Sunday, April 02, 2006

Unpleasantness in the Bells Passage

The Bachelor Staircase (pictured) leads from the Smoking Room - the door to which you see on the left at the foot of the stairs - right up into the attic where the second best guest bedrooms were set aside for the use of "single gentlemen". This was so arranged so that single gentlemen, after an evening at the billiard table, and a damn good run at the drinks cabinet, could clatter up the stairs in the wee small hours without disturbing the ladies.

Though, some of the ladies that attended Tredegar House don't strike me as the sort to be easily disturbed by drunken single gentlemen! Lady "Emerald" Cunard, for example, a friend of Evan Morgan, once rolled up to a party with a donkey, and made it stand on the billiard table - which everyone considered quite hysterical (apparently).

It is surprising that this very male part of the House should therefore be very much the domain of a female presence. The cleaning ladies that were working in the house when I started used to hear a female voice calling their name from this corridor, and each thinking that it was the other would enter the corridor to find that there was nobody there. It once happened to me in the middle of a tour - I heard what I thought to be a female voice call out Goff, stopped in mid flow (thinking it was one of the punters), said "Yes?", only to be faced by twenty five people looking at me as if I'd gone mad!

This female presence is not new. In the late 1920s the servant's used to see the figure of a lady in white on this staircase, which they believed to be the spirit of Gwyneth Erica Morgan, sister of Lord Evan, who had died tragically a number of years earlier.

Gwyneth simply disappeared - walking out of the house in London which she shared with a friend in the middle of the night. There is some confusion about exactly what happened. Her friend gives at least three differing accounts to the papers - she was dressed only in her pajamas, she was fully clothed, she took some clothes with her, she left everything behind. She disappeared completely for six months - though there were "sightings" of her on the continent - until she finally reappeared when she floated to the surface of Lime House Dock.

The coroners inquest was also a bit unusual. Her housemate wasn't questioned, for example, and the verdict was handed to Courtney, Lord Tredegar (her father) for his "approval" before it was read to the court. An open verdict was recorded - despite the fact that the pockets of the cardigan she had been wearing had been stuffed with stones, but this satisfied Courtney.

Gwyneth was considered a little "unstable" and her father's great fear was that she had committed suicide - something more scandalous than murder at the time. Her brother Evan, however, was convinced that that was just what had happened. Gwyneth was moving in dangerous circles, including a malign dope-peddler called Brilliant Billy Chang, and could have been disposed of.

Her father refused to bring her home and bury her with the family at St. Basil's Church in Bassaleg - presumably to keep well clear of the whiff of suicide - and this was why the servant's believed she frequented the staircase. After Courtney's death, Evan had her disinterred and brought home for burial, ironically beside the grave of her father. Whether the sightings ceased after this point is not known.

However, something female is felt in this corridor. I remember descending into the Bell's Passage during one early ghost tour to see a very startled man sitting on the radiator, blinking behind his spectacles like a goosed owl. When I asked him if he was alright, his wife said,

"It's OK! He's just felt something smooth the hair down on the side of his head. (Pause) He didn't like to mention it!"

And just last season Paul, our resident expert, while sitting at the bottom of the stairs, not listening to me blabbing on, heard a female voice singing quietly to itself at the top step. For more details of his moment of unpleasantness visit the link below.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well I wonder what happened to her.

5:43 PM, April 03, 2006  
Blogger Goff Morgan said...

It's a complete mystery! It would be great to play amateur dectective with Gwyneth's case and finally solve it, but I feel it's beyond me. Paul discovered the connection with Brilliant Billy Chang by talking to an expert on the Twenties drug culture operating in Lime House, and the expert's comment on her case was, "What makes you think she wasn't murdered?"!

9:27 PM, April 03, 2006  
Blogger Paul Busby said...

Perhaps the fate of Gwyneth will always be something of a mystery. There was always plenty of gossip about her in the Servant's Hall of the time; her wild, unpredictable nature was well known.

Now, as for this line:

"And just last season Paul, our resident expert, while sitting at the bottom of the stairs, not listening to me blabbing on,"

Come now, Goff, you know I always hang on your every word!

5:28 PM, April 05, 2006  
Blogger ryan said...

i was walkingt down there yesterday and it felt as though someone was behind me but there wasnt

11:35 AM, October 31, 2006  
Blogger ryan said...

i was standing on the stairs there for the las night of the xmas tours making sure people were ok walking down the stairs and i heard a female voice say hello as tho they walked past me and at the same time felt a breeze wich was wierd i didnt reply but thought to myself what was it

10:24 PM, December 20, 2006  

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