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June 2003, 1600 BST
Haunted West Berkshire
Newbury is home to some troubled spirits...

West Berkshire is simply teeming with haunted places, outdoors and indoors, so you'd better watch your back when you go out there alone at night.

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Delightful Newbury is our next stop, though in olden days the Market Place wasn't so pleasant for criminals. It was the site of the old pillory where criminals would be forced to stand and be pelted with vegetables as well as abuse.

If you can hear moaning then look towards the Market Place, look closely, and you will see Thomas Barrie walking in agony - with no ears.

In 1538 Barrie, was up there for allegedly spreading seditious rumours about King Henry VIII. The poor chap even had his ears nailed to the pillory and then chopped clean off - ouch! He died of fright and ever since his ghost has been seen wandering about the spot ever since, moaning in agony.

Now we'll stroll on to Pelican Lane where there once was a theatre, built in 1802. Here a dark crime passionelle took place when one of the actors fell in love with his leading lady. Yes gather round now, I know it's cold, well let me continue, story has it that when she spurned his advances in favour of another, he stabbed her to death in a fit of jealous rage after the curtain fell on their last performance.

Ever since candles were blown out and mysteriously relighted, and when electricity was installed, bulbs would blow and then work again. Chillingly one couple witnessed a blood stain appear in the room where the actress had been killed, yet in the morning it was gone. The building has since been demolished so no more ghostly hauntings here.

Now should you ever stay in a certain room here at Searle's Farm, which, as you may know, is an ancient Tudor building marooned in the middle of the gravel pits in northern Burghfield, you may encounter a strange dream.

Shall we? No we're not going to sleep we're just going to sit - don't nod off now! - now, it is in this room that a servant girl, deeply upset at discovering she was pregnant, committed suicide. And those who do not know the story have the same strange dream when sleeping here, I shall tell you now.

The young girl appears, in a flowing white dress at the window, staring out over the surrounding countryside. The room is in darkness, but she is illuminated in a soft white light! Not a nightmare by any counts.

Let's enter Purley Hall here, the home of quite a few ghosts methinks. Let's go to the bottom of the stairs, and yes, right on cue, here comes the Viceroy of India, Warren Hastings, who had rented this building in the 18th century while preparing his defence against alleged corruption charges - he was later acquitted. He appears to be in a bit of a rush, putting on his gauntlet gloves.

Now here's something creepy, this baby crying noise in the bedroom above the dining room. Sends shivers done my spine, yes madam I know it's unnerving. In the 18th century, the house was owned by the Hawes family. The young daughter of the house allegedly got 'up the duff' as it were by a philandering colonel. She had given birth to the child in that room but she stuffed it in a cupboard, where it inevitably died.

This is turning out to be a pub crawl isn't it - ah well, nowt wrong with that. Here we come to the The King's Head in Thatcham. Come now with me to the first floor and meet old Miss Fremont, a former landlady here during the golden age of coaching in the 18th century.

She has a great way of entering the rooms as you will soon see….ah! There she is, all clad in grey, she walks in her silk dress looking very busy, straight through the walls - don't you wish you could do that!

A quick stop at the River Pang in Tidmarsh now, just by the rectory there, there above the misty waters rises the spirit of a little boy - his face dissolved and clothes ripped and shredded- the poor little lad drowned here and occasionally rises here from the river.


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