Strange things have been occurring in the Central Lodge in Stewart Park, and not just around Halloween…
The Central Lodge was the working part of the Victorian estate in Marton. Not only did it house the estate’s horses and cows, but it also had room in the attics for the workers’ dwellings. Dairy and laundry maids, coachmen and stable boys all lived upstairs in the Central Lodge and further around, in the run that now houses the café, is where the Victorian gardeners once lived.
At the outbreak of the First World War, Stewart Park and the Central Lodge were used for the war efforts and the soldiers of the 12th Service Battalion of the Yorkshire regiment were trained in the park and housed in the Central Lodge attics.
During the recent renovation work over 400 different pieces of graffiti were found in the attics, most of which was drawn by the soldiers. The burn marks from the soldiers’ candles as they wrote their letters home could be seen on the attic beams during the restoration. Unfortunately the battalion suffered heavy losses in the war and many soldiers did not make it home.
There had been whispers of strange activity throughout the restoration work; Chris, our horticulture technician, had a rather chilling experience in the Central Lodge when she was locking up one winter night. As she turned round the corner and into one section of the stables, she felt a shocking sensation as though a bucket of ice cold water had been dropped onto her. The hairs on her arms and the back of her neck stood up and she got out of there as fast as she could – she’s not been back in the Central Lodge in the dark since.
Another story from the renovation comes from a cleaner, who was entering the café one night after closing. As soon as she opened the café doors she was overcome by the smell of hay and could hear the faint clip clop of horse hooves on cobbles – a sound that would have been all too familiar in Bolckow’s time with the hustle and bustle of horse drawn carriages arriving at the coach house.
And college staff weren’t the only ones to get a strange feeling from the estate buildings – even some of the builders undergoing the restoration work got the feeling that they weren’t the only ones present in the Central Lodge. The strangest activity seemed to happen in the attics, with some builders reluctant to work in those spaces – the very spaces that housed not only Bolckow’s workers, but the soldiers too. Could it be that the previous residents were unhappy with all of the change?
There were several occasions where the builders assumed that the voices they could hear were members of staff conducting meetings, however time and again those rooms they thought were occupied by staff sat empty with the doors still locked.
If there really were spirits present in the Central Lodge, awoken by the renovation, then they most certainly couldn’t have been pleased when the students arrived.
Hannah, a lecturer in Animal Management, recalled the time that the cleaner asked her to stop the students from pulling down the paper signs attached to the classroom doors. A fair request, however, after discussing this with other staff members, Hannah realised that the signs had been firmly in place at the end of the college day and long after the students had gone home. Sometime in between the Central Lodge’s doors closing on the night, and reopening for the cleaners in the morning, the signs had been torn down and lay on the floor.
This isn’t the only run in Hannah has had with the ghosts of the Central Lodge; students in her class complained about a scraping noise in the room next to theirs, saying that they found it hard to concentrate. Assuming that the builders were back to rectify any snagging issues and were perhaps plastering holes in the walls, Hannah went next door to ask them if they could keep it down. As you might have guessed, when she went through to the next room, there wasn’t a builder in sight. The scraping noise continued throughout the lesson and an explanation for the noise is yet to be found.
As Halloween approaches, that infamous day where ghosts and ghouls come alive, who knows what other weird and wonderful activity will be awakened in the Central Lodge.