Haunted Surrey Preview

haunted surreyAn exclusive look at Rupert Matthews' Haunted Surrey

AA Headquarters
For many years the most famous haunted building in Guildford was the AA Headquarters, officially Fanum House, on the roundabout where the London Road met the Ladymead Parkway, a twentieth-century bypass around the town centre. The office building was a fine brick edifice with a distinctive clock tower. As a boy, I was frequently driven past it with the family on our way into Guildford and years later I travelled past it daily on my way to work. I recall often hearing about the ghost there when I was younger.

I was told that the phantom in question was that of a cleaning lady who had died sometime in the 1950s. She came back after office hours, as she had done when alive, to potter about the building. It was presumed by the night staff who encountered her that she was intent on cleaning. The most frequent manifestation was the flushing of toilets, the turning on or off of taps and other plumbing-related activity. There were also the sounds of ashtrays being emptied, bins banged about and broom sweeping on the hard floors. Just occasionally the cleaner’s voice would be heard, coming from empty rooms or echoing along empty corridors. She was also seen sometimes, walking slowly dressed in a purple, wrap-around cleaning overall of the type worn by ‘Mrs Mops’ back in the 1950s and 1960s. A few years ago the old Fanum House was demolished and a new one built. The ghost may have been very active in the old AA HQ, but she has not been seen or heard in the new one.

The Old Chalk Pit
AA members may no longer see the ghost at their HQ, but they may find one if they drive their cars along York Road that branches off London Road half a mile toward the town centre from the AA roundabout. Until the 1960s there was an old chalk pit in York Road that had an evil reputation locally. It was said to be haunted and was certainly the venue for ne’erdowells to gather of an evening.

In 1969 a multi-storey car park was built in the chalk pit, and that was when the haunting first hit the local news headlines. Workmen reported seeing a woman dressed in a long dress, variously described as being grey or pale brown in colour. She was seen amid the construction equipment, but could never be found when a search was made. The workmen declared her to be a ghost and became uneasy about working alone or after dark.

An old story then surfaced about a local girl named Lorna Smith. She had been the daughter of a Quaker merchant who lived in Guildford in the later eighteenth century. Lorna’s father found her late one evening consorting with a good-looking local lad who was not only poor but - rather more seriously for the angry father - was a Catholic. Lorna had been dragged home by her father to be subjected to a torrent of angry abuse. The distraught girl fled in the night, heading for the home of her beloved, but in the dark she fell into the chalk pit and broke her neck. Perhaps the unhappy Lorna was disturbed by all the work going on in the old chalk pit, and she came back to see what was happening.

No. 122 High Street
In the town centre the ancient, cobbled High Street runs down a fairly steep hill from what was once the bailey of the castle to the bridge that now takes the place of the ford. One of the shops is a ladies fashion store at No. 122. In here is one of those irritating hauntings that a lot of people have heard about, but which nobody seems to have experienced first hand. There is said to be a lady who walks across the first floor. Her heels are heard quite clearly, but she herself remains invisible.

Angel Hotel
A few steps down the hill from No.122 and on the other side of the road is the old Angel Hotel. This building opened to the public in the late sixteenth century as a posting house, a place where the coaches carrying urgent messages between London and the naval base and port of Portsmouth would change their horses while drivers and passengers grabbed something to eat and drink. The site, and some of the original buildings, had been the guest house of the Whitefriars Monastery that stood in Guildford and parts of the structure date back to about 1250. The building has been changed many times over the years, but it remains a fine historic inn.
In the 1870s the hotel was temporary home to the dashing young Louis Napoleon, Prince Imperial of France. His father, Emperor Napoleon III, had been ousted from his throne after losing the Franco-Prussian War of 1870 and the family came to Britain. The young prince joined the British Royal Artillery and was deemed to be a most promising young officer. Although he was the last male heir of the Bonaparte dynasty, he insisted on being treated like any other young officer so that he could earn a military reputation to follow that of his family. He stayed at the Angel when entertaining guests coming to visit him on manoeuvres at nearby Aldershot Camp. In 1879 the Prince Imperial joined the British Army invading Zulu land in southern Africa. His patrol was ambushed by Zulus and the young man died bravely, fighting on with a spear taken from a dead Zulu after his ammunition gave out.

The stories of a haunting at the Angel began soon afterwards. The ghost of a young man in military uniform was reported in Rooms 1 and 2, those used most often by the Prince Imperial. The clearest sighting came in 1970 when a Mr and Mrs Dell were staying in Room 1. Something woke Mr Dell up early and as he glanced about the room he saw a man in a uniform standing beside a heavy wardrobe. The man had a thick, black moustache, heavy eyebrows and eyes that seemed to be sad or melancholy. Mr Dell sat looking at the man for sometime, then woke up his wife who saw the apparition briefly before it vanished.

Mr Dell subsequently found some pictures of the Prince Imperial, but decided that the ghost did not resemble the young man. The ghost had looked to be about forty-five or so while the prince had been only twenty-three when he was killed. However, the uniform did seem to be that of a late nineteenth century cavalry officer. Perhaps the ghost was that of an aide or a colleague of the unfortunate prince.

No. 132 High Street
At No.132 High Street is another ladies fashion shop, but from 1863 to 2001 it was home to the famous Jeffrey’s Gunsmiths business. In 1928 the shop was inherited by two brothers, Jack and Harold, who ran the business jointly. As the brothers grew older they hired a manager, Mr Hall, to run the shop for them, though they still came in to keep an eye on things. A small office down in the basement was set aside for the two Mr Jeffreys. In 1970 Harold died, and Jack followed him in 1979. Mr Hall stayed on to run the business for the new owners.

It was just after Jack Jeffrey’s funeral that the haunting began, and it was the office in the cellar that was the focus for events. Old Jack Jeffrey was seen several times in the small office, sitting as if going through the accounts or reading a newspaper. So far as I can tell he was never seen in the public parts of the shop, but the staff were more than familiar with his appearances. After Jeffrey’s vacated the shop, it was remodelled and the cellar cleared of all internal partitions, including that of the small office. Opinions differ as to whether the ghost has been seen since.

Haunted Surrey is available to purchase from The History Press.

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