Ghosts of Cippenham

There is a disappointing lack of ghostly and other supernatural phenomena recorded in Cippenham. The only building credited in books with being haunted is Cippenham Place. In Ghosts Along The Thames by Anne Mitchell, 1972, it says:

Another old house in the town is Cippenham Place. This is in Cippenham Lane, now another suburb but once part of the ancient manor of Cippenham, the records of which go back to 1042. Cippenham Place was built in 1550 on the site of the old Manor House, the existence of which was recorded in 1501 though it may have been standing for many years before that date. It is believed that there was yet another building before it on the same site, the ancient Cippenham Palace. Edward II rowed up the Thames to Cippenham Palace during the years between 1307 and 1327, for there was then a navigable backwater which ran close to the house. Like all old houses should, it has its legend and its ghost. In the days of Elizabeth I, the then owner was returning home late one night and fell into the moat and was drowned. From that time on, the legend says, on the anniversary of his death a procession of cowled monks circles the house three times; they carry an empty coffin and are searching for his remains. The present owners view the legend with affectionate scepticism. But, come the next anniversary, in May, they will again hold vigil in order to give it every chance of proving right.

Cippenham Place. A timber framed Tudor house of 1550 which stands in partially moated compound.

There are many inaccuracies in the above and the tale itself is hardly convincing. The apparition must have been seen a number of times for it to have been noted that it appears during May. It must have been quite long-lasting (compared to the more usual fleeting spectral shades) given that the monks got to circle the house thrice. It would have been much easier for the monks to put the coffin down and fan out to look for the dead owner, but perhaps that would look less ghostly. I wonder how observers of the apparition could tell that the coffin was empty. It seems unfortunate for the monks that their spirits have to return rather than the spirit of the person who drowned.

An acquaintance told me his own experience of an apparition in Cippenham (or more accurately Haymill), which bears some minor similarity to the above. When John was in his early twenties, he and his brother had gone to a New Year’s Eve party in 1992/3 held at a house in the Fairway, Burnham. Long after the party had ended they stayed conversing with the hosts and other friends. At around 4 am, they decided that they would avoid an expensive taxi journey and walk to John’s flat in Cippenham. It was an unusually clear, warm night, but very blustery. For no particular reason, they chose a route of Whittaker road and then Littlebrook Avenue. By that point on the journey, they hadn’t encountered any other person or even (that John could remember) seen a car go by.

Littlebrook Avenue runs alongside the Millie nature reserve. The avenue runs adjacent to a watercourse inside the Millie which is connected to the moat at Cippenham Place. John and his brother were on the opposite side of the lane. John glanced up ahead thought he saw someone. A few seconds later, sure enough, there was a figure on the far side of the road about 100 yards ahead walking towards them. The first noticeable thing about this stranger was that he was walking rapidly, taking large strides. A few seconds more, and he was close enough for John to discern that the man was tall, broadly built and bald-headed, but strangely he appeared to be a wearing monk’s habit. It instantly occurred to John that the man must be returning from New Year’s fancy dress party. Not being quite sure of what his eyes were telling him in the gloom, John turned to his brother and said “What do you see up ahead?”. His brother looked ahead and said incredulously “There’s a monk!”. What followed a few seconds later John found very difficult to describe adequately. “As I continued to watch the man walking towards us, he decomposed into the branches of the hedgerow that were being blustered by the wind. Not only was he gone, it was as if he had never been there at all and his apparent form had just been a trick of the branches moving about in the wind. But I had been watching him for some seconds and my brother saw him clearly too without me suggesting to him what I was seeing”. John never discussed the story much with his brother after the time “there was nothing we could say about it. Neither of us believed it was supernatural but we were totally mystified as to the explanation”. There looked are no known published references either to hauntings or monks in the area of Haymill.

It can be creepy walking in Littlebrook Avenue along by the Millie

A non-supernatural explanation is most likely. Perhaps there was indeed someone returning from a fancy dress that night. Seeing two strangers approaching and fearing that they might be trouble ‘the monk’ decided to dart through one of the entrances to the Millie just at the moment, the brothers were exchanged looks of disbelief. When John looked up again his eyes seized on some movements of branches which he took for the monk he had just been watching. His mind succeeded in mapping the waving branches into the shape of the striding monk but the visage quickly broke down.

John’s account seemed at least more convincing than the Cippenham Place story. When I was a boy and I lived in Cippenham, locals were just as familiar with a different ghostly story about Cippenham Place. This story was that during the English Civil War, a round-head soldier had kicked a toddler down the stairs of Cippenham Place, causing the child’s death. Ever since then, on rare occasions, crying can be heard that appears to come from the bottom of the stairs but will abruptly stop when the hearer approaches. This story, although not a dramatic as a spectral procession of monks, seems more believable. Whereas there seems to be no record of monks having resided in the area, the account of a skirmish at Cippenham shows that villagers certainly did experience some rough treatment at the hands of round-head troops.

 


 

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5 Responses to Ghosts of Cippenham

  1. Dave Hill says:

    It is in LOWER Cippenham Lane, when I was a kid the Griffith’s owned it, I played with sons Hugh & Stephen but in the barn, never in the house. In my bro’s time (he was 6 years older) he played there with Vandervell boys, their father owned it, of bearing and racing car fame. Dunno about your ghosts!

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    • Admin says:

      I agree that Cippenham Place certainly is in Lower Cippenham Lane, but I wanted to quote precisely what Anne Mitchell’s book says. It is interesting that you never got to hear the story. Perhaps it didn’t exist much earlier than 1972, when the book was written. Anne Mitchell doesn’t reveal her sources. I lived practically opposite Cippenham Place for around 8 years but unfortunately never witnessed a single ghostly monk, let alone a whole procession of them.

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  2. Rosemaria Coakley says:

    I lived in the gables on Cippenham lane. That was haunted. I heard crying. Foot steps, doors opening. And things being moved around at night time. Was not scared as it’s only the living that hurt you.

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    • Dreadnaught says:

      Thank you for your comment. Where is the gables, and how long ago was this?

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      • Rosemaria Coakley says:

        The Gables is the large house at the end of Westgate playing field. Next to the police houses. Not sure if it’s still standing. As I left Slough 15 yrs ago.

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