Handel House Museum, 25 Brook Street
Brook Street in Mayfair runs from Grosvenor Square to Hanover Square and its buildings date from the early 1700’s. In 1723 the German/British baroque composer George Frideric Handel (born 23 February 1685 in Germany) began renting the newly built 25 Brook Street where he lived for the next thirty six years before dying there on 14 April 1759. He was the first person to live at 25 Brook Street and is buried at Westminster Abbey. In 2000 the Handel House Trust rented the upper floors of 25 Brook Street, opening the Handel House Museum on 8th November 2001. However, it was during preparation for the museum that an apparition was witnessed.
An article by Catherine Milner appeared in the Daily Telegraph on 15 July 2001 entitled ‘Exorcist called to banish ‘ghost’ in Handel’s house’
The Handel House Trust has contacted a Roman Catholic priest who will carry out the ritual this week in the bedroom where the composer died in 1759. The trust does not want visitors frightened off or any damage caused.
“We weren’t sure whether having a ghost would attract or deter customers, but with all the valuable objects we have coming into the house we felt it might be safer to get rid of it,” said Martin Egglestone, a trust fundraiser who reported seeing the ghost twice in the bedroom of the house at 25 Brook Street, central London.
His first sighting came a month ago, he said, while he was helping to measure up for some curtains. “Suddenly, the air got very thick and I saw a shape, higher than me, like the imprint on the back of your retina when you close your eyes, having been looking at the sun for too long.
“The shape seemed to be that of a woman. Another staff member also witnessed it on a second occasion, said Mr Egglestone. “There was no malevolent feeling. It felt like the pressure you get when you brush past someone in the Tube and they are too close to you.”
Staff working in the house report a strong, lingering smell of perfume in the bedroom.
Jacqueline Riding, the museum project director, said: “It’s become something of a standing joke.”
Handel never married. His main companion was a manservant. The house was later occupied by dentists, art dealers and antiquarian booksellers. The late rock guitarist Jimi Hendrix once said he thought he saw a ghost in the house next door, where he lived in the late 1960s.
The only women known to have visited the house while Handel lived there were two fiery sopranos, Faustina Bordoni (born 30 March 1697 – died 4 November 1781) and Francesca Cuzzoni (born 2 April 1696 – died 19 June 1778), who vied to perform in his operas.
“There is a possibility that the ghost might be one of them,” said Mr Egglestone, “but they would probably have sung in the room in which he had his harpsichord on the floor below the bedroom.”
A local priest, who wished to remain anonymous, said water would be sprinkled and a prayer read out to try to send the ghost away. “This is a soul who is restless and not at home,” he said. “I don’t see it as evil or horrible and one should help it to be at peace.”
Handel lived in the house for 36 years and composed the Messiah there.
As noted in the article above another great musician Jimi Hendrix lived next door at 23 Brook Street and in the 1960’s reputedly reported seeing a ghost there. The Handel Museum itself is not restricted to 25 Brook Street and has exhibition rooms extending into 23 Brook Street.