Beeston’s own intrepid historian and occasional paranormal explorer, Alan Dance, tells us about some spooky goings-on on one of Chilwell’s most infamously-named streets….
If you follow the tram lines west of Bramcote Lane, you will shortly cross Ghost House Lane. If you’ve ever wondered how it got its name, it’s because at the bottom of the lane, there once stood an old cottage called the Ash Flat House. Almost 200 years ago the house became the centre of some very strange goings-on, such that many people believed it to be haunted, and thereafter it became known as the Ghost House. Not only was the house alleged to be haunted, but it was also believed that a murder had been committed there. But beyond these few brief facts, little more in the way of detail was recorded, and such written accounts as existed were rather sketchy.
This area was farmland, but in the late 1940s building work began on the Inham Nook housing estate, and the Ghost House was demolished in 1952 as the estate grew. As a child, I was always intrigued by this story of a haunted house and an unsolved murder, but when I tried to find out more details – who was involved, who was murdered and why; who was the murderer, was he ever caught and tried; and when exactly did these events happen, if they really did happen – nobody seemed to know. So, in 1996, I set out to see what I could discover.
After considerable research in old newspapers, parish registers, census returns, wills and other documents in the Nottingham Archives Office and Library, I was able to piece together a fascinating account which shed light on events which took place all those years ago, culminating in the publication in 1998 of my book The Chilwell Ghost – a New Investigation.
People came from many miles around to view the house and, hopefully, witness the strange goings-on
A newspaper report from 1850 stated that John Baguley had just died at Chilwell, confessing on his deathbed that about a quarter of a century earlier he had murdered a pedlar for his money and possessions, and buried the body. Armed with this one name and date, I was able to uncover much more evidence. This showed that the Baguley family lived at the Ash Flat House, owned by local landowner John Pearson, for whom Baguley worked. A pedlar, who regularly visited the area, had indeed gone missing in late 1827 and was never seen again. Witnesses said he intended to spend the night at the Ash Flat House and it was rumoured he was rather friendly with the family’s eldest daughter, Diana.
They were a family with a poor reputation in the village. Diana had produced three illegitimate children and in 1837, along with her sister Jane, was imprisoned for theft from two Nottingham shops. Baguley and his family were then evicted by Mr Pearson, and another family moved in. It was this family who first reported the strange happenings. They refused to stay in the house and were replaced by another family, who moved on just as quickly.
The house had become the centre of a serious outbreak of poltergeist phenomena. Unaccountable banging on the shutters, objects moving, groans and other strange noises alarmed the inhabitants to such an extent that nobody stayed for long. Many local people believed all this was connected with the murder. The story quickly spread, and it is said that people came from many miles around to view the house and, hopefully, witness the strange goings-on.
John Baguley was never brought to trial, for he died shortly after making his deathbed confession. No relatives had reported the pedlar missing, but as an itinerant, his current whereabouts may not have been known. And as he was a Scotsman, he might not have had any family nearby. All in all, he was the perfect murder victim. There was never an investigation, and in any case, the murder was committed before the existence of a police force.
But one mystery still remains, which I hope might one day be solved – what happened to the body of the pedlar? John Baguley himself claimed he buried it. But exactly where?
The above is just a brief outline of what happened, but the book contains much more information and should be of interest for anyone interested in local history, or who just likes a true-life, mystery story. It is illustrated with photographs, sketches, old maps and reproductions of old documents.
The Chilwell Ghost – A New Investigation is published by Arundel Books, price £5.99.
Available at WH Smith in Beeston and most Nottingham bookshops.