Thursday, 30 April 2009

Black Swan Hotel - Devizes
















The Black Swan Hotel in Market Square Devizes was formally a private residence until in 1737 it became a coaching inn. The Black Swan stands opposite where the town gallows once stood. The current function room used to serve as a court of judgement and Masonic meeting place for the towns dignitaries in the 1700s. I’m sure many a soul was placed on trial and found guilty within the confines of that room and how convenient it must have been to have the gallows so close.

The late 15th century cellars beneath the hotel predate the current building at a time when the site was occupied by the Nags Head Inn. There are five chambers in all leading off from the centre structure, one of these chambers appears to have been deliberately bricked up. Local historian and author of several books on Devizes subterranean tunnels - John Girvan, sort permission to carefully removed several bricks and in so doing discovered what he believes is a labyrinth of secret tunnels which run under Market Square and possibly connect with other buildings including Devizes Castle. It is within the main cellar that one Ambrose Saintsbury is thought to have kept his horse and a change of clothing and may well have used the tunnels for his nocturnal transgressions

Ambrose Saintsbury was one of several proprietors of the Inn in the early 1700s. It was alleged he led a double life. A respected publican and pillar of the community by day and a ruthless highwayman by night. The ghostly apparition of a man dressed in black, believed by some to be Ambrose Saintsbury, has been seen sat astride a horse in the cellar. The spectre is often accompanied by a woman who’s identity is unknown. It may also be the ghost of Ambrose Saintsbury who occasionally pops up in the bar and chats with customers. On several occasions patrons have been surprised by a man wearing dark clothing and a hat who engages them in conversation, only to abruptly and suddenly disappear before their eyes.

Guest bedroom No.4 is reputedly haunted by a woman dressed in white. She stands by the window gazing solemnly out onto Market Square below. Those that have seen her describe her ghostly presence silently gliding from the window then passing through a wall directly behind the bed. Who she is, and why she should haunt room 4 is unknown. Some say she may be the ghost of a woman who became trapped and perished during a fire in the hotel in the mid 1700s.

The apparition in room 4 has allegedly seen off many guests who have left in the middle of the night feeling utterly ghastly. Some complaining of stomach cramps and nausea but most disturbing are those who claim to have felt a pressure about their necks as if being strangled. I must say when my partner and I visited room 4, I felt nothing out of the ordinary, my partner however complained of feeling cold even though the radiators were on full.

The current proprietors - Mike and Yvonne Wright, took over the hotel in March 2009 and were blissfully unaware of the Black Swan’s reputation as being one of England’s most haunted establishments; until recently that is. The following is an extract taken from the Wiltshire Gazette and Herald newspaper on 23rd April 2009:

Mrs Wright said: “So many people have been phoning up about doing late night vigils, we agreed to continue them. Last week we had a group in from 11pm to 4.30am. Most of the time was spent in the cellar but then we all visited room 4. One of the girls in the party said she felt a presence next to her. She reached out her hand and she said she felt it getting very hot. She was getting quite distressed so we turned the light on. Her hand was dripping with sweat. Michael Murphy, our daughter's partner, held a thermometer at the spot and it went up from 17 to 27.6 degrees Celsius as we watched. There was no heat source in the room. We just can’t explain it.”

A few days later a film crew making a documentary for Wadworth brewery booked in. When they were offered room 4, they turned it down.

Mrs Wright said: "They said they had been on the filming of the TV programme Most Haunted when it visited the Black Swan a few years ago and they didn’t want to spend the night in room 4."

It has not discouraged others however, as Mr and Mrs Wright are now inundated with bookings for room 4.

The Black Swan has become extremely popular over the years and gained notoriety for its plethora of hauntings. Teams of ghost hunters, physic researchers, mediums and the media have all held vigils here.

Should you visit the medieval market town of Devizes, then why not check into the Black Swan Hotel for your stay, and if you are feeling particularly brave, then book room 4, I strongly suggest you ring in advance mind.

If you would like to arrange a vigil of your own, then contact the Black Swan using the link below:
For more information on The Black Swan:
http://www.blackswandevizes.co.uk/

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