This is the story of one man’s ghostly experiences from his time growing up in Swindon, the large sprawling town in North Wiltshire, famous for various good and bad reasons! And for it’s Swindon hauntings of course.
Tony is now semi-retired and living in beautiful Wales. He got in contact with me because he had some experiences he wanted to share. It was clear to me, as we began to talk, that this was a somewhat uncomfortable subject for Tony and he admitted during our chat, it isn’t something he often shares. I get a sense that one of the reasons talking about ghosts is so tricky for Tony is because he is a man of logic. An engineer by trade, Tony is someone who will look for explanations and true hard facts rather than jump to fanciful conclusions. So, when he thinks back to these childhood events, Tony finds it hard to explain them and he is beginning to wonder, could it be possible these were paranormal experiences?
Swindon Hauntings – The Grey Lady
Tony and his friends grew up on a newly built estate in Swindon but it was still surrounded by pockets of land back then. In the hot summer of 1976 Tony was eight years old. This was a time when kids played outside and made their own fun. One of the gang’s favourite games was to gather up the grass cut for hay on a local green and make a den in the hedgerow to roll around in. Here’s what Tony says happened, in his own words:
‘We was in the hedge and field behind it and all mucking around and I looked up. Right in front of me, was a woman. You don’t usually see adults in the day because everybody was at work. She was she was very grey in appearance, but she seemed to be dressed all out of fashion. She seemed to be a pretty woman. And she was looking at me and I looked at her and then for some reason I turned around. I look back and she was gone. As I say I was only young at the time, but it is a vivid memory for me.
I can’t quantify what I saw that day. I don’t know. But it sticks with me. And I wouldn’t say the woman was sad. But she just seemed to me at the time dressed, just oddly, and why would an adult be there? And the next minute she’d gone, so none of my friends saw anything. No one there.’
Tony said he did look around to see if he could see a lady but no, the area was empty. He said he found even more strange as it was in the middle of the day. You certainly don’t jump straight to the conclusion of seeing a ghost in broad daylight, but then, it does happen from time to time!
Tony said where they lived was close to the council-built Whitworth Road Cemetery. The land was once that of Pinehurst House and owned by a local family along with a 2.5 acre parcel of land. The beautiful house you can see in the photo ended up becoming a coal merchants and Tony remembers it as being quite run down at one point. It was sadly demolished in the around 30 years ago and flats were built on the site which are there today. But, back then this land Tony and his friends were playing on would have been land owned by the family of Pinehurst House.
There is no clear information about when the house was built but it is likely late Victorian or early Edwardian. In the 1911 Census, John E. Stephens, a retired Inland Revenue officer, lived there with his wife and a servant. The house had twelve rooms, not including a scullery, laundry, lobby, closet, bathroom or office. Could Mr Stephen’s wife have been the Edwardian lady who appeared in front of Tony to see what the group of friends were doing?
Swindon Hauntings- Whitworth Road Cemetery
Tony says he and others had witnessed several strange sights at the back border of the cemetery. He said it was much smaller back then. They were eleven or twelve at the time. In Tony’s own words:
‘On a few occasions when it was dark, we would see a light moving up and down on the perimeter. It moved slowly and seemed similar to a candle and some six foot in the air. On one occasion we saw what we thought was a dog, white in appearance, also moving up and down at the perimeter. Again, this was floating at a fair speed above the ground. This would have been in the early 1980’s.’
We discussed what it could have been. Tony seemed flummoxed. ‘I don’t know.’ He said. ‘Maybe a barn owl?’ But can that really explains the often seen lights and the ghostly white dog? Tony said he can’t explain it no matter how much he tries to apply logical scenarios to it.
Swindon Hauntings – The Boundary House
The next experience Tony had is one that has really spooked him. It is from a time when he wanted to hang out with his mates but they were not yet old enough to get into the local pubs. They would mouche around the area and one of their favourite hangout spots was in the shelter of the old Toll House. Later it was renamed The Boundary House as it sat on the Parish boundary between Swindon and Statton St Margaret. It’s a large and unusual building and rather out of place in Swindon!
The Boundary House was built at the end of the 19th century – about 1894. It was named after Boundary Cottage which stood there beforehand. It was the very last house at which local dues and rates were payable to the Parish of Highworth, rather than Swindon. It was said to have been modelled on the owner’s Bayswater London home. By 1901 it was the home of Coach Builder Henry C. King and his wife Lucy – “King & Co.”
It seems to have operated as a joint business and home for a while but by the late 1930/40s the home was owned by a nurse who looked after elderly and recuperating patients in her spare rooms. Her family lived in the basement with six silver cats.
The house went on to become a car agents with perhaps lodging space upstairs before becoming Worcester Car Sales. It then seems to have been laying empty for years, around the time Tony and his friends used it as a hang out spot. Eventually a grant was awarded to local contractors for renovation into flats before it became irrepairable.
Local folklore tells of a murder associated with the building and Tony remembers his grandad saying a man killed his wife and family there. I can find no evidence of this but I have come across old comments on a couple of forums saying the house was renowned for being haunted when they were kids. Unfortunately they provided no further information about what they knew.
Whilst hanging out one evening, Tony and his friends had an experience he has never forgotten. The Boundary House was boarded up and totally inaccessible. There were always strange noises coming from inside the empty building. Always loud and echoing. On this one particular night, they could hear large reverberating knocking sounds coming from the building. Tony points out you can hear the difference between the sound of something falling down within the building and the sound of something being hit. Tony felt it was being done on purpose. The noise happened three or four times, louder each time and with force.
It doesn’t sound that scary as I am telling you, but think of a dark and chilly Friday evening, passing the time sitting outside an empty building. From inside comes a loud clang, clang, clang, reverberating around the empty shell. Accompanied by a feeling of not being welcome, like the sound is designed to scare you away.
It is how Toby describes this event that makes you wonder what they heard. I too would make a hasty retreat if I had heard those sounds. It did occur to me that what Tony could of heard was a residual sound from the time of the building being either a coach builders or garage. The sound of a banging, maybe a hammer or similar on metal?
Tony got home and told his Grandad of his experience and he gave him a knowing look. ‘Go back down there at midnight.’ His Grandad told him. But Tony and his friends had been really spooked by the whole event and never spent their Friday nights hanging out there again.
I did find an account from the current owner. He reports he renovated every last inch of the building before it became flats and neither he or any of his current tenants have reported anything unusual. It sounds as if whatever was happening in the building is in the past. It’s all quiet for the time being!
Swindon Hauntings – Rodbourne Cheney Post Office
Remember Mackintosh’s Golden Cups? They were to be found in any decent newsagents or post office. On a Sunday the post office was the only shop open and following band practice Tony and his mates had gone in there to buy stuff to have with a cup of tea and for Tony this included a Golden Cup!
The Postmistress told the boys off. ‘Stop doing that.’
‘What?’ they replied. ‘We’re over here.’ They were stood on the other side of the shop from this bowl of apples and nowhere near the lady. ‘Stop throwing apples.’ She said.
As they all watched, one of the apples lifted up from the counter and shot past her head. The post mistress was a miserable woman, Tony said, and she still blamed the boys for apple throwing. They picked what they needed and went to the counter and paid. There was a display of chocolates on the counter and as they all watched a Golden Cup float up into the air, eighteen or twenty inches high. The friends continued watching as the Golden Cup then just floated back down to where it had come from. Tony swore on his grandmother’s life this happened and I absolutely believe him.
Tony told his Grandad. ‘Oh yeah! The bloke who used to run that place was an ex-Swindon Town football player called Jack. You got football and you’ve got a cup, then that golden cup lifts in the air!’
An interesting little conclusion.
Tony has done some digging into the history of the post office and it seems likely the football player Jock Walker could be the ‘Jack’. He actually run a chip shop in the area but since the flats next to the post office were called Walker House it could well be he also owned and ran the post office. Or it’s a coincidence!
I have searched far and wide for further information on this property and any related activity reported. Tony said he remembers all the flats in the adjoining building being available for rent after all the tenants moved out at one point in the 90s, due to poltergeist activity. Could it be the former owner Jock making himself known?
As we come to the end of our conversation, Tony says he would really rather these things hadn’t happened to him over the years. It’s not something he really wants to have to think about.
It seems there are other experiences that Tony has had after living in Swindon. Maybe we will have another chat sometime for a part two of Swindon hauntings! But, for now, that’s it for Tony’s experience. It’s been really interesting to listen to the stories and pull together the research Tony conducted himself, along with all the information I could find.
I hope you’ve enjoyed it.
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References and Sources:
British Newspaper Archieve – https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/
Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre – https://www.wshc.org.uk/
Find My Past – https://www.findmypast.co.uk/
Swindon in the Past Lane – http://swindonhistory.blogspot.com/
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