The school holidays are here. Hurrah! Six weeks of sun in the fun (or blooming hard work for us parents) stretch ahead. Families are heading off on their annual break from the daily grind so I thought this the perfect time of year to tell you about my own personal story that all came about on a summer family holiday. It all occurred in Boroughbridge, Yorkshire. I have told this before on a recent podcast with my good friend Owen at Time Between Times and if you haven’t yet discovered the most amazing storyteller in Wales I urge you to have a listen here:
I was around ten and my brother was two years younger than me, so this must have happened around 1987. Our family took a summer family holiday to the lovely little town of Boroughbridge in Yorkshire. My mum had booked a self-catering house for a week, which was being rented out to tourists. Joining us was my dad, nan and the family dog, Gem.
I remember we left home really early as it’s a pretty long drive from London to Yorkshire. Like many dads of the 80s, my dad loved to ‘leave early’ so we were bundled into the car in what felt like the middle of the night. After a long old drive, the whole family were happy to arrive at our new temporary home. Whilst it was old-fashioned, it was clean and homely with personal items like ornaments and paintings in place. My brother and I were to be sharing a room, my mum and dad had their own bedroom and my nan had her own room next to the downstairs bathroom.
After such an early start we were all really tired. There was a warm, cosy downstairs extra reception room with a sofa and desk. Settling down on the sofa I curled up and fell asleep. It was probably only an hour of sleep or so but when I awoke, I caught the whiff of pipe smoke in the room and a feeling of being watched whilst I ‘came to’. I can only describe it as a comforting feeling and not scary at all. I didn’t really think anything of it at the time but I haven’t forgotten it. And the pipe smell.
Yorkshire isn’t known for being a hot place but, luckily for us, it was pleasantly warm that week. My mum and dad left some of the windows open that first night to keep the bedrooms cool. The windows were the old-fashioned sash windows you find on Victorian-era houses. The sort you push up and down on a pulley system.
This part of the story was relayed to me later. I wasn’t aware of it at the time. Apparently, between 4-5am these noisy, empty tipper truck type lorries started to roll along the road next to the house. The road was more of an unmade, pot-holed driveway that lead to a quarry. As the empty lorries went along the track they made a real racket as they hit the potholes. My mum recalls it was very noisy and woke her up. The next thing she heard was the sash windows closing. She didn’t say it was all of them but certainly more than one.
I should point out, these windows need a good tug in order to shut them. They don’t just fall down of their own accord. This strange occurrence happened on the nights the windows were left open. When the lorries started to rumble down the drive next door, the windows shut, one by one.
Despite the early wake-up calls, we had a lovely week in Yorkshire and on our last morning, the owner of the house arrived to take the keys from my parents and lock up. My mum mentioned to the lady how noisy the lorries were when they started up each morning.
‘Oh yes!’ the lady said, ‘My dad used to get annoyed with them too. He would get up every morning when they started, shut the windows before going back to bed.’
My mum asked the lady if this was her dad’s house. ‘Well it was,’ the lady replied ‘but he died a year ago. It was a year ago this week actually.’
What we didn’t realise at the time was that my slightly psychic nan, who tended to have trouble sleeping, would watch a shadow, head into the bathroom every night after hearing the windows shut. She assumed she just hadn’t seen who it was properly and thought it was my dad. However, she did admit, she never saw anyone ‘leave’ the bathroom afterwards and she only told us all this after we left.
Could it be that the old owner of the house was still getting annoyed with the noisy lorries of Boroughbridge and continued his nightly routine of getting up to shut the windows and visit the loo? A case of residual energy maybe? Was he the man I sensed in the spare reception room on my first day there, smoking on his pipe and carrying on like he was still alive? I would think, it is a strong possibility.
To this day, we still occasionally mention the stay in the haunted cottage. I think we are all (well, maybe not my dad) pretty sure the last owner was still there, carrying on life as always.
Down the Boroughbridge research hole go I…
I was curious. Could I locate this little cottage? There’s no doubt the town and houses within it would have changed immensely over time but there’s always a possibility. My thanks to Linda Dooks and David Bellwood from the Boroughbridge History Society. They tried to help me locate the cottage, with a few hazy memories from my mum and dad, but were unable to access their maps of the area. It was in the midst of the Covid pandemic. However, they were able to send me some useful information.
I think we have narrowed it down to a couple of houses adjacent to what was Potters Yard. They had heavy lorries going in and out of that area from a quarry and cement works.
There is a bed and breakfast around there at the moment called Lock House. The garage is next door and Milby Cut, which is a short canal to bypass the weir on the river.
Your Dad was right the old cattle market was across the road it is a housing estate now also in that area was the railway station which closed in the 1960s.
I’ve kept hold of it since then, always meaning to do a bit more research but I realised. What more does it need!
I think, in all possibility, the cottage we stayed in was Lock Cottage and how convenient, they have an old website. On there I found the image you see at the top of this blog and it does look familiar to me. Different but familiar.
I had a quick look on Trip Advisor to see if there were any comments of a ghostly nature. There weren’t! It then looks like it was sold to a family as I found it on Rightmove. It’s for sale, and let me tell you, it’s really lovely. Have a look here!
I suspect the ghostly old owner has since moved on. It was 1987 when I was there which is really an age ago. It’s nice to see the place is being so well cared for, loved and cherished. I’m sure the old owner would be very happy about that.
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Stay spooky everyone!
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