A ghost of a chance…

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I’m not comfortable with this, but bear with me, please.

Ghosts and such things; a rumination…

This is an intriguing one for me. I’ve hesitated to run it, but after discussions with a few mates I’ve decided to push it out. I make no comment on the subject matter, other than to point out that ghost stories are part of not history, but folklore. All such oral tales are culturally significant and therefore they should be recorded in my view, as long as they’re identified as what they are.

I’ve heard ghost tales in Brownhills relating to Engine Lane and the former Coombe House site, and naturally, they circulate about local pubs – I get four or five hits looking for local pub ghosts every week. Hauntings would seem to be good business.

This all started because occasional local blogger Brownhills Barry ran a piece last January about a supposed ghost at the old clinic in Pier Street, Brownhills. In his triumph (or it may be a Vauxhall), he wrote a second about a ‘Mysterious Market Inspector’.

In reference to Barry’s tales of the unexpected, I posted this on my 365daysofbiking Tumblr on Janurary 12th, 2013:

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It was a grim day – remember it well.

January 12th – I returned to Brownhills to pop to Tesco – never a great experience.

Heading back, I looked over the old market site, and up Pier Street to the High Street past the site of the old clinic. This land was once the site of a pub called The Pier, or Fortune of War; latterly, it hosted a busy market. Now, it sits derelict, set aside for a new Tesco development that never came. It has been empty, deserted and neglected for years now, and looks set to remain that way for a long time to come.

Local occasional blogger and Jack-the-lad Brownhills Barry recently speculated there were ghosts here. There are none. All that stalks here are the shadows of the past and it’s promises, and the darkness of lost horizons.

Sometimes, the tale you tell is lost in the one you left untold.

All, some or none of this may or may not be related to me posting a 1904 ghost story found in the Lichfield Mercury last year by Peter ‘Pedro’ Cutler, which I had an uneasy feeling about running, but readers did seem to enjoy, even if the writer clearly was heavily informed by Dickens.

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I’ve heard ghost tales about the site of the old Coombe House, but remain firmly in the sceptical camp.

So, I toss it out to readers to reply with your thoughts to this: a few weeks ago Nicholas Duffy from the West Midlands Ghost Club wrote to me, and here’s what he had to say:

Hiya Bob,

Just dropping you a brief note to compliment you on such a cracking blog! I have especially enjoyed reading through the more ‘spooky’ stuff that you’ve mentioned from time to time.

Of particular interest was the piece that you wrote on the alleged haunting at Brownhills Market; a matter that I’d been vaguely aware of for some years, but had always longed to discover more about.., if at all possible. I believe it must have been over 20 years ago now that I first saw a very brief reference to the matter, but I believe the only detail given was that there was occasionally a female ghost seen there, etc. 

Speaking to a Brownhills resident some decade or so ago – on a totally unrelated matter, I hasten to add – he happened to mention the subject to me and suggested that he ‘knew’ who the ghost might actually be? Reflecting on an even from some years earlier, he said that a young (unnamed) woman from the area had gone missing and, so it was presumed by most, had possibly ‘run away’ with some man to live elsewhere. I don’t know how true the details are, but he said a number of people had reported something of a ‘nasty niff’ hanging over the market place for some while subsequently; a matter that was investigated – drains were looked into and so on – but nothing could really be found to account for the unsavoury odour.

Yes – I suppose you can guess what came next? Some while after, someone happened to be mooching about in some undergrowth – behind a wall bordering part of the market – and the unfortunate girls body was discovered!?

Needless to say, if this was a genuine occurrence in the reasonably recent history of the Brownhills region (as it was surely portrayed to yours truly) then there should be a record – or perhaps local rumour/oral record – of the sad event?

[Bob’s note: I don’t recall the timeline; it may have been when the house/flats in Ferrie Grove were built (1990s?), or may have been when the area was cleared for the Tesco/market development in 1985, a body of a woman – said to have died of natural causes – was found in the undergrowth on wasteground at the rear of the shops near Pier Street. There was no foul play recorded and the lady had been there for a lengthy period of time. There was certainly no manhunt of any kind, and I’ve never heard the odour element alluded to before, although there are two drain breather vents in the corner of the market place that used to honk to high heaven on a bad day. Feel free to correct my possibly incorrect memory here.]

If you were still on the look-out for Brownhills hauntings to cover on your blog, then I believe that I have a couple or three references that might be of some interest to you, perhaps? If you’d like to drop me a brief note at some point, I would be more than happy to share details with you….

My very best wishes to you – and keep up the stirling work!!

Regards,
Nick Duffy
West Midlands Ghost Club (Est. 1989)

Thanks to Nick for his kind words, and I put it to you readers. Interested in this stuff? I am, but in a purely folkloric sense. Do you remember the lady being found? Please be mindful of sensitivities there, if commenting.

I welcome input on this. BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com, or comment below.. Cheers.

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Post-industrial urban environments are often felt to be ghostly and haunting. But are they, really?

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4 Responses to A ghost of a chance…

  1. Hi, I run a blog covering Smestow Valley LNR. I have started a nature network to protect our patches and coordinate wildlife surveys. please could you e-mail smestowsightings@gmail.com and I can send you more information. Regards, Chris Millward movingmountains4nature.blogspot.co.uk. Thank you

  2. Steve says:

    I’d love to hear more ghostly tales. In my opinion, folklore is an important part of local history and needs documenting.

  3. Nick Duffy says:

    To quote: “Interested in this stuff? I am, but in a purely folkloric sense”.

    I should have possibly illustrated a little further in my recent note and pointed out that this is also very much my take on the overall subject in question. While my own personal belief system re. such matter has been somewhat fluid over the years, I currently do not ‘believe in ghosts’ in the common sense of the word and tend to look at the overall topic as a heady mixture of psychology, cultural and social conditioning / motifs and influence from the personal belief system of the individuals concerned, etc. (However, in mentioning the above, I do regard myself as an objective when it comes to this sort of thing, so wouldn’t presume to actually deny the possibility of a supernatural realm of some kind, simply because I do not happen to personally believe in such, of course).

    It should probably be mentioned that I’ve been questioned numerous times over the years as to exactly ‘why’ I might bother to pursue research in this subject, despite the fact that I don’t believe in such things…..? I think – at least in part – the answer to that query is quite aptly summed up in the comment by Steve above: “In my opinion, folklore is an important part of local history and needs documenting”. Expanding on that slightly, the subject of ghosts and hauntings has been an integral part of human experience since time immemorial and is an important aspect of social history and our very cultural make-up…….

  4. David Evans says:

    Hi Bob
    Brownhills Urban District Council
    Meeting of the Finance Committee, 3 April 1957
    minute 1006 Coombe House- Caretaker
    “The Engineer and Surveyor reported that the caretaker had been involved in considerable extra duties by reason of the recent work of extension at Coombe House to accommodate the Medical Officer of Health…that the additional accommodation had brought extra caretaking duties……”

    regards

    David

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