With its rich fabric of history dating back to the Roman Times, it’s no surprise that Derby can lay claim to being the ghost capital of the UK. If one of the prevailing theories amongst ghost hunters – that an event full of emotion and tragedy can leave an imprint or ghost for many years later – is true, then Derby has also seen plenty of this. Below we’ve detailed just a few of the ghostly sightings in and around Derby. We will be adding more, so if you want to be updated on this, then sign up here so you don’t miss out on more details about Derby’s ghostly past.
For all of those interested in ghosts and all things spooky we would heavily recommend that you book a spot on Derby’s famous Ghost Walks and Vigils. Ran by Richard Felix, they’re a truly memorable experience and we’d urge you to check them out. You can find more information by clicking here.
The Ghost of Richard Thorley – Agard Street, Derby.
The murderer Richard Thorley and his victim Eliza Morrow.
On April 11, 1862, Richard Thorley became the last man to be publicly executed in Derby. His heinous crime was the brutal murder of Eliza Morrow on Agard Street on February 13, 1862. Thorley, 26, was in a relationship with Eliza, but was constantly jealous of any form of attention that she received from other men and had shown himself to be an abusive bully. On the night in question, he had forced his way into her house in a rage and cut her throat in a jealous frenzy. Covered in blood, he had gone to the nearest pub and claimed he had been in a fight with a gang, but his crime was uncovered and he met the hangman’s rope.
Workers at the old Longdon’s Fabrics Mill on Agard Street soon began to report unexplainable noises that happened with such a frequency that they eventually adjusted to them whilst others reported seeing the ghosts of both Thorley and Morrow on Agard Street on multiple occasions.
Now the site of student accommodation, many young adults arrive in Derby unaware of the ghastly history of where they live.
The Ghosts of Old Prisoners – St. Peter’s Street/Cornmarket, Derby.
The junction of St Peter’s Street and Cornmarket was once the location of Derby County Gaol and it was here in 1610 that a terrible tragedy occurred.
Standing alongside Markeaton Brook, the gaol was prone to flooding and following a particularly heavy period of rain the brook burst it banks, resulting in water flowing directly into the gaol. The flood was so bad that three of the prisoners, trapped within their cells, were unable to escape and were drowned.
Many people have claimed to have heard the anguished and panicked cries of the men in the years since – echoing the cries they would have made all those years ago. A lady who worked at the old Marks and Spencer on St. Peter’s Street even reported leaving work and hearing a ‘ghostly wail’ so vivid that she assumed someone was lying injured nearby. When she went to investigate she quickly realised that the sounds were coming from beneath the road. Not surprisingly, she was unable to sleep that night and it’s also not surprising that something so tragic has left a presence still heard and sensed to this day.
Seymour’s Bar – Cheapside, Derby.
Based next to the old St.Werburgh’s Church, Seymour’s Bar has long since hosted the ghost of an elderly woman within its walls. There has been no explanation offered as to who the lady might be and what the purpose of her haunting is, however over the years multiple people have reported seeing an old lady dressed in grey.
Her appearance is often accompanied by the smell of lavender and some employees have described her as a ‘watchful presence’ while others say they have been touched by unseen hands.
One thing everybody has agreed on is that they never felt any danger or malevolence from the lady, so whoever she may be, and whatever the reason she has remained after her mortal time, she seems to offer no threat to anyone who has been visited by her.
The Ghost of PC Joseph Moss – Lock-Up Yard, Derby.
The Lock-Up Yard or Derby Fishmarket was once the location of the Derby Borough Police Lock-Up. It was here on July 12, 1879 that PC Joseph Moss was fatally shot, losing his life the next day.
The culprit was Gerald Mainwaring who was staying at the time at the Royal Hotel in Victoria Street. During his stay he had purchased 300 rounds of ammunition for a revolver his brother had purchased for him. On the fateful day in question, Mainwaring had got drunk with a local woman – Annie Green – and the pair of them had jumped into a horse and carriage on Bradshaw Street (now Bradshaw Way) to head to the city centre.
As they approached the corner of Cornmarket and Victoria Street, PC John Stamp had observed their reckless driving and had unsuccessfully attempted to stop them. Alongside another policeman – PC John Shirley – they pursued the carriage on foot along Ashbourne Road before finally apprehending Mainwaring at the Traveller’s Rest public house. With both Mainwaring and Annie Green becoming violent they were both escorted to the Lock-Up.
It was at the Lock-Up that, whilst Annie was being restrained by officers, Mainwaring pulled out the revolver and shot PC Moss in the side. As PC Price moved to disarm him, Mainwaring fired more shots and before he was ultimately restrained, one hit him in the arm.
At 12.55pm the following day, PC Joseph Moss died from his injuries and was buried with full military honours in Nottingham Road Cemetery.
Mainwaring was found guilty of murder but it was disclosed by some jury members that the jury had been spilt into two groups of six, one of which wanted a verdict of manslaughter and the other wanted a verdict of wilful murder. In addition to this, the jury chairman had refused to deliver a decision, so the choice was made to draw lots to elect a new chairman who would enact a casting vote – in this case murder. Once this news reached the press controversy erupted and Mainwairing had his death sentence commuted and he served 15 years in prison.
On many occasions since then, the ghost of PC Joseph Moss has been reported to have been both seen and heard in the Lock-Up yard. Due to the tragic nature of his death, it’s hardly surprising that something remains and echoes long after that fateful day.
The former Royal Bank of Scotland – Cornmarket, Derby.
During building works in the 1970s, three workmen were tasked with demolishing walls within the building’s basements and it was here that a very young ghost made his first of many appearances.
Spotting a hidden cavity during their work, one of the men saw a small boy sitting down in ragged clothing. When the workman asked the boy where he had come from, he received the reply: “I’ve come from the inn.”
The workman ran to fetch his colleagues, but when he returned the boy had simply vanished, although he had not passed the workman and there was no other exit route.
Not long after, the boy began to appear and make his presence known, in not only the newly-erected Royal Bank of Scotland, but also in the neighbouring Acropolis Café. According to staff from both businesses, there were many unexplainable noises and objects moving of their own accord.
It is thought that the inn the boy was referring to may have been the Tiger Inn, which once occupied much larger premises, although the origins of the boy remain unsolved to this day.
The Old Bell Hotel – Sadler Gate, Derby.
As Derby’s last surviving coaching inn, the history of the Old Bell Hotel dates back to 1650. As well as being a hub for travel and hospitality over the years, it has also housed a doctor’s surgery, a courtroom and, on occasions, its cellars were used as prison cells.
It is of no surprise then, that The Old Bell Hotel can lay claim to being possibly the most haunted location in Derby.
Room 29 is said to be the single most haunted room of the building and is the place where the ghost of Mabel, a former linen maid when the Old Bell was still a coaching inn, committed. She took her own life in the room after finding out that her lover, who had previously taken the King’s Shilling to join the army, had been killed in combat whilst she was pregnant with his child.
With another maid alleged to have been murdered by Jacobites in 1745, it is perhaps to be expected that over the years there have been various sightings of ghostly figures, unexplained sounds and objects being moved by unseen entities. A lady in 18th Century costume has been seen in both the 1930s and 1950s in the presence of small children.
Perhaps it is only to be expected that a building with such a rich and varied history has left an indelible mark from many of the people who frequented it but who are no longer with us.