Keats House is a museum based in a building that was originally two semi detached houses known as ‘Wentworth Place’. Between December 1818 and September 1820, the poet John Keats (31 October 1795 (Baptised at St Botolphs-without-Bishopgate) – Died 23 February 1821) shared one of these houses with his friend Charles Brown and it is outside this building that a London taxi driver named Gerry Sherrick had a strange experience.
This Grade I listed building dates from late 1815. Charles Brown moved into the building in 1816 with his friend Charles Wentworth Dilke. Keats moved into Browns part of the house in December 1818 and Charles Dilke and his family moved out of the building in April 1819, renting their part of the house to some neighbours they come to know, Mrs Brawne (a widow) and her children, Fanny (18 years), Sam (14 years) and Margaret (9 years). Whilst Keats was living at Wentworth Place he fell in love with Fanny Brawne and they were eventually engaged to marry. Brown however did not like Fanny and found her too flirtatious with other men.
On 3 February 1820 Keats had a lung hemorrhage. Brown recalled the evening and hearing Keats say after he had coughed some blood onto the bed sheets. ‘That is blood from my mouth……..Bring me the candle, Brown, and let me see this blood.‘ After they had inspected it Keats calmly said ‘I know the color of that blood; it is arterial blood. I cannot be deceived in that color. That drop of blood is my death warrant. I must die.‘ Keats had watched his younger brother die of tuberculosis and knew he was suffering from the same. Keats was eventually advised on medical grounds to seek a warmer climate as it was believed he would not survive another cold winter in England, so on 13 September 1820 he moved to Rome, Italy. He eventually died, unmarried on 23 February 1821 and is buried in Rome at the Protestant Cemetery.
Following Keats death, Fanny Brawne became friends with his sister, also named Fanny. She moved into ‘Wentworth Place’ (into the half Brown had occupied) with her husband, the Spanish novelist Valentin Maria Llanos y Guieterrez whom she married in 1826. They stayed at Wentworth Place between 1828 and 1831.
Fanny Brawne’s mother died in late 1829 following an accident and the family moved out early the following year. Fanny Brawne went on to eventually marry Louis Lindon and died on 8 December 1865 at 34 Coleshill Street, Eaton Square, aged 65 years.
In 1976 (or there abouts) a taxi driver named Gerry Sherrick and his son were outside Keats House. Gerry, being a poet and a fan classic poetry wanted to see the house where John Keats had lived. In Encylopedia of Ghosts and Spirtits, Johna snd Anne Spencer describe the whet he what happened during Sherrick’s visit. ‘As he approached he saw a man sitting outside the house reading a book, dressed in nineteenth-century clothes; he believed it must be a publicity gimmick. The next day Sherrick took his wife and family to Keats’ house but was told that the house was closed to the public due to repairs. Sherrick then described the man outside whom he had believed to be a publicity gimmick attracting people to the house though this obviously could not now be the case. The official took them into the house, apparently in tears, and showed them a picture hanging on the wall; it was the poet John Keats sitting outside the house in exactly the pose that Sherrick had described.’
According to Simon Rocker in a 27 August 2009 article on The JC.com, Gerry Sherrick is a medium and was also involved with Maurice Grosse and the Enfield Poltergeist case. In this article he briefly mentions the Keats sighting in passing.
‘A ghost, he said, is “not somebody who walks around with a white shawl over his head making noises as if he were constipated”. In his softly-spoken way, he related some of his encounters: the Roman soldier murdered by druids at the bottom of a cave in Kent; the Belsen guard raging against Jews at a mediums’ circle; the young John Keats appearing under a tree in his eponymous Hampstead grove.
“I don’t make people believe, but I believe,” he said: “You’ve got to see it with your own eyes.”