Today Bridge Street, Peterborough, is a wide pedestrian – and cyclists – area with shops on both side and the Town Hall in the middle on one side. It hasn’t always been like that. For many centuries it was Narrow Bridge Street – a narrow street linking the Market Place and Broad Bridge Street that was then south of what is now Bourges Boulevard. Bridge Street changed in the 1930s and again in the 1970s. Old buildings went – new ones took their place – but – that doesn’t mean the past has gone; far from it! I’d like to tell you a story about a conversation I had in one place that led me to a ghostly story in a city centre shop in Peterborough.
The first one actually starts quite a few miles away on the outskirts of Stamford. I was chatting with an engineer at the place where he was checking all the CCTV cameras in a building. I forget now how the conversation developed but we got talking about ghostly stories and happenings in Peterborough – and he told me of an experience he had had there. This is his story:
He had been called to one of the shops in the city centre because two members of staff had said that they had seen a ghost in their storeroom. They had not been believed but they were adamant about what they had seen and the manager agreed to get the CCTV in the basement checked. ‘My’ man was duly called to ‘fix’ the equipment. He listened to the story from the ladies in question and then set up the CCTV film on his equipment. The 24 hour film started was fast forwarded to the time of the alleged happening. On the word of the two ladies, he slowed the film down to normal speed and the two were clearly seen doing their job.
‘It’s just after this’ one of them said.
The film rolled on. The ladies could be seen moving some items at an angle to the camera – and then the film went blank. For some 30 seconds or so they all had sat watching the film in silence – then the film re-appeared with the two ladies standing open-mouthed, staring towards a corner of the room. ‘Stop the film,’ one of them said. ‘That’s it; that’s when it happened. There had been a man standing there, an old man in old fashioned clothes!’ They described what they had seen; they drew a sketch of the man. He was obviously a priest of sometime in the past. No one really believed them. There was nothing unusual visible on the film so it was re-used a few days later. That was the end of the story.
That had happened quite a while previous to our conversation and the shop in question had now changed ownership and design. The ladies reported experience was a good and totally possible story. There have been times in Peterborough when it was dangerous to follow the ‘wrong’ religion. Loyal followers would risk their lives in supporting their belief. Priests would come and pray and move on; and many houses in Peterborough would have ‘priest holes’ where they could hide.
It was a couple or so years later and I was taking a group on a tour. We stopped at the junction of Priestgate and Bridge Street and I described what it would have been like in centuries past – houses and shops combined – and how the echoes of the past still reverberate around our city. I had made no mention of the story above but one of those ladies was on that tour. ‘I’ve had one of those’ she said to us all – and for the next few minutes she gave us all a graphic description of that experience!
I don’t retell this story very often – we have plenty of them to fit in – but a few months later I briefly told the tale and we were walking along to the next story stopping point. A lady came alongside and said ‘We’ve had things happen in our shop as well.’ I managed to avoid stopping dead in my tracks. ‘Oh’ was all I could say just then.
I’ll tell you about that later-on this week!