Monday, December 17, 2012

Ghostly goings on at the Clifton

Maybe people no longer gather close to the fire at Christmas, a flickering candle the only light to reach the dark recesses of the imagination, listening to tales of ghosts and ghouls.  But ghost stories and Christmas go hand in hand so here's a revisit to a well known Christmas spectre.

Any old building worth its bricks and mortar should have a spectral presence and the Clifton has long
boasted one of its own. Supernatural sightings have included those of a hooded figure, possibly a nun, in keeping with Arkell's website claim that the pub was built on the site of an ancient priory.

However, evidence to support this legend is lacking. The surrounding area once comprised part of the former Kingshill Estate owned by John Harding Sheppard where around 300 houses were built along Clifton, Albion, William, Redcross (renamed Radnor) and Exmouth Streets between 1877 and 1880. The Clifton Hotel, complete with a tiled mural of Brunel's Clifton Suspension Bridge, was built around 1878.

As with so many Swindon Streets, Clifton Street grew piecemeal across a number of years. Among the 19th century builders was Job Day who constructed an unspecified number of cottages in 1882 and Edwin Harvey who built eleven houses in the same year with further properties in 1883. W.H. Read designed Clifton Street Schools in 1884-6 and the Primitive Methodist Chapel, built in 1900, was designed by R.J. Beswick.

To date no documentary evidence of a priory has made an appearance, and neither has the nun. Apparently religious ghosts have slipped out of fashion in recent years.

Ghostly goings on at the Clifton hit local news headlines more than thirty five years ago when during the busy Christmas Day celebrations a poltergeist joined Christmas revellers.

Manager's wife Mrs Blanche Chirgwin reported sherry glasses jumping from shelves behind the bar while her husband recalled an eerie presence in the beer cellar. Then there was the story of a previous landlord's dog that went mad and a jammed attic window found open only to jam again.

One long serving landlord at the Clifton was Cardiff born Henry Jefferies and his wife Frances. Local trade directories place them at the pub in the mid 1880s and Frances was still there at the end of the 19th century.

During their occupancy of the pub, two of the couple's sons died, Edwin in 1887 and Frank ten years later. Henry died in 1896 and is buried with his sons and his wife in nearby Radnor Street Cemetery. Perhaps he pops back occasionally to keep an eye on the business!

The Paranormal Site Investigators (PSI) conducted an overnight investigation at the pub in March 2005. Despite a few bumps in the night the team failed to detect any ghostly activities. And still no sign of the nun.

A Foggy Morning in Radnor Street Cemetery © Andy Preston - for more of Andy's photographs visit

1950s photograph of the Clifton is used courtesy of Arkell's see

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