Ghosts of Padstow
The thriving harbour town of Padstow is one of Cornwall's premiere holiday destinations. Reputedly founded in the 5th century by Welsh missionary, Saint Petroc, the town's early history revolved around the monastery established after his death. In those days the town was known as Petroc-stowe, later becoming Padstow.
In 981AD things changed abruptly when the town was sacked by Viking raiders. It is thought that this attack caused the monks to move the monastery inland to the relative safety of Bodmin.
The priory in Bodmin retained control of most of Padstow and the road between the two towns was well worn with the comings and goings of the monks. Indeed this ancient route has been the location of several sightings of ghostly monks.
During the reign of Henry VIII the nation's monasteries and abbeys were dissolved. As a result of this the lands of the monastery in Padstow were transferred into the hands of the Prideaux family.
In 1592 Nicholas Prideaux built a fine castellated mansion on the site of the old monastery. Prideaux Place as it is known is reputed to be one of the most haunted houses in Britain.
Of all the apparitions seen at Prideaux Place, the ghost of Honor Fortescue is perhaps the best known. She was the wife of Humphrey Prideaux and it is said that she killed herself by jumping from a balcony at the house after the death of her husband from small pox. One of her most recent sightings was by an electrician working at the house. After seeing the ghostly lady he fled Prideaux Place and refused to return.
Unfortunately the facts don't quite match up with this tragic tale as firstly there is no such balcony at Prideaux Place. And secondly it appears Honor Fortescue went on to remarry and have children.
Another ghostly sighting in the house is that of a young boy walking across the kitchen and into the larder. This scullery boy was seen by the house's owner who followed the boy into the larder only to find he had vanished without trace.
Further apparitions have included an unseen dog growling and barking in the bedrooms along with more historic characters including a Roman soldier and a monk.
The ancient Abbey House on Padstow's North Quay is said by some be the oldest house in Cornwall. Indeed, even in the days of Queen Elizabeth I the house was described as old. Until relatively recently Abbey House was owned by the Prideaux family and one legend is that a tunnel ran from here to the monastery up the hill.
The ghost that haunts Abbey House is that of an Elizabethan lady. This sad, lonely ghost has always been seen ascending the 15th century granite stairway from the cellar and silently makes her way along a passage which forms the oldest part of the house.
An addendum to the story is that from 1938 to 1981 the house was occupied by reclusive widow. For many years Annie Simpson was a familiar figure standing in the gallery window overlooking the harbour. The rumour was that she was awaiting the return of her husband who was lost at sea; the truth was he had been killed in a car crash shortly after they bought the house.
The White Hart Inn
The 16th century White Hart Inn has been the site of many a strange event. Reputed to be the oldest hostelry in Padstow it is now private accommodation. Many of the tales of hauntings come from the Frost family who moved here in the 1950s.
The family first became aware of mysterious goings on through their pets. Bobo the cat would apparently sit in the window of an evening watching something that no one else was able to see. She would then run to the door, purring as if to welcome someone home.
Another unexplained happening occurred one stormy night, when the cat was out. As you would expect everything was battened down, but somehow a bedraggled Bobo appeared inside before anyone had let her in.
The Frost's later began to hear mysterious footsteps. In one such encounter Julie Frost heard footsteps coming up the stairs upon which she was standing. The spooky thing is they continued straight past her, up the stairs.
Another regular occurrence was milk bottles being moved around. A solid oak door would also, on occasion, burst open and swing back and forth for no good reason.
It was never felt that the ghost at the White Hart was malevolent, maybe just a little mischievous. However, one disconcerting trait of the presence at the old inn was an unpleasant rasping, laboured breathing sound that could sometimes be heard coming from one of the bedrooms. This gave the Frost's a clue as to the identity of the ghost they had named 'Wilfred'.
The story goes that many years ago a priest took a room at the inn. During the night he suffered a terrible asthma attack and died. To the Frost's this seemed more than coincidence and helped explain their guest.