St Batholomew the Great Parish Church

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  1. Ian Topham says:

    Re: St Batholomew the Great Parish Church
    Bart’s and the Royal London Hospitals trust has a “grey lady” at the 264-year-old Royal London Hospital, and tales of the cowled figure of the Rahere, the monk who founded Bart’s in 1123, is a regular feature of London “ghost walks”. But a spokeswoman for the trust denies there are any ghosts. [Ghosts of sisters past by Mark Gould , The Guardian, Wednesday 22 December 2004]

  2. Ian Topham says:

    Re: St Batholomew the Great Parish Church
    SOME years ago my interest was aroused by an article in the Daily Express relating to ghostly happenings in St. Bartholomew-the-Great. According to this article, the Rector, the Rev. W. Sandwith, stated that one week-day night he saw a strange man in the church, which was in semi- darkness, save for a light in the sacristy and near the vestry. The man was looking down the church, and the light was behind him. The Rector asked him if he could be of any assistance to him, whereupon the man, without replying, walked towards the Lady chapel. Mr. Sandwith followed him, and, when only a few feet away from him, saw him suddenly and inexplicably disappear. Also, according to this article, the Rector, when kneeling by the altar at midday celebration, saw close to him a man’s face looking upturned, as if at the cross on the altar. There was something strangely arrestive about the face, the features of which bore a striking resemblance to those of the Duke of Argyll, when Marquis of Lome, and as the Rector stared at it in wonder, it gradually faded away.

    But apparently Mr. Sandwith, during his ministry, was not the only person to witness ghostly phenomena in the church, for he is reported to have said that, on one occasion, his wife saw a phantom monk, whose features were partly hidden by a cowl, standing at the altar rails, and several members of the congregation saw weird and ghostly sights in the church, too. It was mainly due to this article that I went, some years later, to St. Bartholomew’s in Smithfield and heard from someone, at that time connected with the church, another strange story. He said that once, when he was alone in the church, early in the morning, he saw a luminous white something in the centre aisle. Fascinated by it, he was staring at it, wondering what on earth it could be, when, suddenly, it took the form of a woman in a nightdress, and he realised it was an exact image of his daughter, who had been in Australia for some years. There was joyful recognition in its eyes as they met his, and then, quite as suddenly and mysteriously as it had appeared, it vanished, leaving him greatly upset, for he believed that he had seen the spirit of his daughter, and that she was dead. However, happily for him, he was mistaken. In a letter, which he received subsequently, he was told that she had been dangerously ill, but was now recovering, and later she wrote to him herself, telling him that, when her illness had reached a climax and her life was hanging in the balance, she had had a strange dream. She dreamed she was standing in St. Bartholomew’s church, looking at him. She awoke, trembling with the happiness of having seen him, and from that moment started getting better. The dream she had was so vivid and natural that, greatly impressed by it, she made a note of the exact hour and date on which it had occurred. Now, as my informant had likewise noted the exact date and time of his daughter’s apparition appearing to him, and had found that both date and time corresponded exactly with the date and time of her dream, I think we might conclude that the case was unquestionably one of Projection.

    This same person also told me that, not infrequently, when he was alone in the church, he heard footsteps following him, sometimes in the centre aisle, but more often in the ambulatories.

    The church is traditionally said to be haunted by the ghost of the founder, Rayer, or Rahere, who lived in the reign of Henry I and, although jester to His Majesty, was noted for his piety. If there is any truth in the tradition, though goodness, or perhaps badness, alone knows why so religious a man as Rayer was supposed to be should be earth-bound, then the mysterious footsteps, still heard at times in the ambulatories, may reasonably be those of his spirit.

    In March 1849, during excavations in Smithfield Market, necessary for the making of a sewer, a number of unhewn stones, blackened as if by fire and covered with many much charred human bones, were discovered several feet below the surface, and in a spot directly fronting the entrance to St. Bartholomew- the- Great. Several oak posts, also charred by fire, with staples and rings attached to them were found too. Since the spot was believed to have been the one where the victims of the Marian persecutions were burned, the significance of the bones and posts was beyond question. The martyrs of those hideous cruelties, which will ever damn the reign of the bigot queen, were roasted to death with their faces turned to the East and to the great gate of the church, where the Prior stood, watching their frightful sufferings and, no doubt, praying piously.

    It was after these discoveries that people passing the spot at night, or when alone in certain of the ambulatories, spoke of hearing harrowing, ghostly sounds, such as moans and groans, and occasionally blood-curdling shrieks. These sounds are rumoured still to continue periodically.

    I have paid several visits to the church, and on one occasion, I fancied, I saw a shadowy figure slip past me as I was walking along the aisle connecting the two ambulatories and into which the main entrance to the church leads. It was afternoon, in between lights, and the building was full of shadows cast by the waning sun, but this shadow moved, and it was neither mine nor of any of the material objects round me. It suggested a monk but I heard no accompanying footsteps. It went by me noiselessly and with a suggestion of stealth. The same individual who told me about the phantom light in the centre aisle, also told me several people had told him they had seen an indescribably horrible shape gliding along one of the ambulatories. It startled a former curate to such a degree that he fainted and was ill for a long time afterwards.