It has been all work and no play for the last three weeks, because of a rather large project which some of you may already be aware of. More on that in my next post!
So Della and I were pleased to have an interesting day out on Saturday. We had arranged some time ago to travel up to Borley with some friends, and check out a couple of things in the old churchyard and indeed the surrounding area. Patsy Langley, Secretary of the BPOS, drove us up there together with her fiancé Ricky, Redmond McWilliams of the Highgate Cemetery Vampire Appreciation Society, and our friend Simon.
We left Muswell Hill at about 11.30am, after everyone had convened at the flat, and reached Borley after a couple of hours on the road. Borley hadn’t changed much, in the three years or so since I last visited the place, except we noticed that the locals had chained off the usual parking space by the church, obviously with the intention of discouraging visitors. Can’t really say I blame them in a way, because tourists (including ghost hunters) tend to make their way to the site of the former rectory which was once known as the ‘most haunted house in England’, sometimes engaging in vandalism and generally making ‘a nuisance of themselves’. I suppose they, like ourselves, are always hopeful for a glimpse of one of Borley’s famous ghosts, but such people have gone about this in a manner which seems to have made the locals pretty defensive towards strangers.
We only passed one local, which is unsurprising considering how few people live in the hamlet. But we were pretty sure that more people were watching us than we observed!
The rectory was mysteriously burned to the ground one morning in 1939, and new properties have since been built on the land it once occupied. We were curious on this occasion to have a look at what might remain of the old land boundaries and the eastern extremity of the garden. And we weren’t disappointed. Although we did not spot the remains of the smaller summer house, we did park up accidentally as it happens by the gate which Paul Adams describes on his website devoted to Harry Price.
As Paul mentions, it is impossible to tell if the gate is original, but the art deco diamond patterns certainly give it an air of antiquity, as do the matching ornate pillars on either side. The gate now has substantial amounts of wicker work pushed against it from the inside, but beyond it were discernible the discarded remains of a substantial building. It would be interesting to know if this debris was indeed dumped in the copse after the fire, and we were surprised that these anonymous lumps of stone had not been removed by earlier pilgrims to the site as souvenirs (we obviously left the site as we found it).
We also enjoyed walking around the churchyard, and finding the graves of the Bull family who once occupied the rectory.
It was a glorious, warm afternoon, and the churchyard affords a timeless vista of the old rectory cottage, its roofline so reminiscent of the now vanished rectory which once stood adjacent.
Sadly the church was locked, as are so many rural and suburban churches these days when no service is being conducted. I do recall that in 1979 when I visited the area there was a small notice displayed on the church porch, which said that visitors could obtain keys to enter the church from a local house, possibly Rectory Cottage although I cannot now recall. On that occasion we did obtain the key and went inside the church, wherein I took quite a few photographs. I will post one of me below, but there are more which I will endeavour to find and post soon, one of which shows an inexplicable bright oval light in the air above my left shoulder. Borley church itself is reputedly haunted, and many people have reported strange experiences there over the years.
After leaving Borley we visited nearby Liston church, only a mile or so away, where legend has it that the bones of the nun who was said to walk the grounds of Borley Rectory were reburied. Liston has a slightly larger population than Borley, but the intense silence was the same, with not even the sound of skylarks to distract us from the paranoid sense that only we were disturbing the strange, locked in atmosphere. Yet it was so peaceful … well, I suppose devoid of the sound of London traffic anywhere would appear to be so.
Out of interest, the bones of the nun were reburied in an unmarked grave, which is very difficult to precisely locate. If anyone wishes to find it you can do so however by locating the only thistle in the graveyard, or at least on the left hand side. It seems that this hardy plant is the only one which can survive for long on this small patch of ground which is traditionally barren.
Anyway, we finally headed back for London, but not before stopping off for a late dinner at The Bull in Long Melford, a 15th century tavern which has enjoyed sensitive restoration and retains its ancient atmosphere. It was here that psychic investigator Harry Price stayed, whilst conducting his investigations at Borley Rectory, and he would certainly have been familiar with the pub, and very well have sat at the same table where we enjoyed our meal!
We finally got back to North London around 10pm, and all piled back to the flat for a chat and a drink. Oh, I should mention that Redmond had brought me a present when he first arrived, and I have finally had a chance to sit down and read through some of its pages. The book, Bloodlust in Whitby and Highgate by James J. Browne, contains a chapter which attempts to address some of the media inaccuracies presented about myself concerning the Highgate ‘vampire’ flap back in the 1970s. Unfortunately it adds a few more, in a rather humourless fashion, but Browne has done his best, and as he has given me a whole chapter of his 70 page book I suppose I shouldn’t complain. And it was refreshing for once to hear someone point out that the relationship between a ‘certain person’ and the police had become strained by August 1970, and to see an acknowledgment of this person’s ‘cyber sock puppets’ in print for the first time. What a strange way to court publicity!
Anyway, thanks Redmond. Haven’t finished reading the rest of the book yet, but I will!
Well that’s all for now, everyone. Will keep you all up to date I promise.