Tuesday, 15 February 2011

The Phantom Martyrs

The following guest article is by Rupert Matthews, author of the book Haunted Hampshire.


The Phantom Martyrs
By Rupert Matthews

As one of the oldest buildings in Amersham, it hardly surprising to learn that the Chequers pub is haunted. But what is unusual is the nature of the ghosts to be found in this charming old inn and the frequency with which they are seen.

Because there is not one ghost in the pub, but nine! Some are more active than others, of course, but the welcoming landlord Stuart is happy to tell you about them all.

The main part of The Chequers was built in about 1450, and fifty years later the gruesome events which led to the haunting took place. In those days religion was not a subject to be trifled with. The Catholic authorities took a very dim view of Protestant ‘troublemakers’ who went around making outrageous demands such as wanting the Bible printed in English, or asking how paying a thick wadge of cash to the Pope could remit your sins in the eyes of God.

What these ‘troublemakers’ needed, the authorities believed, was a good burning at the stake. And one of the hotbeds of Protestant questioning was Amersham. Which brings us to the Chequers, for it was here that some hapless Protestants were kept under armed guard before being taken out and burnt.

The leader of the Protestants of Amersham was one William Tylsworth. He, together with six other men, were convicted of heresy and condemned to be burnt at the stake in nearby Rectory Woods. The men were kept locked up overnight in an outbuilding of the pub under the watchful eye of a man named Osman. Next day the men were led to their deaths. In a macabre twist, Tylsworth’s own daughter Joan was forced at swordpoint to light the fire that was to kill her father and take him to martyrdom.

It is hardly surprising that the moans and groans of the Amersham Martyrs have continued to disturb this building ever since. At one time the groans were so loud and persistent that it was difficult to sleep at the inn. The chamber where the martyrs were held lies to the back of the pub and can be identified by its old wooden door - the other outbuildings having more modern doors. The moans are today less disturbing than they used to be, which is just as well for the pub does a thriving bed and breakfast business.

There is, however, one small room where paying guests are not put, and with good reason. This room is occasionally visited by a hooded woman dressed all in white. She is said to be the unhappy spirit of Joan, returning to grieve for the father she was forced to kill.

“Actually, I quite like it up here,” Stuart the landlord told Ghosthunter when we visited the haunted room. “It has a very restful atmosphere. I can get on with my paperwork or have a nap without being disturbed by the noise from the bar.” A steely soul indeed to have a nap in the presence of a spectre.

And the bar itself is haunted by an equally persistent ghost. This is Osman, the gaoler who has been condemned to return time and again to the site where he sent innocent martyrs to their deaths. His cloaked figure is seen lurking near the fireplace in the front section of the bar. Not so long ago a new barman who knew nothing of the ghost asked the landlord about the man dressed in black he had seen apparently trying to climb the chimney. Was it a chimney sweep? No, it was Osman.

Ghosts apart, the Chequers is a fine example of an old country inn. The ancient fabric has not been too much altered over the years and the old timbers and beams add character to the bar. The ale is well- kept, as Ghosthunter can testify, and the omelette speciality is every bit as good. Ghosthunting can be hungry work, so what could be more convenient than to find good food in the very place where a haunting takes place?
The Chequers public house stands on London Road West, otherwise known as the A365. If you are driving, the pub has its own car park on just off the north side of road. If you are using public transport, take the train to Amersham. On leaving the station walk south down Station Road for about half a mile, then turn left at the roundabout. The Chequers pub is about 100 yards on the left.
Rupert Matthews is the author of the book Haunted Hampshire which is published by the History Press (ISBN 978-0752448626) and available on Amazon and from all good bookshops. You can find Rupert’s website at www.rupertmatthews.com. He also maintains a blog about the unexplained at www.ghosthunteratlarge.blogspot.com.

If you would like to contribute a guest article for the website please contact Richard Thomas at richard@richardthomas.eu.

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