The ghosts and legends of north Kent
PUBLISHED: 10:00 31 October 2012
Kent is renowned for its countryside and landscapes, but underneath the rose tint lies a world of ghost tales and unexplained happenings.
The local expert on ghosts
Local historian Christoph Bull has been studying folklore in north Kent since he was a teenager and has compiled a long list of ghost stories.
Taking notes from written accounts is important he says.
“Ghost stories are rarely written down and therefore they get lost,” he said. “At Northfleet Library there was the ghost of a man who committed suicide there in 1952. I have had emails from former staff who now live across the world who remember it.
“It is one of those rare stories where there is documentary evidence and people have written statements.”
He dismisses the sensationalised ghost story of Dartford Library in which Living TV’s Most Haunted once conducted a seance.
“The Dartford story was complete balderdash. I often used to work there on my own and never had any experience at all. There were no flying books like they showed.”
On the question of how to know what’s real or not, he says: “I do not disbelieve, I do not believe.”
Christoph is giving a talk on north Kent ghosts at the Kent History and Library Centre in Maidstone on December 10. For more information call 08458 247200.
The village of Meopham is reputedly one of the most haunted villages in Kent with tales of ghouls and ghosts trawling the streets.
The best known is that of a young woman dressed in orange silk who is said to haunt Steeles Lane.
It is said to be the apparition of Mademoiselle Pinard, the mistress of a soldier from the Napoleonic War.
During the allied occupation of Paris, a young soldier in the Kent regiment seduced the innocent young Parisienne with the promise of marriage.
Head over heels in love with him, she followed her beau to England where she arrived on his doorstep, but he turned his back on her.
Distraught and penniless, Mlle Pinard dressed herself in the dress she had bought for their wedding and hanged herself in Steeles Lane.
Her ghost lurks there still, standing quietly by the side of the road on the spot where she died.
Doug Powell, who lives in Steeles Lane, has always known the tale.
“It has been passed on down the generations, although I don’t know if she has been seen,” he said.
Another Steels Lane resident who, fearing ghostly repercussions, wished to remain anonymous, had an eerie experience one dark winter night 20 years ago while walking his dog.
“While I was going down the bridal path I heard a rumbling noise and I turned around and saw an old American cart with big iron wheels coming towards me. There was a driver sitting on the back seat wearing a leather jerkin.
“I stepped out of the way but just as the cart passed me it disappeared. I was more surprised than shocked. I don’t believe in anything but there was no doubt in what I saw,” he said.
Elsewhere at the Victoria and Bull Hotel in Dartford, their in-house guest makes no secret of her presence.
Her picture hangs in the 500-year-old hotel as a memory of a little girl called Winifred who died there of tuberculosis centuries ago.
Frozen in time as an eight-year-old, she is as petulant as any other child.
Deputy manager Kerry Bishop said: “If she can’t get her own way, she smashes glasses. When we had our refurbishment she broke so many. She did it the other day.
“She doesn’t like noise and change. You can see her in the corner of your eye running across the balcony.”
The hotel has other ghostly residents including the cavalier – whose presence is smelt from the cigar he smokes – and a dog that warms the feet of guests.
Seven years working there and Kerry hasn’t been given the creeps.
“They can’t hurt you, so I don’t mind. Some guests get scared but some don’t,” she said.
New Tavern Fort in Gravesend, which was built in the 1780s to defend the Thames against naval attacks, is the site of numerous sightings.
James Balan was volunteering there in 1992 when he saw his first apparition.
“I went down to the tunnels to get some wood and I turned around and saw a Victorian soldier working down there.
“I could see the buttons on his uniform. I took a deep breath and quickly got out.
“Sometimes you think you see something, but what I saw was indisputably a ghost, it was a memory of the past years coming back.”
James’s colleague once saw two figures in robes walking through a wall in Milton Chantry.
The Chantry, Gravesend’s oldest building, was home to monks in the 14th century.
And the stories continue, highwayman Dick Turpin is said to roam the Dartford Crossing, the Old Rectory in Southfleet has a ghostly nun and Princess Pocahontas’s spirit continues to linger in the grounds of St George’s Church in Gravesend.
Watch out this Hallowe’en, they’re all around you....