Spooky Sedgley and ghostly Gornal

Is this the ghost of Turls Hill bridleway? Image is copyrighted by Derarfni.

With the shadow of Halloween looming large, it’s time to delve into local history and uncover some ghostly tales and strange goings-on in Sedgley. And, fittingly for a village steeped in history, there is no shortage of spine-chilling stories and eye-witness accounts of apparitions….

The amazing photograph shown above seems to show a spectral figure emerging from the darkness on Turls Hill bridleway – a route which local historians believe dates back to before 1600 and has been the scene of several ghastly incidents.

Local photographer Mike, who posted this image on his Flickr page under his username, Derarfni, says: “It all started about 10 years ago, after hearing local stories and reading an article about the ‘Turls Hill Ghost’.

“We went down for a laugh, just with simple a ‘point and shoot’ digital camera and came back and noticed peculiar occurrences in the photos.
This became a bit of an obsession and we ended up spending many nights, taking photos – which amounted to many thousands, mostly pictures of nothing, but occasionally, say 1 in a 1,000, we had something unexplainable.”

Maybe it’s not so surprising Mike and his friends captured something unexplainable on camera. Turls Hill bridleway is said to be haunted by a veiled lady and her two suicidal sons, who shot themselves in the adjoining quarry on separate occasions. Also, a steelworks owner, who once lived in Turls Hill House, at the top of the lane which was also known as The Belgians (now demolished), apparently went bankrupt, building a wall around his estate and eventually shooting himself in the quarry.

Pubs are notorious sites for hauntings, so it comes as no surprise to discover that not all the spirits at Sedgley’s Beacon Hotel, home of the Sarah Hughes brewery, come in bottles.

The following passage, taken with kind permission  from Beer and Spirits: A guide to Haunted Pubs in the Black Country and Surrounding Area, by David Taylor and Andrew Homer, explains more about this allegedly haunted Victorian hostelry….

Sedgley's Beacon Hotel has been the site of numerous strange happenings

Andrew, a former manager of the Beacon Hotel, tells this story:

“In the summer of 1994 when I was managing the Beacon I often used to stay overnight for security.  I usually slept in the sitting room.  In that room is a painting of Sarah Hughes in which the eyes seem to follow you around the room.  I suppose you never sleep properly when you are on protection duty, and one night something awoke me.

“My alarm clock showed 3am.  Opening my eyes, I took a quick glance around the room.  In the corner by the door to the passage stood a figure.  After a couple of seconds I realised they had not broken into the pub or the alarms would be shrieking.

“I don’t know how long I looked at the figure.  It was a man in his 50s wearing Wellington boots, dark trousers and a grey or white shirt with an old-fashioned Grandad-style collar and a waistcoat.  I have always thought that ghosts were transparent, but he looked quite solid.  Suddenly grasping what I was seeing, my heart raced and I shut my eyes tight.  When I looked again a few seconds later the figure had vanished.  I told my father about the night visitor and described what he was wearing.  He said it sounded like the father of the present owner who always liked to go about in old-fashioned clothes.”

Paul, another former manager of the Beacon, claims he has seen Sarah Hughes herself.  He says: “She was walking across the smoke room and through a wall where there is now a conservatory.  Fifty years ago there was a door at this point.

“If you stand in the corridor near the main server and listen carefully, you might hear bumps and bangs from upstairs and the noise of someone standing on a loose floorboard, though those rooms are used only for storage.  Many regular customers claim to have heard the noises.”

Paul’s story is backed up by the fact that one of the book’s authors,  Andrew Homer, heard similar noises when researching.  He explains: “At first I took no notice of the sounds, though they were quite loud.  It sounded as though someone was moving heavy barrels about upstairs.

“Later the same evening, a casual remark to Aidan, the barman, revealed the story and confirmed there had definitely been no living person upstairs at the time.”

Ghost stories also feature prominently in Gornal’s history, including a particularly shocking incident for a caretaker’s assistant at Ellowes Hall School – now a sports college.

This excerpt from local community website, Yampy, explains further:

“About 12 years ago, Clive Brookes, the school caretaker, left his assistant Phil to lock up the school on the 6pm-10pm shift. Clive is pretty certain that it was a Thursday and there was nothing on at school that evening. Phil had already worked at the school for around six months and so was used to the procedure.

“Before going home, (the caretaker’s house is on-site), Clive had taken a floor ‘buffer’ to Phil and asked him to take it down a flight of stairs to the cupboard where it was kept. As Phil started to wheel the buffer down the stairs, something attracted his attention down the corridor, so he lifted the buffer back to the top of the stairs.

“He went to check everything out and walked through some glass double-doors, down to the end of the corridor. The staffroom door was locked. He went back to the floor buffer.

“As he started down the stairs again, he ended up dropping the buffer down the stairs as a “bloke in overalls walked straight through the double doors and straight through the staff room door.”

“Phil rushed to the caretaker’s bungalow, and Clive says that, although he was a big fellow, he was extremely scared. It was a long time before he locked up alone again! ”

And, over at Upper Gornal Conservative Club, there have been several reports of a monk in a gown, which has apparently been seen by several people in the bar and cellar.

Do you have a ghost story to tell? Get in touch with us – we’d love to hear from you.

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Beacon Hotel dog ban rubs owners up the wrong way

The Beacon Hotel is calling time on dog owners who take their canine companions to the pub

For years, this historic Sedgley pub has been a popular place for local dog owners to relax with their four-legged friends while enjoying a pint of real ale brewed on the premises.

However, that might all be about to change after John Hughes, owner of the Beacon Hotel and the Sarah Hughes brewery, announced a complete ban on any canine companions from the end of October – a move which has angered many dog owners.

One regular and dog owner, Julie Caswell, from Coseley, says: “I’m gutted that they’ve decided to ban dogs from the pub – it’s more custom for the Stump (Mount Pleasant) then. How very short-sighted Mr Hughes!”

The Beacon Hotel, Sedgley

According to staff at the Beacon, the ban is due to concerns about furniture getting damaged and the safety of other customers and their children. It follows on from an incident last year, when a regular and his dog, Toby, were barred after damage was allegedly caused to plants in the Victorian pub’s conservatory.

As part of the ban, dogs will not be allowed inside the pub or outside in the beer garden – something which many people feel could result in the pub losing a great deal of trade.

“It’s no more Surprise for us sadly,” adds Julie, lamenting the fact she and her partner will no longer be able to enjoy the pub’s popular ales, which include Pale Amber, Surprise bitter and the famous Dark Ruby Mild.  “It’s just a shame responsible dog owners have to suffer because of a minority who can’t control their dogs.”

Are you a local dog owner and regular of the Beacon Hotel? What do you think of the ban?

Get in touch and share your views with us here at Sedgleyscene.

Beacon Hotel gets a ghostly visit

Alex Marchant, general manager at the Beacon Hotel, Sedgely, with the mysterious beermats

For more than 40 years, this mysterious figure has ‘haunted’ pubs across the Black Country and Staffordshire, leaving only their calling card – an image of American opera singer and actor Mario Lanza drawn on a beermat accompanied by a quote and often signed simply AJW.

But now, bar staff and regulars at the Beacon Hotel, Sedgley, are one step closer to cracking the mystery of this local enigma – they know what he or she likes to eat for breakfast.

Because, along with beermats featuring newspaper clippings of the historic pub’s staff stuck to them, the mystery customer also left one with a receipt attached from Rob Newey Butchers in Kingswinford, listing home-cured streaky bacon as one of the items.

“He or she must have been in the pub around 12.30pm on Friday, July 15 ,” says general manager, Alex Marchant, who was delighted to find several beermats dedicated to her in reference to the pub’s recent Camra award.

“And, when I checked the CCTV later, I saw a figure get up to leave with what looked like a range of beermats on their table.”

But, despite having captured this famous ‘ghost’ on camera, Alex remains tight-lipped as to this individual’s identity.

She jokes: “I’m not telling anyone who he or she really is – especially not a member of the Press!”

The mystery fan of Mario Lanza – a tenor and Hollywood movie star who died in 1959 – has continued to arouse interest since the first beermats were discovered in the early 1970s.

Over the years, this secretive spectre has displayed a keen interest in local news stories, referring at one time to nearby Woolaston as the ‘Bermuda Triangle’ when there was a large rise in numbers of missing pets there.

As well as being the subject of a documentary by professional filmmaker Barney Snow, AJW even has a Facebook page set up in his or her honour, which currently has 159 members.

And, since many beermats now also include reference to this, along with email address, theblobologist@yahoo.co.uk, some local people think it may now be a younger person who has taken up the role of Mario Lanza’s ghostwriter.

But Alex isn’t giving any clues away. “He could be a younger person, he could be older,” she says, before adding with a smile, “but I’m still not telling.”

Have you recently found one of these famous beermats or already own a collection?

Get in touch with us at Sedgleyscene – we’d love to hear your thoughts.

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