Thursday, 13 January 2011

The Most Haunted pub in Hampshire (says the landlady)


The Brushmaker’s Arms at Upham is easy enough to find, but actually visiting it requires a bit more dedication. The B2177 runs through Lower Upham. You need to turn north in the middle of the village along the lane signposted to Baybridge. This will lead you to Upham itself. The lane enters the village, then turns sharp right past the church. About 100 yards after this turn is a narrow side lane to the left. The Brushmaker’s Arms is up this side turning. It is no good driving up the turning, however, as the lane is far too narrow to park on. Best to leave your car near the church and walk, though make sure you have not obstructed any of the driveways or private parking places with which the village abounds.

The effort is well worth it for the Brushmaker’s Arms is exactly the sort of friendly, jovial local pub that everyone would want to have at the end of their road. Apart from the murders, that is.

Of course, both killings happened many years ago. Nobody has been murdered here for simply ages.

The less said about the gruesome events down in the cellar the better. They do not make for family reading and, in any case, have nothing to do with the haunting. It is the murder in the upstairs front bedroom that causes all the trouble and which brought me to this charming pub.

“I’ll fetch Jill”, said the barman when I called, and he trotted off upstairs.

“Here about the old feller upstairs?” asked a bearded man nursing a pint of ale at the bar. I confirmed that I was.

“Come to the right place for ghosts,” the man continued. He pointed out a framed certificate hanging on the wall by his head. It was from Teacher’s Whisky and confirmed that the Brushmaker’s Arms had come in the top 12 of the “Most Haunted Pubs in Britain Contest” held in 1982. I asked the man if he had seen the ghost.

“No trouble there,” chipped in a man sitting at a table by the window. “You’re talking to our resident spirit right now.” He laughed. “Been here long enough to qualify as a ghost yet?” he asked the bearded man.

“Only since I retired from the BBC,” came the reply. “What’s that 15 years now. Not as long as Rob there.” He pointed at the other man at the table, a distinguished looking gent with silver hair. “How long you been coming here, Rob.”

“Ooooh. Must be near seventy years now,” declared Rob. “Man and boy, I been coming here. Course back then they weren’t too particular about how old a boy was. If you done your hard work on the farm, you got your beer. Very haunted this place, mind.”

“Yep,” continued his friend. “Saw it myself in here. A few years back now. I was sitting at the bar, bout where you are, when the bottles started moving. They fell off the shelf, then flew across the bar. It was like someone was throwing them, but they didn’t break. Just shot across the room and landed.”

It looked like the banter might go on for some time, but the landlady Jill arrived at that point to fill me in. The ghost is that of a 16th century man named Mr Chickett. It was he who had the building constructed as part house, part brush factory - hence the pub’s unique name. As the man grew older, his fortune grew greater. He would sit upstairs in his bedroom, counting out his gold and silver coins before stashing them away safely in a hidden compartment. It was not, however, hidden well enough. One morning his workers arrived to find old Mr Chickett battered to death, his room ransacked and his money stolen.

Ever since then, the ghost has walked. The most usual manifestation is the sound of footsteps which are heard in the bar directly underneath the room where the murder was done. Less often the sound of chinking coins is heard from the same small room. Objects being moved around in the bar are a regular occurrence, though they are not actually seen to move very often. More usually an object is found in one place when it had been put in another.

The ghost himself is seen only rarely. “Last time was about three years ago,” said Jill. “I was upstairs doing some paperwork in the office. Suddenly I heard the door to the front bedroom [where the murder was committed] slam shut, very hard and loud. I looked round and there was the outline of a man, like a shadow on the wall, moving off. Only it couldn’t be a shadow as the sun was not out. It was definitely a man moving down the corridor.” Jill smiled. “Mind you, we haven’t seen him since. People hear him of course. But I think he must like us. We get no trouble.”

To be honest, I had not really been listening to this last bit. The barman had carried a plate of steak pie with potatoes and carrots past to the talkative chaps at the table. It was, I thought, time to tuck in. And the pie was truly delicious.

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