Goose Pimples on a Saturday Night
A cold February evening in the deserted City of London and I am one of 50 people including families with children at St Paul’s tube station for a Ghosts of the City guided walk
At The Cockpit pub just near the St. Andrew-by-the–Wardrobe church, our guide points out a strange pair of buildings: old pub and a new building next door – a result of the Blitz. During this period 1940-41, one of the perks of being a fireman was free beer if you happened to save a pub from burning down. So with a raging fire threatening say, a block of offices and a pub next door, you can guess where much of the fire-hose water went. The Cockpit like many old pubs originally only had a sign i.e. no writing as most people could not read until the introduction of universal education in the nineteenth century.
Near the Old Bailey or to give it its official name the Central Criminal Court, there is a haunted pub with a poltergeist who seems to be a bit of a practical joker and dogs for example, do not like going in there. The Courts are built on the site of the infamous Newgate prison where public hangings took place until 1860. If you wanted a window seat in the pub opposite, the price including the Hangman’s Breakfast was 15 guineas.
300 Babies murdered
Among nice people who ended up in Newgate, we are told about Amelia Dyer the last woman hanged there in 1902. She would look after unwanted babies – a practice called baby farming at the time. Ladies would bring their children and give some money to Amelia for their keep. But most of them were strangled and their bodies thrown in the Thames in weighted sacks, from which, 22 of them were recovered as evidence.
The almost 2 hour tour is conducted by Shaughan who hams it up beautifully in his ghoulish make-up and voluminous hooded black cloak.
With a mention of Roberto Calvi sometimes referred to as “God’s Banker” found hanging from Blackfriars Bridge with stones in his trousers in June 1982, we end up at the only remaining part of the original Blackfriars Here, in good tune and with no accompaniment, Shaughan sings a ghost song which has been heard there, making the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. This is not the only spooky part of the tour, so sensitive types might wish to bring a friend.