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Thursday, 6 November 2014

Bristol -The Ghosts Of All Saints Church

 Above: All Saints Church 1828

    I quite regularly pass All Saints Church in Bristol.  As it is right next to the St.Nicholas covered market just off the city centre there are thousands of others who also pass it on the way to work or while on shopping trips.  Surrounded by businesses and narrow streets it looks rather “snug”.  Snug but with “a history”.

    All Saints dates from the 12th  Century with enlargements and alterations such as the 15th Century aisles and East nave and in 1716 the NE tower was designed by William Paul and eventually completed by George Townsend,  The Chancel was rebuilt in the mid-19th Century.

    The church contains memorials and graves to a number of 18th Century businessmen and merchants not to mention the tomb of Edward Colston (1636-1721); Colston helped to fund the restoration of the All Saints Church's tower in 1716.

    The Church itself is said to be haunted by a “black monk” who supposedly hid the treasures of the place from Henry VIII.  How the monk died, whether killed by Henry’s men or having committed suicide is uncertain.  However, at that period the act of suicide was to damn oneself so it’s rather unlikely a religious man would resort to this.  As for the treasure….never been found.

    The “Mayor’s Register” or “Gild of Kalendars” is thought to be one of,if not the first guild in Britain.  The early history of The Kalendars was lost after a fire around 1466. William Of Worcester asserts the Guild was found in 700 A.D.  It was a brotherhood of the clergy and laity –men and women of the City of Bristol.

    Robert Earl Of Gloucester and Robert Fitzharding,a Burgess of Bristol,had The Kalendars moved from The Church of Holy Trinity [Christ Church] to All Saints in the time of Henry II.  Some priests were trained there “for the conversion of the jewes” but The Kalendars inner workings and finances seem somewhat murky,but it was a powerful body –full of the “movers and dealers” of the day.

    Perhaps with such a long history All Saints might have a ghost or two?

 Above: the entrance to All Saints that you'll find as you turn in to St Nicholas Market. Photo credit -unknown.

   It is worth quoting the account as it first appeared in the Bristol Times [1 & 2] during 1846, the writer having his tongue firmly in his cheek and finding the whole affair, obviously, very funny:~

                   “A Ghost At Bristol.
                   “We have this week a ghost story to relate. Yes,
                   a real ghost story,and a ghost story without as yet
                   any clue to its elucidation.  After the dissolution of
                   the Calendars,their ancient residence,adjoining and
                   almost forming a part of All Saints’ Church,Bristol,
                   was converted into a vicarage-house,and it was in 1846,
                   called by that name,though the incumbents have for many        
                   years ceased to  reside there.

                   “The then occupants were Mr. & Mrs.Jones,the sexton
                   and sextoness of the church,and one or two lodgers;and
                   it is to the former and their servant-maid that the strange
                   visitor made his appearances,causing such terror by his
                   nightly calls,that all three determined upon quitting the
                   premises,and indeed carried their resolution into effect.
                   Mr. and Mrs.Jones’ description of the disturbance as given
                   to the landlord,on whom they called in great consternation,
                   is as distinct as any ghost story could be.  The nocturnal
                   visitor was heard walking about the house when the
                   inhabitants were in bed:and Mr.Jones,who was a man of
                   by no means nervous constitution,declared he had several
                   times seen a light flickering on one of the walls.  Mrs.Jones
                   was equally certain that she had heard a man with creaking
                   shoes walking in the bedroom above her own,when no man
                   was on the premises (or at least ought not to be),and ‘was
                   nearly killed with fright.’

                   “To the servant-maid,however,was vouchsafed the
                   unenvied honour of seeing this restless night visitor;
                   she declared she had repeatedly had her bedroom door
                   unbolted at night,between the hours of 12 and 2
                   o’clock --the period when such beings usually make
                   their promenade—by something in human semblance.
                   She could not particularise his dress,but described it as
                   something antique,and of a fashion ‘lang syne gane’,and
                   to some extent corresponding to that of the ancient
                     “Calendars,the former inhabitants of the house.  She further
                   stated that he was ‘a whiskered gentleman’ (in her own
                   words) ,which whiskered gentleman had gone to the
                   length of shaking her bed,and,she believed,would have
                   shaken herself also,but that she invariably put her head
                   under the clothes when she saw him approach.

                   “As far as can be ascertained no elucidation of this
                   mysterious affair was ever forthcoming.  Mrs.Crowe,to
                   whose knowledge the account was brought,subsequently,
                   wrote to the editor of the ‘Bristol Times’,and received a
                   reply that ‘the whole affair remains wrapped in the same
                   mystery as when chronicled in the pages of this paper’,and
                   this statement was subsequently confirmed by Mrs.Jones.”

    Well, I suppose that, if this whiskered gent was described as looking and dressed like one of the Calendar Order then he must have been the ‘ghost’ of one –the black monk said to haunt the Church?

    This is not, however, a straight-forward haunting.  The sound of foot-steps, a ghostly figure or even lights, yes.  But here we have a strange hybrid of the poltergeist; the figure seen physically (in some way) shook the bed.  Was the servant-maid of  “a certain age” that she might be seen as the focus of these events?

    There have been summaries of this affair but these include references to Mr.Jones wanting to throw himself from the window several times and having been so terrified on one occasion that his trembling almost doubled him up. 

    I’m still waiting to hear from the church to see whether anything has occurred over recent years and searching dusty old volumes for 1846 is a long process.  But I’ll keep looking.



[1]     “A Ghost At Bristol”,Bristol Times,1846.  Sadly,my copy of this item and the
          date have been lost.  However,the following carries the account given here.

[2]     R. MacDonald Robertson, “Some Ghost Stories Of Bristol and the West”,  Illustrated Bristol News,vol.5,September,1962

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