It's been too many weeks since David and I met up to take some pictures for our Project and this one was to be quite a scary one.
The "ghosts" of the pump room. David's photograph.
Our shoot for the day would be in The Retreat public house on Church Road. This building wasn't always a public house though.
The building first appears on an 1808 map but is just listed as a Lodging House of Mr Morley. Records show that it was a lodging house between 1740-1780. In 1821 it was listed as a hotel and by the 1950s it had become a pub. But it's the period of the mid 19th Century that had us both so intrigued as to want to pay this place a visit.
Back in the mid 1800s the building was used as our town's magistrates court and hearings were held here every fortnight. The building contained cells within the basement to hold the prisoners and rooms to hold the bodies of those who were hanged on the Common for their crimes before their corpses were taken to the funeral house (Sadly, this claim cannot be established with any written text, yet).
David and I opened the creaky door to the cellar and climbed down below to check out what was left of the cells.
The stairs down into the darkness of the cellar.
The photo at the top of this post shows what is now the pump room of the pub. The alcoves in this room are where prisoners would be shackled to the walls with irons. Today we may be larking about being convicts but it really couldn't have been much fun being chained up down here. We had really had quite enough after about half an hour. Apparently psychics have been in here and "seen" people in these alcoves. It's rather eerie to imagine that we were probably being watched whilst shooting these images. David was rather spooked upon hearing the scraping of boxes across the floor whilst in here but nobody else was there. The photo below is a crop of one of David's photographs in this room, can you explain the strange apparition?
Well, can you explain it?
The room in the photo below is apparently one of the scariest rooms down here, and one that has a lot of people feeling intense discomfort. This room has the appearance of a cell with the door now missing and this is most likely the area where they stored the dead bodies. We were both alarmed by three loud knocks when standing in this room. There was nobody there with us. Or was there?
The body/bottle storage room.
The photo below shows an archway that is said to be an entrance to tunnels. There is another archway directly opposite this in another room and we know that goes next door as we have been there on the other side. Alas we have no idea where the entrance in the photo below goes, this one needs some more research.
One of the archway entrances to the tunnels?
The room opposite this one has some original woodwork and brick shelving which could well be where the gaoler stored the irons, keys or torture devices. Although it was probably for his paperwork and lunch that his wife had made him. Click on through to the project to see the rest of the images showing this room.
It's said that the staff never look back when locking up down in the cellar as there is a horrible feeling of someone following you. We, of course, looked back but unfortunately nobody was there.
This building seems to have the most ghostly tales I have heard of in Tunbridge Wells. The staff were regaling us with all the things they had seen, such as the shadows that appear to walk through the bar to the back door but belong to no body, objects flying around and the many tales of the haunted stairs. These really get your goosebumps bumping. There isn't room to list them all here so if you want to hear them then you'll have to stay tuned to the blog and watch out for the Tunbridge Wells Ghost Tour coming very soon.
The haunted stairs.
David and I would like to thank The Retreat for letting us in to photograph for the Project. We had a really nice lunch and a beer too so we recommend you should pop in and check them out, you never know who will be sitting next to you at the bar.