Ghosts of London. Haunted Walks.
Go back into Bank Underground Station and come out of exit one of Bank Underground Station and move swiftly into Poultry and keep ahead into Cheapside. Clearly visible on the left is the Church of St Mary le Bow. Go to the right of the tower into Bow Churchyard and descend the stone steps at the southwest corner of the church.
These lead to an atmospheric crypt of St Mary-le-Bow the walls of which date from the 9th and 10th centuries. Here you can see the bows or arches that give the church its name. In the 11th and 12th centuries black masses were held at the church during the hours of darkness, and requiem masses for the living were also held.
A series of tragedies struck the neighbourhood and it became common knowledge that St Mary Le Bow was cursed. The roof blew off in 1090, resulting in considerable loss of life. In 1196 William Fitzosbert (known as Long Beard) killed one of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s soldiers who had been sent to arrest him (his crime was to preach against excessive taxation), and took sanctuary in the church tower. The building was almost destroyed as he was being smoked out. In 1271 the tower toppled into the street, killing more people, and, once it had been rebuilt, Lawrence Duckett was murdered there, in reprisal for which seventeen men were hanged and a woman burnt. It was rebuilt several times after being destroyed by the Great Fire and much later the bombs of the Blitz, but has since enjoyed a period of relative good fortune. The authorities feel so confident that the curse has been lifted that a health-food restaurant now occupies one section of the crypt.
Go back up the stairs, turn left from the gates and follow Bow Churchyard, then turn right into Bow Lane. Groveland Court where a little way along on the left is:-
Williamson’s Tavern, a delightful and hidden away hostelry that has more the feel of a Gentleman’s Club than of a City Centre Pub. It stands at the exact centre of the City of London, reputedly on the site once occupied by the mansion of Sir John Oldcastle, the model for Shakespeare’s Falstaff. Once the official residence of successive Lord Mayors of London, it was purchased in 1739 by one Robert Williamson, who turned it into a hotel and gave the building the name by which it has been known ever since. William Hollis, a surveyor who quickly found that his dabbling had, apparently, disturbed some long ago resident, rebuilt it in the 1930’s. According to contemporary accounts, “queer noises” were heard about the premises on Saturday nights. Furthermore, a ghostly figure was often seen gliding from the opposite side of Groveland Court and melting into the brickwork of the pub. Although the apparition never materialised inside the buildings, it perambulations were often accompanied by an outbreak of poltergeist activity during which tankards and ash trees would be hurled to the floor by an unseen hand. The disturbances finally proved too much for Mr Hollis to bear and thus, according to a report in the City Post, he decided to “leave the ghost to its own devices…and the estate is now on the market.”