For nearly a millennium, the sick have been cured and the dying have died on the borders of Rochester and Chatham.
St Bart’s Hospital today is an eerie bit of gothic architecture built in 1863 to house 100 patients. New Road was then a quiet thoroughfare and the patients had a fine view of Victoria Gardens opposite.
A hospital was built behind the current site in 1078, by Gundulph, Bishop of Rochester, to care for poor folk and lazars — those who suffered from leprosy (now known as Hansen’s disease), which plagued the 10th and 11th centuries. The hospital is earmarked for closure and at one stage was shut, but is still a working very much a hospital. If ever there was a place for a ghost, this is it.
Liz Wall agrees. She wrote: “I am a nurse working there on William Ward. There are three wards and a day hospital. “We do have spirits present. There is a little lad who is often about especially when someone is about to die. He wears a red jumper and has brown curly hair. He is often seen by patients and likes to sit on the windowsills.
“There is also the lady who is seen to walk through the wall in one of the side rooms. There is also a cavalier [more details about him later] and another woman who I have seen on our ward dresses very smartly but seems to be more up to date in her dress. I’m sure that there are more to add to this list.” Indeed there are.
I’m looking for mummy and daddy, said the ghost
Another correspondent, who prefers to remain anonymous, writes: “Since the re-opening of the building members of staff have seen and heard ghosts. Mysterious figures of men, women, and children have been seen. There has been a sighting of a man on the third floor of the building by a night porter, when nobody else is on the floor.
“On all three wards, members of staff and patients have either seen a little boy, or heard him crying. They all describe him the same: he is aged six to eight and has brown hair, but they cannot see the colour of his eyes. He wears a tatty white shirt, grey sleeveless pullover, grey short trousers, and long socks, which are down by his ankles. He says he is looking for his mum or dad, and normally when he appears we know there is going to be a death on one of the wards.”
Spine-tingling stuff. It gets spookier. “The next ghost,” writes the informant, “is a cavalier. We had a patient some time ago who saw and spoke to him. She described him as wearing a black large hat with a plume, black jacket, white frilly shirt, and black trousers, and long black leather boots, with his sword by his side. He had long black hair, moustache and a small beard on his chin. It’s said he comes from Chatham Dockyard through the tunnels that were said to run under Rochester and Chatham.”
Hmm. The dockyard was certainly there in the days of the cavaliers and roundheads but I’m not sure about how tunnels could have run under the river.
The writer continues: “Two women have also been sighted. One wears a white long dress and walks through the wall in one of the side bays where once there was a door. The other ghost, which has been seen by a few members of staff, is of a young women in modern-day clothes, dressed smartly in a dark suit. She was seen sitting on the end of a gentleman’s bed. One of the senior members of staff thought that it was a visitor, but nobody saw her enter the ward of leave it. She has been seen on the other wards also.”
Darren Guest also e-mails with a variation of some of the above tales: “At St Bart’s, women’s screams can be heard coming from Watts Ward just before someone dies. Two different people have mentioned that to me. Both are nurses … and one of them is my mother.”
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