It is here on these grounds that more than 180 people would be hung in the stairwell- the marks from the rope still present on the beams to this day. The Skirrid Inn is believed to be the oldest pub in Wales and has a gruesome history- a history that still haunts the present. It is in this inn- steeped with myth and legend- that you can come and explore spirits of an altogether different kind. Get ready to step back in time to a truly magical and intriguing place....
Make sure to stay until the very end for a very special announcement!!
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Hi everyone and welcome back to another episode of Haunted History Chronicles. Today’s episode is going to be focused on the history and the hauntings of a very old inn or pub. In the very first introductory trailer I made and put out when launching this podcast I explained that for some of my childhood I lived in an incredibly old pub one that had it’s own history and it’s own unexplainable things that happened there. For that reason I think these types of locations have a little bit of a nostalgic feel for me and very much a special place in my heart. The pub that I grew up in was a very traditional one. It was at the heart and the centre of the community. It had a thatched roof and attached barns. It was near something called the Fairy Wood which was this unspoilt little bit of wooded land. That particular pub could be dated back to the 1800s but we do know that one had been in that spot before then and had been destroyed likely by fire and rebuilt. It’s somewhere I’ve researched over the years and explored the families that have lived there and been through there. One of those families in particular stood out for me as they moved in about 1880 and were there through the First World War period and beyond that. This family survived the loss of their father and husband before the war and it was continued from that point on to be run by his wife. One of the girls would become a teacher, which is my profession. One of the sons would die in battle during the First World War and is one of the only ones named from that war on the village memorial which can be found at the Church. It was my home for a number of years and had lots of stories over that time. People hearing horses and carriages pulling up at the front or the back of the property was a common one. For me regularly seeing a woman at the end of my bed looking sad is something I won’t forget. It’s how I became interested and fascinated with the subject of the paranormal. If you haven’t already checked out that introduction it might be one to listen to, to hear more of my experiences there growing up. The inn, or pub, that we are going to be exploring today goes back a lot further in history. It’s one that revealed some things that I was able to find out about post visiting there. So, in the spirit of the location that we are going to explore today why not grab yourself a favourite beverage and try and imagine yourself sitting by a roaring fire surrounded by the noise and chatter of customers enjoying a local ale and let’s find out about this amazing location.
History of The Skirrid Inn (3.06)
The Skirrid Inn can be found in the Brecon Beacons in Wales. The name of the inn inspired by the mountain that dominates the area. The Skirrid is no ordinary hill. It is the place of myth and legend and strong religious connection. It’s a place of ghosts and witchcraft; of angels and devils; it’s a place of black deeds. Old legends tell of lightening striking this same mountain at the very same time that Jesus was crucified causing the split in the mountain that we see today. There is another legend to account for the formation of this hill drawing on associations with angels and the Devil. It is said that Satan tried to seduce the archangel Michael in to evil ways but when the most militant of archangels refused, Satan stomped on the mountain, causing the lump of rock to slip down from the top and thus creating the distinctive shape. Today for those who trek all the way to the summit of the mountain you’re going to find the ruins of an iron aged hill fort as well as the medieval chapel dedicated to Saint Michael. There is also a distinctive stone known as the Devil’s Table. In the Middle Ages pilgrims would come to the nearby Skirrid Hill, known as the Holy Mountain, every Michaelmas Eve and would bring away soil as a relic believing the soil to be particularly fertile. People would take handfuls of this soil to scatter on their fields, over loved ones, over coffins and even over the foundation of churches.
An inn was originally built on the land over 900 years ago in the 12th century. The outer structure that we see today is from the 17th century and which makes it the oldest inn in Wales. The Skirrid Inn itself has had a long and interesting history. It’s here that a Welsh hero would revolt against the English between 1400 and 1415. It’s here that in the 17th century Judge Jeffreys, or the Hanging Judge as he was also known, was believed to have held trials in the aftermath of the Monmouth rebellion in 1685. The Monmouth rebellion was also know as the pitchfork rebellion. Rebels in the West Country would rise up to try and overthrow the King, King James II. Now, King James II was grandson to King James I who was a huge part in the significant rise of witchcraft in England and Scotland, a feature here on previous podcasts. Judge Jeffreys had a fierce reputation as being particularly cruel, vindictive and harsh. It’s worth remembering though that Law at the time for treason required a sentence of death and therefore it was his job to see the sentence carried out. It was the responsibility of the Crown, the King, to change that sentence or to offer an act of mercy. King James II was clearly not in a position of wanting to bestow mercy on these rebels. Figures as high as 700 out of 1,381 defendants have been given as the number executed for treason post the Monmouth rebellion. In all likelihood, it is more probable to stand between 160 and 170. Whilst it’s not absolutely certain that The Skirrid Inn was in fact Judge Jeffreys who would hold court here we do know for certain that The Skirrid Inn acted as a court and that those found guilty were executed on the premises. The courtroom could be found on the first floor and what is now a storeroom found partway up the stairs back then would have been used as the holding cell. Those convicted of capital crimes would be hung from an oak beam over the staircase just outside the courtroom. Markings from the rope are still visible today on the beam from the ropes biting into the wood. Between 180 and 200 would be convicted and hung on the premises. Given the number of people who have lost their lives here it really isn’t surprising that stories of ghosts and apparitions and other phenomena have been associated with this Inn. It’s some of those very tales that we are now going to explore.
The Haunting of The Skirrid Inn (8.27)
Some of those reported to haunt the inn are John Crowther who was hung for stealing sheep. Fanny Price, a servant from the 18th century who died of consumption at the age of 35 on the premises is another. Her grave can be located in the local churchyard just a stones throw from the inn itself. The inn is also home to a local friendly clergyman Henry Vaughn and the spirit of a former hangman. In 2005 new owners would take over this inn. They were sceptical of it’s history of ghosts but have certainly had their fair share of unexplained and disturbing over the years since. On their first night they would later report feeling something tugging their leg in the four poster bed that they were sleeping in. This would happen several times and they would have a very disturbed nights sleep. We’ve covered in previous podcasts that those slow to die by hanging would often have a relative step forward to tug on their ankle in order to speed up the process and end their suffering. Given what happened at The Skirrid and it’s history as a place where people were convicted and hung, experiencing your leg tugged repeatedly, is a haunting throwback to it’s history and a rather chilling thought. The owners have also recounted an incident where their young grandson would go to the bathroom. He would come back and complain that a man in a long dress was refusing to let him in. Of course the bathroom would be empty as would the rest of the property. The pub landlord himself has seen one apparition too. From the corner of his eye for a moment, he would see a coachman like character and then it was gone. Now I have visited The Skirrid, the locals are nothing but charming as are the owners. They greet you as if you are regulars and sit and regale you with tales of their own experiences. I’ve previously explained how I grew up for a number of years in a very old pub so for me it really did feel like coming home. The smell and the atmosphere with its large beams and stone flagged floors and open fireplaces. Everything about the ground floors felt like stepping back in time for me. Their stories, some of which I heard firsthand, and some that have become part of the building’s history now would speak of Franny Price and how they often see her. Many there smell lavender before she appears or feel dizzy and lightheaded. Other patrons and guests over the years have told stories of feeling strangled and appeared with strange marks around their neck. Stories of seeing glasses moving and coins knocked from the bar top are common. Knocks, banging, and hearing footsteps overhead are equally common too. The owner had one guest taking a bath in one of the bedrooms upstairs come running down and out of the inn dressed only in her coat screaming, “She’s trying to kill me.”
As sceptical as the landlord is, every night as per local tradition, he leaves out a tankard of ale to appease the Devil.
The Skirrid for me proved to be a fascinating place to visit. Genuinely funny at times and genuinely scary at times too- something that doesn’t usually happen to me. It would also possibly reveal connections that I certainly had never heard about before. To discuss the events of the night it’s probably easier to split the location into two parts. The ground floor where all the bars and the tables for eating and dining are laid out and then the upper floors. The ground floor is where all the different pub bars and bathrooms for the guests can be located. It was down here that we would be part of a group vigil calling out and asking if anything was there to make itself known. The group was a diverse one. There were genuine sceptics, genuine enthusiasts as well as researchers. There were male and female guests, friends, couples, older, younger. A wide and diverse grouping. What was funny was with the lights out it would be some of the men in the group feeling genuine fear. So much so, that one poor chap who when a rather large moth flew at him in the dark would squeal so loudly and start flapping around and hopping in fright. His wife found it hilarious as did the rest of us. It took him a good thirty minutes to recover. He had to sit down, and bless him, felt the need to keep putting on his little personal torch every thirty seconds or so to calm his nerves. As funny as it was it may have helped break some of the tension and build up some of the energy in the group. Energy and laughter is often something that precedes things happening and a little while later we wouldn’t be disappointed. For this vigil we were sat together around several tables pulled together about a metre or so away from the bar itself. Now, obviously everything was turned off and we were in the dark calling out, asking things to happen- and some things would happen that I certainly cannot explain. At one moment in the vigil, for about ten minutes we could hear glasses clinking from behind the bar and at one point a rather large thud. The dishwasher would also briefly switch on and switch off just as suddenly.
The second floor would be just as interesting a space. In particular one of the three bedrooms that are there. To get to these levels you have to walk up the central staircase. The same staircase that people would have been hung by the neck. A rope you also walk past in order to get there. You see the storage room built into the side of the staircase that was previously used as a holding cell. When you get to the first floor you have to the left and directly in front of you two larger bedrooms both with bathrooms inside and then off to the far right what is a much smaller single bedroom. It’s in the bedroom on the far left of bedroom one that the guest ran supposedly having had something try to drown her in the bathtub. Remember each of these rooms were associated with the court and private rooms of the judge. It’s up here that many have felt the presence of the judge walking back and forth and some of the spirits of those hung at this exact spot. Bedroom one and bedroom two, the two larger rooms, are where most usually expect activity. For me that night though they were relative quiet. We saw a shadow sitting near a woman on the bed. We had unexplained temperature drops for example but that was about all. It was the third, and very small bedroom, that I would spend quite some time in because quite honestly there was activity there from almost beginning to end. Some surprising and some genuinely terrifying. Almost from the start of being in the room we would have things coming through on the spirit box- something that many believe spirits can manipulate to have words and phrases come through. What was surprising though was it was mostly coming through in French with the odd word or two in English. Now I’m lucky I can understand and speak French so I spent a lot of time calling out in French specific questions to try and have questions answered. To try and find out who it was trying to come through. What was clear from some of those answers were words like, ‘soldier,’ ‘battle’ and other words you would associate with being in some kind of conflict. It was fascinating but I would have no context as to why this would come through. I was totally unaware of anything in this area related to French soldiers. This was something I would research at a later date and discover a French connection in the area. In 1233, a famous battle would be waged in the area of Monmouth- the battle of Monmouth. A battle between two forces- those supporting the King (King Henry III at the time) and those forces supporting the Earl of Pembroke who had joined forces with the Welsh Prince. Now a particular nobleman named Baldwin the III had been left in charge of defending Monmouth and Monmouth Castle. He was from Flanders in Belgium and with him were a mixed force of Flemings and Poitevins -all French speakers. Baldwin the III would have been a vassal for France and the French King. This would be a defeat for Baldwin and whilst he would survive many of his men would not. They were slain in battle, they drowned trying to escape on horseback in their full arms or they were captured. Maybe the words coming through that night were some of these men speaking and wanting to say they were still here. Something else would happen. From where I was sat in this room a large dark figure would be walking behind the other person that I was with. Just pacing back and forth almost in contemplation. I think it’s the only time I’ve felt the hairs stand up on my arms and on the back of my neck. His presence was ominous and foreboding. Judge Jeffries maybe? What was chilling was that later on that night I would speak to another person who was there. That person happened to be a medium and had been to this inn on many occasions and was in fact leading this investigation. I described in detail to her what I had seen- the figure and what they looked like. She would go on to explain that she had, had one experience once in a different bedroom- a feeling of such an ominous figure like the one I described but that it was almost like it was trying to stay hidden. She felt something but she couldn’t see anything. She explained that she stood in front of a mirror that day and had taken a picture of the mirror to try and capture herself and also see if it would pick up anything in the room behind her. She showed me that picture. What I could see was a shadow figure very much like the one I had seen back in the room behind my friend. It was rather a chilling way to end the night.
Thank you for joining me on today’s podcast. I hope you’ve enjoyed exploring this amazing location with me. If you have your own stories or pictures to share of The Skirrid Inn then please send them to me via the different social media pages that we have. Likewise if you have other stories from similar locations of pubs and inns around the world then please send those in too. For now though I just want to leave you with one final thought. I mentioned in this podcast that every evening as per the local tradition the Devil’s cup is filled with ale and left out. What I didn’t tell you was that every morning some of that ale disappears. Thank you for listening everyone. Bye for now and see you next time.
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Michelle: So I have a really special announcement to make. Joining me next week is going to be Josef and he’s popped into say hello and to introduce himself you you. Hi Josef.
Josef: Hi Michelle. Wow, I don’t think you know how excited I am - uh- this is Ghost Adventures and Salem Ghosts- and I’m so excited because next week we are going to be talking about Salem, the paranormal, the Salem witch trials and things that I haven’t even begun to think about yet so I’m really excited to get there.
Michelle: Me too and hopefully lots of people come along and listen because I think it’s going to be a really fascinating discussion. So I can’t wait for it either so I will hopefully see you next time. Bye everyone.