Peterborough Museum

Peterborough may have a reputation as a new town, but it is an ancient Cathedral city, which has had important royal connections, Katherine of Aragon was buried and Mary Queen of Scots was temporary laid to rest at Peterborough Cathedral (the original monastery was designated a cathedral during Henry VIII dissolution of monasteries, 1539). Katherine is still at the Cathedral but Mary was moved to Westminster Abbey, but I shall not bore you with this and get on with the history of the museum.

Henry VIII gave land to the Orme family in 1538 and a grand mansion called Neville place was built on the site of where the museum is today. Some of this building survives in the cellars today. The main part of the current building was a grand Georgian house dated 1816 and it was owned by Thomas Cooke, he lived here until his death in 1854 and it is thought that he might have held trials here but there is no corroborating evidence to support this.

The Georgian house was sold to the 3rd Earl Fitzwilliam in 1856 and from 1857 to 1928 the mansion was used as the first city hospital. A fire broke out in what is now known as the social history area and the roof was badly damaged in 1884. Alterations were made with an extension at the back of the building and a wing added but in 1928 the hospital was moved. The cellars were used by the hospital as a mortuary and later as an air raid shelter.

Percy Malcolm Stewart purchased the property and opened it as a museum in 1931, the art gallery was added in 1939. The top floor was rented as office space and Mr Yarrow the caretaker and his family lived on the 1st floor in a flat, now the Geology Gallery. Today the museum holds over 200,000 objects of national and international importance, from Britain’s oldest murder victim to the largest fossil fish, Jurassic marine reptiles, the Norman Cross Napoleonic prisoner of war craft work including a Bone Palace and the original manuscripts of John Clare the famous poet as a few examples.

Peterborough Museum has many ghosts and it is thought to be the most haunted building in Peterborough. Mrs Yarrow the caretaker’s wife, encountered more than she bargained for on a day in September 1931. She locked the museum and half an hour later she heard noises from the stairwell and expected it to be her family. She encountered a young man aged in his 30’s, brown hair and wearing a green suit; she assumed she had locked him in by mistake. But, soon she realised he was not human, when she saw that he was floating up the stairs and heard footsteps which were unusually loud, he proceeded to walk through a door without it being open and later he vanished. Needless to say, Mrs Yarrow left the building.

The male spirit is thought to be Sergeant Thomas Hunter, who died in the hospital on the 31st July 1916. Thomas was born in Newcastle (1880) and he later immigrated to Australia, working as a coal miner. In 1914 he enlisted with ANZAC and served on the western front and Gallipoli. Thomas became seriously injured and he was treated in a field hospital (June 1916) but he needed specialised treatment and was sent to Britain. He was heading North by train when his condition got worse and they decided to stop at Peterborough as it was the nearest hospital, but sadly he died and he is buried in Broadway cemetery. He has also been seen as a grey figure. A strange figure has been captured on camera in this area during April 2007. He was most recently seen in June 2009 by a paranormal investigator.

Thomas Cooke has been felt in his bedroom on the 1st floor. A Roman soldier has been seen and he is thought to be connected to his sword, which is displayed in the archaeology gallery. A child leaves messages on recording equipment in the Geology gallery.

A white lady on the upper floor follows visitors and poltergeist activity has been reported on the ground floor. A kitchen maid who fell to her death is seen on the back stairs and the feelings of being pushed and the feeling of being unwell and strange noises are heard in this area. A dark male presence is sensed on the first floor. A threatening male presence in the cellar, along with slamming doors and strange noises being heard, items being thrown and a hooded figure is seen.

I have been luckily enough to investigate Peterborough Museum with Npeg, WTFWT and Darkened Skies and I will give a brief overview of our findings on the night of all groups. Stuart Orme from the Museum, and resident expert on its history and paranormal happenings gave us a tour of the building, without the history and paranormal activity and we split into two groups and did not discuss what we got with the other group to rule out power of suggestion. I will not give the exact location of where the activity happened for the same reason, just in case anyone reading this decides to investigate Peterborough Museum.

While investigating the Cellar noises/bangs were heard, taps in response to calling out, shuffling of feet heard, both groups had problems with their digital cameras, a male presence was felt and a monk was sensed. Calling out in one area and a group in a different area of the cellar were getting responses to the calling out and the group getting the response could not hear the other group calling out.

On the ground floor we were lucky enough to be the first group to investigate the Kitchen, everyone in the group I was in, all heard the same thing and at the end of the night Stuart confirmed what we had heard. I will not state what, as it would be interesting to see if other groups get the same activity and this will rule out power of suggestion. In another area on the ground floor, footsteps were heard by everyone in one group, in response to us asking out and whistling was heard in the same area.

On the first floor, noises were heard, shadows were seen and poltergeist activity was recorded on more than one occasion, a group member got hit and had a nose bleed, footsteps heard in more than one area. The top floor, shadows were seen by both groups on separate occasions.

This is one of the most active locations I have investigated; we had activity for most of the night of various types, we all really enjoyed the night. Needless to say we are going back, I would recommend visiting Peterborough museum day or night to everyone.

Copyrighted Tracy Monger 2012

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