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Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Sounds of Battle - Civil War Phantom Armies heard in Weymouth?

When I was at the English Civil War Commemoration at Chapelhay Gardens (see previous blog entry) I got talking to Mark Vine, local historian and author of "The Crabchurch Conspiracy". He told me that about ten years ago, at the Chapelhay Tavern, he got talking to a Dutch woman who owned an old house in, he believes, Franchise Street. The conversation got around to the battle of Weymouth and the The Crabchurch Conspiracy and she enquired when exactly the first action had taken place. Mark replied that the first battle had commenced on February 9th at midnight. She seemed astonished and her husband and her just stared at each other. When Mark asked her what the matter was, she told him that every 9th February at around midnight, the distinct sounds of battle could be heard reverberating in and around her house.

"I Don’t know whether she was a bit of a romancer, but she seemed quite genuine and more than a little shocked. I believe her house was at the other end of the road from the pub, down towards Hope Square." Mark told me.

There are many tales in Dorset about phantom armies, for example ghostly Roman legions having been seen along the Ridgeway and perhaps the most famous story is the Phantom Army of Grange Hill, near Creech, recorded in 'History and Antiquities of the County of Dorset' by Rev. John Hutchins. However Mark's story reminds me of a recent encounter mentioned in a letter from Peter Brown, Slough, Berkshire in the Fortean Times Letter page (FT 152 Nov 2001).
"My wife and I had a holiday in Dorset in 1977, during which we found an ideal picnic site just outside Cerne Abbas. It was a lovely sunny day; the entrance to a fallow field was ungated and nearby was a copse of trees perhaps some 10 to 15 metres (33-49ft) deep. Perfect. We had spread our blanket when I became aware of a noise which at first I couldn't identify. It gradually increased in volume until I was quite certain what it was: a large number of horses and riders jostling together, the stamp of hooves, creak of saddles, the chink of bridles.

It could only have come from the copse and, a bit nervously, I went to look. There was nothing and the sounds stopped. In the meantime, my wife went into the copse to answer a call of nature and came out as I returned to the car. She insisted that we move on, and all she could say was: "There's someone in there, someone was watching me." As we packed up our belongings, the sounds started again and we couldn't get away fast enough.

Some years later, I discovered that this particular area was known to have been a English Civil War battlefield."
Should anyone else have a similar story, pertaining either to the area or the english civil war, please do not hesitate and contact the Dark Dorset blog. We would love to hear more.

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