both of these buildings and also The Nelson Arms Public House further up Castle Street are all said to connect to Farnham Castle by blocked up underground passages.

Castle Street

Castle Street seems to have more than its fare share of ghosts! A number of private houses and businesses all appear to have a number of inhabitants from the past lingering on!!

One private house has the apparition in the form of a young gentcleman dressed in hunting apparel who appears in one of the bedrooms.

In the street itself has been seen a phantom coach and horses which disgorges a drunken figure who then staggers across the road and disappears as he enters a house!