The Fleece Inn, Bretforton
The Fleece Inn dates from the 15th century and up until 1977 remained in the original builder’s family. The builder was a farmer called Byrd and in 1977, Lola Taplin a direct descendent of his bequeathed the Inn to the National Trust upon her death aged 77. The building had been used as a public house since 1848 and Lola had run it alone since around 1947.
From 2002 the BBC website features the following article about The Fleece looking for someone to investigate the haunting experiences there.
‘Following a series of eerie events at the National Trust owned medieval farmhouse, licensee Peter Clarke is determined to get to the bottom of why apparitions, mysterious noises and a sinister presence has disturbed staff and customers for years.
He comments: “Since I arrived here only a few months ago I’ve heard a succession of spine-chilling accounts of supernatural incidents. It would be fascinating to discover what is causing them and why it is determined to communicate through us. I understand there are teams of paranormal researchers who can communicate with ghosts via scientific equipment. It would be a huge relief just to get proof that the experiences are real and that we’re not just imagining them.”
The venues haunted reputation began a few years ago when the security beam guarding the venue’s priceless set of Stuart pewter activated the alarm. On arrival at the scene, a wooden chair in the corner was said to be rocking rapidly and the vague figure of an elderly lady was said to be seated in it.
“I have also heard reports of sightings of a lady in the upstairs window,” recalls Peter. “And I often hear strange noises coming from the top rooms. I admit the building is 500 years old and it is bound to creak but these noises are unearthly, somehow.”
Similar accounts have since been reported from lights inexplicably turning off and indistinct figures being seen to glide unearthly across the bar.
Peter continues: “We have a series of ancient witch circles on the floor which are shrouded in mystery. Another strange phenomenon is the strong smell of perfume around the fireplace which nobody can explain.”
On 27 Feb 2004 The Fleece was seriously damaged by a fire and reopened in June 2005.
By 2020 the finger of blame for the hauntings seems to have been pointed at Lola as suggested in a Birmingham Mail article by Helen Harper (19 May 2020) entitled ‘The most haunted places in Worcestershire: Chilling stories of underground cells and witches’,
‘The pub has ‘witch circles’ on the floor in front of the fireplace. It was a medieval tradition of chalking lines on the floor to prevent witches getting through the chimney. The marks were drawn every night. So much so, there are indentations on the floor.
But despite all that history, there’s said to be a more recent spirit who lives at the pub – its last private owner, Lola Taplin. She was a direct descendant of the man who built the inn and lived there all her 77 years.
Folklore has it that she watches over the pub and its people. She was said to have been a formidable woman, telling people they should be honoured to be drinking in her home.
She insisted the pub was for alcoholic beverages only and not food. After her death the rules were relaxed slightly, and rumour has it that Lola showed her objection by tipping up a plate of sandwiches. Others have reported hearing footsteps around the building.’