One of the most historic buildings in Worcester, now a museum, is said to be haunted. When Uncanny UK’s guest writer visited the Commandery, she discovered that many members of staff had personal experience of ghostly manifestations.
By Laura Lewis
THE Commandery is an historic building within the heart of Worcester. It is a museum, a Grade I listed site dating back to the 12th century. The Commandery has a history of architectural styles from Medieval to Victorian. This museum, which lies on the bank of the Worcester to Birmingham canal, has attached to it many stories about power, war, romance, wealth, death and society.
The Commandery was originally a hospital attributed to Saint Wulfstan for 500 years. In 1540, Henry VIII changed the hospital to a family home which was a focus of events during the Civil War. It has, since then, been through many changes throughout its history, including: Tudor merchant’s house, 1607; Civil War HQ, 165; Georgian home, 1761; college for the blind; print works, 1952.
After finding out about the history of the Commandery, I learned it was an allegedly haunted place. Keen to find out more, I just had to go and do some actual research there. I visited with my colleague, Graham. At the reception desk we explained our reason for coming to visit. The lady kindly shared her knowledge with us:
‘In a room which was a former staff room, I once witnessed a mirror simply jumping from a wall,’ she explained. ‘I have also heard footsteps on staircases when nobody is actually on the stairs and so have many other people. Ghostly baby cries are also occasionally heard.’
She added: ‘However, the story which has always fascinated me the most is an occurrence which happened to a volunteer worker. The lady volunteer was just outside the premises when a man dressed in old fashioned black clothes approached her, begging to see the reverend. She went on to explain that there wasn’t a reverend in the Commandery. He then asked her for a six-pence. She found this unusual as the term ‘a six-pence’ isn’t really used in this day and age. So the lady give him a ten pence piece, which was all she had at the time. The man was very grateful and thanked her kindly. After she looked away for simply a second, she saw the man had vanished.’
There hadn’t been a clergyman in the Commandery since it had been a Victorian Blind College. Could this man have been a ghost?
Graham and I set about our tour. The building was divided into two sections, these were the rich and the poor sides. Separating these was the Great Hall. There was a room which was once a small chapel. The floor was uneven and I began to feel very uneasy. The atmosphere seemed very thick and almost heavy in a sense. Feeling dizzy and very panicky, we left the room quickly. At the bottom of a stairway we met some other staff members who were happy to help us with our investigation.
One of the staff members told us how door handles would rattle for no apparent reason throughout the museum, while a young man felt as though someone was breathing down his neck from time to time when nobody was in the room with him. What actually freaked me out the most was learning that the small chapel had frequently made other visitors and staff feel afraid. Some would even feel a sense of being pushed from the room. How strange! This was the room I had felt uncomfortable to be in.
Two more sightings witnessed by staff included a man on a horse and a ghostly grey lady walking alongside the canal beside the Commandery.
Throughout the investigation I was very nervous and jumpy. There didn’t appear to be anybody else around apart from staff here and there. I would occasionally feel Graham and I were not alone. There were rooms,
corridors and corners all around. From time to time I felt I could see things moving out of the corners of my eyes, almost like little light flashes but they were never there when I turned to look. I also heard many noises that sounded a bit like floorboards creaking. Could this have been due to temperature changes within the building or was it lonely spirits walking about, grounded here?
The final room we went into was called the Solar. We were told how two skeletons were discovered there. The young man, a staff member who informed us of this, explained that this room was the former staff room where the lady to whom we had first spoken had seen a mirror leap off the wall. I didn’t feel comfortable here. There was a strange coldness and I could sense a presence. It is thought maybe one of the skeletons may have belonged to the Duke of Hamilton who had died in the Commandery from his injuries during the Civil War. It is said that a local man once went into this room and he fled in fear, refusing to tell anyone what he had seen and he promised never to go into this room again.
I was satisfied with how our investigation went. I certainly felt presences while touring the building. It was a very interesting and nerve-racking experience. If I was to return, I would spend some time exploring the Commandery’s garden and along the canal. We were unable to on this visit as it had began to rain and the garden was not open to access.