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Spiritual Awareness

With the Citizen conducting investigations into the paranormal, perhaps it might be opportune to briefly mention some of the more well known of ghostly happenings around this district. The more detailed stories will be a subject for another time, but for this condensed ‘tour’ a start is made at Battlesden, where for many years during the early 19th century the old Tudor mansion remained empty, following the death of Sir Gregory Page Turner. Yet this was not the end of his acquaintance, for in the gloomy confines there followed several mysterious appearances of ‘Sir Griggery,’ when the premises were looked after by a female caretaker. However, on one occasion she needed a night off, and two women from the village were called in to take charge. As the night wore on they retired to bed, but when the clock struck midnight the bedroom door began to creak open, and a ghostly grey lady started to pull at the bedclothes. Having a young baby with her, one of the women remembered that a ghost would not touch innocent blood, and she hastily laid the infant on the bed. Indeed, no harm befell the child, who grew up to become a cook in the household of the Lord Mayor of London, and died aged nearly 90 at Leighton Buzzard. In 1867 the branch railway from Wolverton to Newport Pagnell opened, but in the early 1960s the track succumbed to railway economies. Nevertheless, on occasion at the site of the old station at New Bradwell a group of phantom Victorian passengers is said to be seen, patiently awaiting the arrival of their ghost train. But from ghouls and trains to only ghouls and horses, and the story of Lady Snagge, who lies in effigy in the church of Marston Moretaine. However, in former times her spirit was seemingly more restless, for along an avenue of trees, that once led from Marston Park towards Wood End, she would often be seen riding her unearthly ways upon a headless horse. In fact the rector of Cranfield had to be called, and by a ritual performed with bell, book, and candle, Lady Snagge and her headless friend were despatched to pastures new. Continuing an equine theme, Woughton has supposedly been visited by the ghost of Dick Turpin, but there was also another phantom of local repute, being that of a man named Durdsley. According to a local tradition, in the house where he lived at the bottom of a lane he kept many dogs, and his was the proud boast that they would all obey him. That is until one day he dressed in beggars clothes, and failing to recognise their master they savaged him to death. At the former manor house of Little Loughton a ghost is said to ‘hover’ in the vicinity of the main staircase, whilst at Milton Keynes at the 17th century Swan a ‘grey ghost’ - said to be that of either a grey lady, or a ‘short stumpy’ field worker - is alleged to haunt the rooms. In 1626, at Soulbury in the grounds of the manor house Thomas Adams was brutally murdered by highwaymen. He and his brother had purchased estates at Swanbourne, and it was there in the former manor house that many sightings would be made of a ‘green lady, thought to be the ghost of his wife, Elizabeth. A ‘green lady’ even features at Hanslope Park, where she wanders the mansion at night - perhaps awaiting the phantom coach which, never seen, but always heard, pulls up in front of the main entrance. As for the potting shed of the original mansion, a butler hung himself from the rafters. Manor Farm, at Stewkley, is reputed to harbour the ghost of the Reverend William Wadley, a one time curate of the village, who, astride a white horse, is said to sometimes appear with long flowing beard outside the building. In fact the circumstance possibly dates from 1752, when, regarding the unrest caused by the reform of the ‘Kalendar’ by Pope Gregory XIII, the Reverend rode amongst a mob to read the Riot Act. In view of its religious beginnings (and not least since the last Abbot was hanged from a tree in the grounds) at Woburn Abbey, as also the old Market Hall in the village, the apparitions of monks have often been seen, including sightings during World War Two by the girls billeted there. They were engaged on duties at Bletchley Park, where today the spirit of Lady Fanny Leon is said to be sometimes seen on the magnificent staircase of the mansion. Elsewhere in Bletchley, more than one caretaker has reported strange nocturnal goings on at the Bletchley Road Schools, said to have been built in proximity to the burial pits from the Plague, whilst at Fenny Stratford, Dropshort Farm is also reputed to have a ghostly presence. The house had once been a coaching inn, but the landlord hanged himself when the arrival of the railways decimated the coaching trade. Redeveloped as Durrans Court, at the corner of the Watling Street and Aylesbury Street once stood the premises of Leopold Durran, an optician, and here through a certain hatchway in the house a pet cat would never go, supposedly due to ‘a presence.’ In fact, not forgetting the tale of Lady Bennett at Calverton, and of course the numerous stories regarding Passenham, there are so many local tales that perhaps the Citizen investigations will dig up tangible, or rather intangible, evidence for an afterlife. After all, as per the latest thinking in theoretical physics it seems that the certainty of extra dimensions can now be mathematically proved, but then it’s just perhaps that science is beginning to catch up with religion, for as the ‘Good Book’ says, ‘in my Father’s House there are many mansions.’