Thursday 23 December 2021

Ghostly goings on in London on a Brompton!

This ghost themed ride was supposed to take place on 31st October but rain stopped play so an alternative date was set aside for 14th November. The theme of the ride was various ghostly goings on in London. As far as London is concerned you could probably cycle around every day to a different location and still not visit all the places that are alleged to have some sort of supernatural story attached. I suppose that is due in part to how far London goes back. 

The start for me was NW8 and soon I found myself in the equally familiar SW7. Once at SW7 I had a breakfast that set me up for the day and then made the short journey to Hyde Park Corner. Being Remembrance Sunday, the area was busy with police and members of the armed forces getting reading for the many parades that would take part later on. 

As time ticked by more riders appeared but the only other Brompton rider was Mr Mac. Once we were all assembled and a few later comers had arrived, we were off. 

Location #1. 50 Berkeley Square

Once the house of former Prime Minister, George Canning, 50 Berkeley Square is claimed to be one of London's most haunted houses. Back in 1859, Thomas Myers lived there. He was soon to be married but given the old heave ho by his betrothed. He took things badly, becoming a recluse and locking himself away in his house and passed away in 1874. 

Those who have stayed in the attic have reported the sight of a strange brow mist. It has also been claimed that a maid went up to the attic to make the bed but never returned. The last thing those downstairs heard was a blood-curdling scream. He died the following day in an asylum. The man she was making the bed for, you would think might have found somewhere else to sleep! He decided to head off to sleep but less that half an hour later, a terrible scream was heard after which was the sound of gunshot.  He was found dead. Since then others had reported the sound of footsteps and strange shapes appearing and then disappearing. I for one wouldn't fancy staying there!

Location #2. Tyburn

Tyburn - which is pretty much located a stones throw from Marble Arch - was the site of public hangings as early as 1108 but its first recorded execution was 1196. From 1571 a triangular wooden scaffold was placed there that allowed simultaneous executions. 

Notorious criminals such as the highwayman, Jack Sheppard, could attract crowds that numbered 200,000. Onlookers would follow the condemned on the 3x mile journey from Newgate Prison to Tyburn. Hanging days were public holidays. 

The last person hanged there was the murderer and highwayman, John Austin in 1785 but since then many, who have been in the area late at night, have reported the sound of someone choking for breath and the sound of something dropping and a rope being strained. Perhaps most terrifying of the lot are the accounts of the light going out and walking into a pair of boots at head height!

Location #3. The Langham 

The Langham is a posh hotel but has quite the reputation for its ghostly goings on. A figure of a man in military uniform, standing by a window on the 4th floor, is said to be the ghost of a a German Prince who jumped out of the window before the First World War.  A ghostly butler can sometimes be seen still trying to serve guests on the 3rd floor. Another ghost with a gaping facial wound can be seen loitering in the corridors. The ghost - supposedly of Napoleon III who stated at the hotel - has been seen in the basement of all places. Perhaps the most famous, is the ghost of a man in Victorian evening wear seen in room #333 who makes an appearance in October! I have only ever visited there once when I treated my mum to a cream tea once I had got my wages for my first ever job. Thankfully, we didn't experience any of this!

Location #4. The World's End.

The first reference to a tavern on this site dates back to 1690. At this time it was rather rural and very different from today. Formally known as 'Mother Red Cap' hauntings can be traced back to a local woman, Jennie Bingham, who was known by, Mother Red Cap locally. This nickname was given to people for two reasons. That she was a landlord...or a witch. Loud screams and blood curdling shrieks have been heard in the pub. In addition loud bumps and footsteps are frequently heard. 

Location #5. Highgate Cemetery. 

Highgate Cemetery is said to one of the most haunted places in London. In the 1970s stories of the Highgate Vampire surfaced. The coffin of a medieval noblemen was said to have been brought over from central Europe and buried at the cemetery in the 18th Century. He rested peacefully until Satanists performed a ritual and woke him up. 

Back in my university days I do recall somehow getting into the cemetery in the early hours of a chilly Thursday morning (I will never forget it). Something startled one of my friends ahead and he turned running screaming. The rest of us did something similar and I have not been back since!!

Running in between the East and West part of Highgate Cemetery is Swains Lane. This get rather steep at places but was not really a problem ion my Brompton. I think the last time I was there might have been an all Brompton ride. 

I do like Swains Lane, possibly for all the wrong reasons. Whenever you go there - and this was no exception - there always seems to be the ultra lycra clad roadie on an expensive carbon road bike. They go tearing off up Swains Lane as if it where a mountain section from the Tour. Much more fun making ones ascent on a Brompton believe me. 

Location #6. Highgate Ponds

Lord Chancellor, Francis Bacon was taking in the air at Highgate during winter. He bought a hen from a nearby house (as you do) and stuffed the body with snow, so as to preserve it. Bacon fell ill almost immediately and died a few days later. Now I know what you are expecting but you are probably going to be wrong. Apparently, the ghost of the chicken he bought can be seen peaking around. You couldn't make it up could you!?

Location #7. The Flask Pub. 

The oldest part of this pub dates back to 1665 and legend had it that the first post-mortem was carried out at the pub, after two grave robbers took a fresh corpse from the nearby cemetery. Infamous highwayman Dick Turpin hid in the basement to evade capture. The main event as it were was in the 1800s when a beautiful young Spanish women, who worked there as a barmaid, became infatuated with with its owner. Expressing her love for him, he explained that he was married. She was devastated to the point that she ended it all and was found hanging in the basement the next day. Zoom forward to today and this location is now a seating area and her ghost can sometimes be seen wiping down tables. In addition the sound of a lady sodding can also be heard. 

Location #8. The Spaniards Inn.

Dick Turpin's father was supposedly the landlord of this establishment and Turpin spent a great deal of time there. The name of the Inn is said to come from two Spanish landlords. They fell in love with the same person, decided to duel to the very death with one of them (Juan) being killed. He is supposed to haunt the pub, perhaps looking for revenge!?

Location #9. Saint Saviours Church.

Christopher Neil-Smith was the vicar of St Saviours and is credited with performing more than 3000 exorcisms in Britain, starting in 1949. He became a notable authority on the subject, especially when a certain film was released in 1970.

Location #10. University College London.

A wonderful university, its buildings are said to be haunted by a young girl, Emma Louise, who appears if one says her name three times. She was supposedly killed in a tunnel between the modern building and the older Cruciform buildings some time ago. 

There were a few more locations but when we passed through Covent Garden spotted a friend going in to Brompton Junction and you can guess the rest.

This was another great London themed ride that I always enjoy a great deal. Many thanks to Nick for organising and being our guide. 

I have been so busy of late. I have been on the odd adventure but haven't really had the time to get more blog posts up. Hopefully normal service will resume. 

Until next time, stay safe out there people!  


  1. There is nothing fun about Swains Lane on any bike! Still don't know why I choose to put myself through it occasionally.

    1. You have to embrace those hills brother! (Even more so on a Brompton)!

    2. I fully embrace the hills (moved back to Welsh valleys, partly to be surrounded by top100 climbs, recently), but Swains can only be considered slightly type-2 fun during Urban Hill Climb, when somehow, the cowbells make it (was going to say easier, but) slightly faster... but also, fantastic, supportive atmosphere. I'd happily enter that again on Brommie.

      More than once I've ridden to Swains with the idea of doing a few hill reps on it, and after a single go up, decided I should ride back to my local for rehydration and pain relief instead. There is also a distinct lack of view, during, and not much of one after.

      Whereas Rhigos or the Bwlch (from Treorchy), lovely views all the way to the top and at the top (assuming weather permits seeing the top).

      Even the 27% ramp from main road to my street isn't as bad as Swains, mostly, because it's shorter, plus, once I'm up that, I'm home ;-)

  2. Another really good read. Thank you. Robert.


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