Sunday, 14 June 2009

'A (Lost) Episode of Cathedral History.?'

From The Archives...

On August 22nd, two W. M. Ghost Club members embarked on a fascinating journey to the City of Wells in Somerset. One of the key points of interest which inspired our visit was a 'ghost related' story associated with the staircase - situated in Wells Cathedral - shown above.

With regards to Wells itself, it is situated only four miles from mystical Glastonbury and dates from the early 8th Century, when King Ine of Wessex founded a church - dedicated to St. Andrew - near a large water supply at the foot of the Mendip Hills. In 766, it was officially recorded that one King Cynewulf had graciously granted land to "the Minster by the great spring which they call Wells".

While the region was once famed for its textile production, and in particular the manufacture of 'stockings', Wells’ biggest industry since 1950 has been the 'Tourist Trade'..... Laugh!!!

Construction of the present Cathedral began in 1180 and took some 250 years to complete! The stone used in the construction of the Cathedral was brought from the village of Doulting some 3 miles from Wells and, to this day, any materials needed for repairs to the structure come from that very same source.

But, anyway - on to the 'ghost story'....!

In his book, 'Haunted Houses' (Batsford Ltd. 1956), Author Joseph Braddock makes a most intriguing reference to this magnificent site:

"I possess a beautiful colour print of two ghostly figures on the steps going up to the Chapter House in Wells Cathedral, Somerset. There are two figures a small child and a much taller, perhaps maternal figure in white standing framed in the archway at the entrance to the covered archway leading over the road to Vicars Close.."

The gentleman responsible for the image described above was an old friend of the Author, one H.R. Hardy of Edgeborough, Frensham. An account of how the photograph was obtained, along with some of the photographers observations on the picture itself, were also included in Braddocks text:

"The facts are that I went to Wells on Easter Monday, April 19th, 1954, in the afternoon. I should think the photo. was taken about 4.30pm. Seeing that there were a lot of people going around, I thought I should fail to get an uninterrupted exposure of the steps going up to the Chapter House. However, I set up my stand, and, seeing a lull, pressed the shutter and gave it an exposure of 14 seconds, watching very carefully to see that no one should walk in to spoil the photo. I counted fourteen, and did not look at my wristwatch as I was afraid I should not see if anyone did walk into the picture. I heaved a sigh of relief when nobody did."

"The fluffiness on the steps may have been caused by light coming in from a window out of sight on the left, though it does not really look like that. It reminds me very much more of heads going up or down the steps. I can give no explanation of the two figures framed in the archway. I might just emphasise that if the cluster on the staircase was not caused by light, there certainly could not have been any people there without my seeing them. I agree that the cluster looks less like any natural flow of light, than a projection of the two figures forward one seems to see the different levels of the heads."

So, precisely where is Mr. Hardy’s picture today? Why do we not see it regularly appear in paranormal related publications, alongside all of the other examples of what could be referred to as 'Classic' ghost photographs..?

To the best of our knowledge, the image has never been reproduced or publicised in any form whatsoever over recent decades, leading us to believe that Messrs. Hardy and Braddock - and perhaps a small circle of close acquaintances - were, most likely, the only people to have seen it? Should such a photograph ever have been made known to literally anyone within the field of paranormal research, it simply wouldn’t have been allowed to remain in the state of obscurity that it has most certainly languished in for the past 45 years(?)

Following our return from Somerset, we e-mailed the folk at the 'Weird West' web site - dedicated to the paranormal heritage of Southern England - and asked if they had ever come across a mention of the photograph?

No reply was ever received........!?

It should go without mentioning that – despite a ban on photography in the Cathedral – the W.M.G.C. members concerned neglected to see any such warnings until after our photographs were taken!! Ahem!! The shot at the top of this post shows one of our founder members, Darren ' born poser' Simpson.......

Needless to say, group members would desperately like to hear from anyone who might be able to shed some light on this fascinating subject?

Best wishes to all,

The W.M.G.C.


Anonymous said...

This photograph exists. Bob Hardy was a housemaster at edgeborough school Frensham and it was a right of passage for all 6th formers to see the photograph.

Bob Hardy was a very sincere and forthright individual. There is no doubt he beleived the photo to be genuine. I have no idea what became of the photo - I left the school in 1973.

W.M.G.C. said...

Thank you so much for your input on this matter Anonymous. This is a fascinating angle to the story that I'd not heard of previously.....

Such a pity that the photograph concerned couldn't come to light again some day!?

Thanks again and our very best wishes to you.

William Bickerton-Hudson said...

Hi, I found your thread whilst searching, once again, for any corroborative information I can find on reports of supernatural events, or ghostly figures in, or around Wells Cathedral in Somerset. Remarkably, there are few! Whilst I have experienced several, indeed quite a few phenomena in my time, none have been quite so explicit and clear to my mind as the experience I had whilst enjoying a Bright Spring day in the grounds behind Wells Cathedral some decades ago. I can remember many of the details, the experience was very lucid. It was during April (possibly the 22nd, but if I were to research other personal events of that day, I could verify the exact date - around mid-morning to early lunchtime) 1987. At a distance of no further than 50-100 metres away, a white figure appeared. I knew immediately that it was a ghostly apparition, but I felt no fear. I sensed more than saw that she was female and again, I sensed more than saw, she was dressed in flowing robes. She was walking a little less than 2-3 feet above the ground, and her appearance led me to believe her dress was very ornate. We would describe it as 'lace', but I did not sense that material, just a delicacy and lightness. She was there, and I watched her pass for maybe 3-4 seconds. Enough time for my mind to register what I was seeing. Then she was gone. As I mentioned, I felt no sense of fear. I just felt I had been in the presence of somebody very beautiful, placid and regally grand. I am glad to have found somewhere relevant to share the experience. I have talked about this vision with friends on numerous occasions, but I have never taken the opportunity to write it down, thanks for the opportunity!

W.M.G.C. said...

Hello William. Thank you very much for taking the time to share what sounds to be a most enviable experience indeed! Needless to say, you have to wonder who 'she' may have actually been in 'life' and why she chose - or is recorded as having - to walk in that particular spot at that particular time and so forth.....!? I shall take a look through some of my older volumes on ghostlore a little later on today and see if I can find any further information on ghosts in and around Wells Cathedral, perhaps? Again William - thank you so much for having taken the time to relate your encounter to us...... Very much appreciated indeed!!

William Bickerton-Hudson said...

I was glad to be able to relate it in a relevant place. Unfortunately, I live some distance from Wells, so am unable to frequent where this took place, and not being a motor-owner means visiting is a little difficult and time-consuming. If it helps at all with your research, here is a google map image with the approximate area circled:

W.M.G.C. said...

Hi William. Thank you very much for the further information! I did take a look through my bookshelves yesterday..... but - despite an array of authors going back many decades in places - I'm afraid I didn't discover one, solitary instance of ghostly activity at Wells Cathedral mentioned!! Rolls eyes!! I just hope that your recent comments on here might inspire others to come forward with their own experiences in the region concerned, perhaps? Yes - I can fully appreciate your comments re. 'getting to Wells' and so forth, as I am in exactly the same boat as yourself...... I have no transport of my own and, of course, live in the Midlands, which is a fair jaunt from the Wells area...... Very best wishes to you William and thank you for your posts again!!

William Bickerton-Hudson said...

I'll keep the thread bookmarked, and hope others will come forward with their experiences! I know little about the history of the Cathedral, and the notables associated with the place, so I would not be able to help with any worthwhile research. However, I have noted that google throw up many books on the place and its history, so if I turn up anything of note I will be sure to re-post.

W.M.G.C. said...

If it's okay with you William, I shall turn your experience / comments into a fresh post for the blog, in the hope that they will generate a little more interest on the subject, perhaps!? (Comments can easily be overlooked, unfortunately, and your encounter is such an interesting account!) Thank you for the offer of further information on the subject.....!! Best wishes to you.

William Bickerton-Hudson said...

If creating a new thread will inspire more research, then maybe we will turn up more about the 'Lady in White' Thank You!

W.M.G.C. said...

Thank you William..... I shall edit your comments, etc, a little later on and we can keep our fingers crossed for a response!! Very best wishes to you.