Visitors, workmen, and night watchmen are among those who have claimed to witness paranormal activity at Bush House in Pembroke, Wales. From phantom ladies and vanishing gamekeepers, here are some of the reports from the old Meyrick family home.
Bush House, Pembroke, the family home for centuries of the Meyrick family, was demolished after a bad fire at the beginning of the century and rebuilt in 1905 as a grand mansion in the fin de siècle style. But fifty years later taste, the social climate, and the cost of upkeep had changed so dramatically that after standing derelict for some time the house was sold to the local authority to be converted - in a last glorious fling of the tripartite education system - into the boarding house for the new Pembroke Dock Grammer School which was being built nearby.
Among the workmen employed on the site were two Mancunians, George Hesketh and his son Roy, and a young Italian, known only as Toni. In August 1955 all three were asked to find alternative accommodation as their landlady had relatives coming to stay - a not uncommon situation for families who live near the sea. Unable to find other lodgings and refused permission by the clerk of the works to use the partly-completed school, the three men decided rather reluctantly to use, at least temporarily, one of the more habitable rooms on the first floor of the old Bush House.
Not realising how brief their tenancy would be they built beds from waste timber and because the electricity had long since been cut off, acquired a Tilley (paraffin) lamp and made makeshift cooking arrangements.
They had expected the atmosphere of the empty, echoing, and gloomy house to be a little disconcerting when everyone had left, but the first signs that something was more seriously amiss came late that night when the light from the lamp began to fade. When it was attended to it burnt up brightly, but almost immediately began to grow dim again. Simultaneously there came a continuous dull thudding on the doors and walls of the room. As the three lay in the darkness, tense, sleepless, and silent, the Italian felt the overcoat he was using as a bedcover being slowly but relentlessly tugged from him. Leaping up, he bolted the one door which still had a lock, and made sure the other would not open by nailing it firmly to the frame with battens of wood.
But the intense hammering continued, and the following day, unable to face another night in the room, the men removed all of their belongings to a room on the top floor. Here, despite their apprehensions, all was quiet and uneventful and exhausted by the previous twenty-four hours, they fell asleep quickly.
About 2am, Toni woke and felt drawn to the window that overlooked the garden wilderness below: a moment later his cries brought the Heskeths to his side, and they too saw, surrounded by an eerie light that made her clearly distinguishable, a lady "dressed in a crinoline" walking steadily but soundlessly up and down a path beside the house. As the three men watched in terror - George Hesketh through binoculars he always carried - she moved towards an outhouse and seemed to melt through the ivy-covered wall.
That was the end: grabbing their clothes they tore out of the building, and carefully avoiding the track where they had seen the apparition, they ran to the new school where they spent the rest of the night, uncomfortable and shivering. In the morning, fortified by the daylight and their mates, they examined the wall where they had seen the figure disappear, and found under the ivy traces of a bricked-up doorway. A few days after the Heskeths' experiences, a National Serviceman and his girlfriend ambling after dark through the grounds, fled when they saw a female form surrounded by a luminous glow approaching them.
But stranger still was the story of David James, an elderly man who had been a night watchman on the site. On a light, though moonless night some eighteen months earlier, he reported that he had been on his rounds at about 2am when he saw approaching, a middle-aged man of medium height, dressed in breeches and leggings and carrying under his arm a double-barrelled shotgun. Three dogs trotted obediently at his heels. Puzzled because he knew that the man was not a local game-keeper and because it seemed unlikely that a poacher would behave in such a blatant manner, Mr James challenged him, first in English and then in Welsh. The figure, apparently neither seeing nor hearing, walked straight past, and when the night watchman turned to follow, the stranger, dogs, and gun vanished into a small pond.
The separate incidents were, of course, too exciting not to be woven into romantic tragedy: A Meyrick lady (at some indefinite date in the past) was returning home in her carriage, and as her husband came forward to greet her, he stumbled and accidentally shot her. In remorse, he committed suicide in the pond. This may be true, but we have found no record of such an incident. If the dress was indeed a crinoline, the dates should be narrowed to about 1855-1875, but popularly any long full skirt tended to be called a crinoline, and clothes of this kind would embrace almost any period from antiquity to the twentieth century.
Regrettably, the Bush House ghosts must at present join the crowded ranks of the unidentifiable, but they may well be Meyricks, even if from different ages, appearing, as is so often the case when there is a physical change in the surroundings of their corporeal existence.