Imagine we are in the 18th century and Poole is a busy coastal English town, with ships coming in from all over the North America. They atmosphere is smokey and dark, with tall wooden ships being unloaded from the goods arrived from The Newfoundland: white wine, olive oil and salt. On one side of the Quayside the pottery factory is working the clay into pots, over pit fires. It’s hot, it’s smoggy. A little bit further up, in the market, merchants are gutting their fish in the street, throwing the remains in the water.
Near the custom house and the town’s cellars, a young woman takes over as the landlady of The New Inn, a pub where the sailors use to stop by after coming back from months spent on the sea. The pub is one of a kind, with beams on the roof, wooden panels on the walls and a beautiful large fireplace. On the outside, the oriel windows are completing the black and white timber framing of the building.
Hundreds of sailors pass the young landlady’s door step each week, and she fells madly in love with one of them. They promise to marry each other on his return to Poole, after a several months voyage on the sea. She waits for him anxiously but on the night of his return, a powerful storm hits the harbour and many ships sink. With a broken heart, seeing that her lover’s ship didn’t arrive after the storm, she decides to hang herself of a wooden beam, upstairs in the pub. The sailor however is alive, his ship was just delayed. He arrived in Poole the following day and rushes to see his fiance. He finds her dead, hanging from the beam. He is heartbroken and upset. He takes his knife and cuts the rope down and, with a feeling of despair and grief, he stabs himself in the heart.
Back in the 21st century, Poole is a different town, with a modern Quay, a beautiful promenade and a lot of pubs one near the other. Among them, The New Inn is now called The King Charles and the story of the two lovers is still on the lips of everyone who steps in for a pint. It is said that the pub is the most haunted places in Poole and that the ghosts of the sailor is still present, after so many years. A lot of unusual things have happened in this pub, from coins being moved around to people feeling nudges but nobody around them. Many times you can hear steps going up and down the stairs and breathing sounds, but there isn’t anyone there.
Sometimes, a quiet female voice can be heard crying… “Help me! Help me! Help me!”
No wonder Poole is said to be one of the most haunted places in Europe.
This is just one of the many stories that I found out by taking part in Granny Cousins ghost walk around my town, one of the best things to do in Dorset. I have been wanting to join this tour 2 years now, as it only takes place in the summer school holidays and for Halloween. Granny Cousins and her helper, Red, are two local Victorian characters who take you back in time to experience the stories of this ancient port town and discover the friendly (or not so friendly) ghosts still living here. It is a truly entertaining and interactive walk, with many unexpected moments where your heart might jump a little out of your chest. And what better place to pass by through, on this walk, then the local graveyard?
The storytelling and the interaction it is so good that there are times in which you can actually feel that you are back in time, on that dark alley, seeing the murderers of Agnes Beard running away through the mist. Who is Agnes Beard? You’ll have to join the tour to find out. 🙂
Granny Cousins is actually Michelle O’Brien, an award winning actress involved in many local projects. Currently, besides Granny Cousins Ghost Walk of Old Poole Town you can also see her in the Anne Frances Bankes at Kingston Lacy House every weekend and in Mothers & Daughters: I’m Glad I Asked at the Bournemouth Arts by the Sea Festival event at Shelley Theatre, on the 10th of October.