Guest writer Jason Hollis tells how a childhood visit to Palmers Green inspired a life long interest in ghostly goings on – and a book about the spooky side of Enfield
In 1981 I went on a school trip to Broomfield House. This was a few years before the first of the fires that sadly reduced the once fine building to the shell it is today and had I known its fate that day I might have paid more attention, for I don’t remember much about the visit.
One recollection I do have however was that our guide led my class down into the cellars, which were accessed via an exterior door at the front of the house. Once we had all filed down the narrow steps and into the corridor at the bottom, our guide proceeded to tell us a story.
Many years ago, we were told, sheep grazed in the fields around the house and on one occasion a stray lamb found its way into the cellars and was accidentally locked in. Its lifeless body was discovered some days later and it is said that sometimes you can still hear its sad bleating, calling for its mother.
That was the end of the tour and we all turned around to file back along the corridor towards the bright sunlight awaiting us at the top of the stairs. As we did so the desperate call of a lost, lonely sheep began to call out from somewhere behind us, causing a stampede of suddenly worried children running up the stairs. I was close enough to our guide to realise that he had one of those toys that make an animal noise when turned upside down. It was a marvellous moment although I was somewhat disappointed that the ghost story was not genuine, for that’s what made me tick… and it still does.
I live in Hertfordshire but was born and lived in Enfield for over thirty years. The Borough is full of locations said to be haunted but few have ever been featured in books and it always annoyed me that I couldn’t read about those places in any of the books I had collected about ghosts. I eventually decided that the only way I would get to read about Enfield’s ghosts would be to write the book myself and I started my research in 2000, never thinking that it would take thirteen years to complete it. That’s not to say I spent thirteen years writing my book. I gave up a number of times and life had a habit of taking precedence. In that time I courted and married my lovely wife, faced the uncertainty of redundancy and re-employment and became a father to two beautiful children.
Haunted Enfield was published in October 2013 and I have been very pleased by its positive reception over the past year. I believe it will appeal to people with an interest in Enfield’s history, even if they have no interest in ghosts, as I have included a lot of little known historical information throughout. Featured locations include Trent Park, Forty Hall, Myddelton House, Capel Manor and Salisbury House. There are a collection of pubs, a couple of grisly murders, an examination of ghost stories from around Edmonton and tales of witchcraft and devil worship in Winchmore Hill. Sadly, I could not find any real ghost stories connected to Broomfield House, except for a vague report of strange lights in the park and stories from the rest of Palmers Green were also thin on the ground. The only story I did include was of the Intimate Theatre, where a dressing room is said to be haunted by an actor who suffered a fatal heart attack in the 1930’s.
Stories that didn’t make it into the book include the man who was tapped on the shoulder in the theatre behind The Fox pub when there was nobody sitting close enough to do so in the row behind him. Another story tells of the apparitions of a woman and boy seen in a house somewhere in Palmers Green. According to an Enfield Gazette article from 1998, the tenants of the house went to the council’s Local History Officer who confirmed to them that a widow and her teenage son had been killed in an air raid during the Second World War. If I ever have enough material for a second volume I may well include these stories and would therefore welcome any further information about them or any other hauntings.
Haunted Enfield is published by The History Press and may be ordered from them direct or via all the usual book stores and on-line sites.