When I pulled up beside the ancient St Peter’s Church in Monkwearmouth, it was to track down Hallgarth Square. The place did not feature on any maps of Sunderland that I could find, but an old book in my possession was very clear about the haunting. “Close to St Peter's Church, Monkwearmouth,” the book said, “is Hallgarth Square. One of the workmen’s cottages here was occupied by a miner and his family in the 1880s. Each night as they lay in bed they would hear the most unearthly bloodcurdling screams, from underneath the house. Neighbours also heard the screams so not long after that the building was demolished, and it was while searching among the foundations that the answer to the mystery of the screams was found. It was revealed that at one time on the same site had been a Benedictine Monastery, under which some of the monks had been buried. What was thought to have been a last resting place and burial refuge for the monks, had been far from safe or peaceful. It had been swarming with river rats which had squealed in hunger as they tore into the remains of the monks after burial.” It would seem that the ghosts of the rats went screaming on.
Gruesome stuff, I thought. I wandered around the church and nearby roads, but there was no sign of Hallgarth Square. There were, however, plenty of new buildings in the shape of car showrooms, industrial units and blocks of flats. I asked a woman walking her dog through the churchyard if she knew where the find the elusive square. “Hallgarth Square”, she mused. “I think there was a square down there,” she pointed towards the car showroom, “but that was years ago. All been redeveloped now.”
I later discoverred that Hallgarth Square stood just south of St Peter’s Church, off what is now St Peter’s Way, but was then part of Church Street. The wall that divided the churchyard from the square was standing within living memory, when the square was lined by fairly large town houses. The area is now covered by commercial buildings and no ghostly activity has been reported for years.
from HAUNTED SUNDERLAND by Rupert Matthews
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