Halloween may be over for another year, but we always love a spooky story – especially when it’s a real life "ghost" tale from old times, complete with hauntings stretching back to 16th century Norwich!
Image: Augustine Steward House by Nick Stone: http://www.invisibleworks.co.uk/myths-tombland-and-the-plague/
Slap bang in the middle of Tombland sits Augustine Steward House – the place that Lord Sheffield stayed in just before his battle (it didn’t end well!) – and, because of the plague of 1578 which spread over Norwich, the inhabitants of Augustine Steward House also succumbed to the plague. The house was sealed up by bailiffs when it was believed that everyone inside had died… unfortunately they were devastatingly hasty in doing so.
Around 5-6 weeks later, the bailiffs returned to remove the bodies from the house, as was standard procedure at the time – but as they started removing the parents’ bodies from the house, they noticed some odd marks on the mother and father’s legs. Taking a closer look, they realised that they were actually teeth marks, and that chunks of flesh had been bitten away from the parents’ legs – marks made by rats, you might assume? Oh no - they turned out to be human teeth marks!
What had happened soon became clear when they removed one of the daughter’s bodies; in her mouth and throat they found dead human flesh and it dawned on them that, in sealing up the house, they had also sealed this poor girl inside a plague-ridden house with the dead bodies of her family. She seems to have tried to survive by cannibalising her family members (what other choice did she have trapped in that house with nothing to eat or drink, for weeks on end) before evidently choking on their flesh.
Image: Augustine Steward House - view from Tombland
Ever since this awful occurrence (and the awful thing is, who knows how many others it may have happened to as well?), there have been numerous sightings of the ghost of a young girl who haunts Augustine Steward House and Tombland Alley (this alley connects the house with St George’s Church). She’s always said to be wearing shabby, grey-coloured clothes which are old fashioned and this has given her the name of ‘The Lady in Grey’. Augustine Steward House has had various inhabitants (and uses) over the years and many have reported seeing or feeling her presence. She seems to enjoy moving things around at night and opening and closing doors at inopportune moments, as well as walking up and down Tombland Alley, giving anyone who sees her quite a fright.
Her presence has even been confirmed by a vicar; Reverend John Minns, of St George’s Church, confirms seeing a young woman dressed in grey enter the church through the main doors, walk through the church and straight through the doors leading to Tombland Alley – doors which had been sealed for years and which, needless to say, she didn’t open before she passed right through!
The Lady in Grey has also been spotted next door at Samson and Hercules House, when it used to be a nightclub called Ritzy’s. She was seen at a private party there by the DJ who saw her leaving the women’s toilets – and noticed that, far from drunkenly stumbling around, she actually appeared to be floating along the corridor above the carpet. He also noticed that she had no feet!
David Chisnell’s book, Haunted Norwich, is packed full of interesting ghost sightings and stories and which has formed the basis of this post. David actually used to run ghost walks around Norwich, and now they have been taken over by Richard McGreevy, aka The Man in Black!
The Man in Black’s Norwich Ghost Walks are fantastic guided walks around Norwich. They feature some of the city’s most eerie and disturbing stories, and the chance to visit some of the places featured (plus one or two surprises!). The walks start from the Adam & Eve pub and run every Monday, Tuesday and Thursday evening until December 9th*. You’ll visit Augustine Steward House among many other spots on the Thursday evening walk (Castle walk) and plenty more over the three walks – they’re definitely worth doing whether you’re a fan of ghost stories or just enjoy being entertained!
NEW FOR 2016: Ghostly Dinners at the Guildhall, a hugely historic building in itself. Enjoy two sumptuous courses with interspersed ghost tales followed by a phantasmagorical tour of one of the most haunted iconic buildings in Norwich. 7:30pm on either November 18th or December 9th. Tickets are £15 available to buy from Café Britannia in the Guildhall or by calling 07831 189985.
Greater Anglia have Advance fares from £9 one way between London Liverpool Street and Norwich. Trains run every 30 minutes. Abellio also serves Colchester, Ipswich and Diss on the Norwich line. Direct trains also run from Cambridge.
East Midlands Trains runs services from Liverpool, Manchester and Nottingham.
Flights into Norwich served from Edinburgh, Manchester, Exeter, Aberdeen, Jersey*, Guernsey* and Amsterdam.