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The ghost of Gressenhall

Lights turning themselves off and on, objects being moved by unseen hands, a ‘cold’ presence – and a typed statement about the ghost of Gressenhall.


The front of Gressenhall workhouse on a bright sunny day.
Gressenhall Farm and Workhose. CREDIT: Siofra Connor

Those who frequent the online cabinet of curiosities which is Norfolk Heritage Explorer will instantly recognise the name Edwin J Rose of Norfolk Landscape Archaeology. Take a look at some of his work, HERE before we take a look at more of his work, below.


On December 5 1995, Mr Rose typed out the following report, titled: “The Ghost of Gressenhall Workhouse.”


“Herein,” he wrote, “is set down the true story of the ‘ghost’ of Gressenhall, exaggerated versions of which have been repeated elsewhere.


“When the Norfolk Archaeological Unit as then was took over the east wing, known now as Union House, in late 1973 or early 1974, strange occurrences were reported from the room on the first floor immediately adjacent to the north east stairs, then known as the Spong Room.


“Lights that were turned off last thing were found on in the mornings, stacks of boxes moved from one side of the room to the other during the night, and sometimes during the day when the room was occupied, the windows would fly open.


“(Several years later when a Manpower Services Team were employed in the room one young woman refused to work there because she felt a ‘cold and evil presence’)


“Mr Robert Rickett was one day at a meeting where he met a former matron of the Old Peoples’ Home, formerly in the building. She asked if we had ‘found the haunted room’. The detail she gave without promoting indicated that it was the Spong Room to which she referred.

“She went on to say that the staff had a story of a Green Lady who haunted the room; but in fact, almost every hospital in England has a Green Lady story. The fact that this room was in question is, however, significant.


“In those days, before council control, there were less strict fire regulations and the upstairs corridor contained piles of empty finds boxes. Mr Derek Edwards, returning very late one night to collect something he had forgotten heard the sound of footsteps coming along the upstairs corridors and boxes being knocked over. He ran.


“It has been suggested that such phenomena may be caused when an old building starts to subside and lines of stress form across rooms causing windows and doors to move and floors to slope. It is suggested this can also give rise to static electricity in the air which some people can sense and feel uncomfortable.


“Another incident, which may not be connected, relates to Dr Catherine Hills, when she was excavating at Spong Hill and living at Spong Farm. Setting out late one night to walk from the building back to the farm – there being in those days no housing estate opposite at Beech Road and fewer street lights – she heard the sound of footsteps following her down the drive from the building; whenever she stopped the footsteps stopped, but she could see nobody behind her.


Google map aerial view of field which the site of the Anglo Saxon cemetery at Spong Hill
The site of Spong Hill Anglo Saxon cemetery. CREDIT: Google Maps

“This unnerved her to such an extent that she called at a house further along and they gave her a lift home.”


Other stories were added by Mr Rose.


“Mr Steven Ashley reminds me that some years after the above, a clock on the wall of his office - on the other side of the stairs from the Spong Room – was found one morning in a sink full of water on the other side of the room,” he wrote.


“A policewoman who visited the building in connection with a treasure hunting case stated that she had lived in the building as a young girl when her parents were employed in the old persons’ home. The story of the ghost was well-known at that time and it made her afraid to go upstairs.”



Further reading:


Spong Hill is an Anglo-Saxon burial site located in Norfolk, close to North Elmham. The main excavation of the site was carried out between the 1960s and the 1980s and 2,441 burials and 2,400 artefacts were found. The most notable find was Spong Man, believed to be the lid of a Pagan funerary urn. Find out more here:


A figurine of a man sitting in a chair with his hands covering his ears.
Spong Man pottery lid, on display at the Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery. CREDIT: Geni/Wikipedia


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