WEIRD SUFFOLK: The Bury St Edmunds bungalow and car showroom ghosts
PUBLISHED: 18:00 25 July 2020
Picture a ghost and you’ll likely think of a haunted castle or a ruin – but in Bury St Edmunds, the ghosts are more down to earth: one has a bungalow
In the historic town of Bury St Edmunds, there are a plethora of ghosts that roam the streets, drifting through old buildings and gardens, hotels and churchyards. But today’s ghosts under Weird Suffolk’s spotlight preferred to hang out and haunt in more modern surroundings: namely a bungalow and a car showroom.
At the Bury branch of Mann Egerton, an automotive and aerospace company with its headquarters in Norwich, formed in 1905 by Gerald Mann, an electrical engineer, and Hubert Egerton, strange things happened at night. The company supplied custom-built car bodies for Rolls-Royce, built aeroplanes in the First World War and vehicle bodies in the Second World War, particularly the Austin K2/Y ambulance but the haunting that concerns us today happened in the 1960s. Odd things happened at the Bury showroom: clocks would run backwards and objects move when no one was there – evening cleaning staff began to refuse to work their after dark claiming they were experiencing “strange noises and uncanny feelings”.
Opposite the old showroom had been a bungalow which was also said to be haunted, this time by the ghost of a monk, albeit one mistaken for a man in a mac. When the bungalow was built, on the site of St Saviour’s Hospice, it’s said that a number of skeletons were unearthed as the foundations were laid. The grisly tale has it that to deter thieves from the site, the builder placed a skull on a stick to leer at the scoundrel but later relented and reburied the bones. It sounds a far-fetched tale, but regardless of provenance, sometime later, the builder was sitting in the kitchen of the bungalow that he’d built when he saw a figure through the window wearing a brown mackintosh.
Assuming the visitor to be his father-in-law, he called for him to come inside – there was no response, so he shouted again. Walking towards the glass door and the figure he could see through it, he flung open the doors and…the figure disappeared. As he thought about what he had seen, the man wondered if it had, in fact, been the irate ghost of the infamous brown monk of Bury, seen across the town in various locations (his habit mistaken for robes, unless the brown monk has been shopping).
On another note, it wasn’t just Bury St Edmunds where Mann Egerton employees met with supernatural colleagues: in Norwich, in what was once the main depot of the company on Prince of Wales Road, the ghost of a nun was seen in the 1940s and 1960s.
A Mr AWP Pullinger of Norwich told the Eastern Daily Press that he had seen the ghost of a nun in the basement and then the boiler room of Mann Egerton three times in 1960 and once before World War Two.
“The nun looks as solid as you or me and I can hear her as she walks over the concrete floor, rather like a hospital nurse making the rounds of a ward at night.” said Mr Pullinger, who was 52 when interviewed.
“She always appears at the same spot, from behind one of the boilers. She walks across the room and passes through a closed fireproof door.
“She is dressed in a black or dark grey robe, with a white headdress and black shoes or boots. The place she appears from was where a hole was dug a year or so ago for a chimney. Some bones were found during excavations but they were found to be animal bones when they were sent to the Castle Museum.”
Mr Pullinger elaborated on the vision he had encountered, saying that in addition to not looking translucent and ‘ghostlike’, the nun also didn’t appear at night: she preferred daylight or to appear when the lights were on. “Each time I have seen the nun it has been daylight with the lights on in the room.”
“I know when she is about to appear because I get a feeling of being cold,” said the engineer. He added that he felt no fear when she appeared and described how he had first seen her when he was at work on a night before the war. “I was working in the basement when I saw the nun walking across the floor,” he said, “other people have since told me they have seen the nun in the basement, though not recently.”
The Mann Egerton building, which was largely demolished in 1993, was partly built on the site where Grey Friars, or Franciscan monks built a priory in the 13th century. In 1880, not only was the priory still marked on maps, so was Cooke’s Hospital, which was built on Rose Lane in 1692 thanks to the generosity of Robert and Thomas Cooke. The latter also built several alms-houses “…for the perpetual habitation of 10 poor old women, as well widows as maids” and the women chosen to live there were given an allowance and coal. It was demolished in 1892 after being declared insanitary. Might Mr Pullinger’s nun have been working at the hospital or might she have been paying a visit to the priory from the nearby Carrow Abbey, further along King Street? And what was it about Mann Egerton and religious relics from the past?