In the absence of our usual meetings reporter, Liz Dockerill kindly undertook to take some notes about the spooky November talk given by Robert Halliday.
He naturally spoke about the ghostly happenings at Sawston Hall. Some people have claimed to have seen the apparition of the Tudor Queen Mary who spent a night at the Hall while on her way to Norfolk to escape the clutches of the Duke of Northumberland. On hearing the Duke was almost upon her, she was able to escape just in time and, seeing the Hall burning in the distance, she promised, after becoming Queen, to rebuild the Hall for the Huddleston family. This was rebuilt during the late 1550s , using, so the story goes, masonry from Cambridge Castle.
In the 1930s, Clare Huddleston, wife of Reginald Eyre- Huddleston, heard a spinet being played and although there was a harpsichord at the Hall she had the knowledge to know that it was a spinet. Other local people have also claimed to have heard music being played in the Hall when no-one has been there.
Another intriguing Sawston occurrence happened in 1804, at what Robert called the Tannery House but which is known to locals as Gosling Farmhouse. Women’s robes were slashed when hanging and then this also happened to other garments while they were being worn. Such was the strangeness of this mysterious occurrence that people came out from Cambridge to see for themselves, including some academics, who were equally puzzled. This event was also reported in The Cambridge Chronicle and even in The Times. It has been suggested that this was the work of a poltergeist, apparently often unwittingly generated by adolescent girls.
Robert also described several macabre and ghostly happenings in various Cambridge colleges, including perhaps the original “skeleton in the cupboard” tale. This was about a lovelorn Corpus Christi student who hid in a cupboard in the Master’s lodge, to escape the Masters wrath, the father of his beloved!. Sadly, she was dragged away so was unable to free the hapless student who was trapped inside. For a variety of reasons (perhaps unconvincing) the cupboard remained locked for several years until the new Master opened it to discover the skeleton.
Rupert Brooke, the famous poet, lived at The Vicarage in Grantchester and since that time occupants of the house (perhaps including you know who?) have sometimes heard footsteps coming through the garden towards the sitting room though no person has been seen. It is thought to be the poet’s ghost revisiting the house. Perhaps he didn’t like the occupant's novels!
These happenings have been collated in a new book “Cambridge Ghosts” by Robert Halliday and Alan Murdie. Presumably, not too difficult to find in a Cambridge bookshop.