Saturday, 15 May 2010

Ghostly Goings On at Fawkham Green in Kent

Fawkham Green is one of those charmingly quaint villages that manage to survive just outside the M25 where the sprawl of London housing estates has not yet reached. Of course, there are commuters here and, on occasion, the roar of engines from nearby Brands Hatch motor racing circuit can disturb the calm, but on the whole it is a quiet place.

It was a quiet place five centuries ago, but that did not stop this little village from being the scene of a quite horrific crime. A crime which has left a ghost who wanders to this day. A gang of footpads were making their way through the village towards a main road where they hoped to find a rich prize. In Pennis Lane they came across a lone nun, peacefully walking towards Canterbury.

The toughs waylaid the nun, perhaps in the hope of finding a rich golden crucifix or other treasure of the church on her. The poor woman had none, being one of the clergy of that century who kept her vows of poverty. Disappointed in their search for plunder, the robbers turned to violence and then to rape. The nun’s screams and yells reached the ears of a pair of local gentlemen who came galloping to her rescue. They drove off the robbers, and carried the battered woman to nearby Pennis House but to little avail. The nun was too badly injured and died a few days later.

But, before she died the nun blessed those who had rescued her. She promised that if her skull was kept in Pennis House then good fortune and prosperity would come to the owners. But if her skull was ever removed then bad luck and adversity would surely follow. In consequence of these somewhat bizarre final words, the owners of Pennis House duly had the nun buried without her head and kept the severed skull in their house.

Only once, in the mid-19th century, has the skull not rested there. The then owner did not hold with medieval superstition. He was a rational Victorian scientist and believed only in solid facts. He had the skull taken away and buried in the churchyard. 

A few days later it became clear that there was an intruder in the house. Or so the scientist thought. Doors were slammed shut. Doors were thrown open. Objects were moved. Then the muttering began. It was like a human voice, but faint as if heard through a shut door. No matter where the scientist and his staff looked, they could find nobody who could be causing the disturbances. The house was searched from cellar to attic and back again. There was nobody there, but still the doors opened and closed, objects moved and a faint muttering was heard. In the end the poor owner gave in. The skull was unearthed and brought back to Pennis House. Peace returned.

Not so the tranquillity of Pennis Lane. Several times a year, as dusk begins to fall, the nun walks again. She floats along with no sign of her feet moving beneath her robes. Suddenly she stops, turns and begins to run. Clearly frightened, the nun seems to be screaming, but no sounds are heard. Then she vanishes, suddenly and abruptly. Finally comes the sound of pounding hooves which thunder down the lane to the spot where the nun vanishes, where they stop just as abruptly as the phantom nun vanished. Presumably the ghosts are replaying the fatal events of that summer’s evening five centuries ago.

This is an extract from Haunted Places of Kent by Rupert Matthews

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