‘She was killed on stage’: Treading in the footsteps of Cromer’s ghostly past
- Credit: Archant
Think of Cromer and end-of-pier shows, crab sandwiches and seaside fun all spring to mind. But the town's charming facade belies a more ghostly side. Cromer Museum visitor services assistant ANNA CRANE explores the spooky history of the north Norfolk town.
The history of Cromer stretches right back to the Middle Ages, when the town was known as Shipden-juxta-Felbrigg, inland to the then coastal settlement Shipden-juxta-mere.
Flash forward to the 1700s and Cromer has become a popular holiday destination for the upper classes, wanting to gain the benefits of salt water and sea air.
The population of Cromer rises, grand hotels are added, and in 1901 the pier as we know it is built to accommodate the boom in tourism. Over time, history leaves its trail; buildings become ruins, people become legends, life becomes memory.
Today, we tread the footsteps of those who have come before us, tales of tragedy lingering, voices of the dead muffled in a modern world of noise.
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Cromer's past is more drenched in mystery and intrigue than you might think.
Ghosts in the gravestones
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First, walk the graveyard of the now church of St Peter and St Paul and picture the scene; a caretaker clearing away debris in the ruined churchyard, standing paralysed as an ethereal child rises from the ground, blood pouring down her white clothes from a great gash at her throat, a mournful 'sigh sounding in his ears' as she departs.
This is what Walter Rye tells us in his 1889 history, printed to raise money for the church's restoration funds.
Can you see her as you pass through the gravestones?
Narrow lane's hidden secrets
Wander across to Jetty Street, a once bustling shopping area, and visualise the hidden tunnels and passageways that are concealed under your feet.
These were previously utilised by smugglers to hide illicit cargo.
You might even feel the presence of the travelling monks, the discovery of niches and alcoves in the tunnels leading to the belief that these holy men may have used them as a chapel.
Victims of the storm
If you continue on your way, you will stumble across the old Bath House. Built in 1814, in 1824 it was turned into a Victorian spa. In 1836, a great storm nearly destroyed it, some people losing their lives trying to save Bath House furniture.
Ever since, noises of heavy objects being dragged across the floor have been heard. Perhaps you can still hear the sound.
Echoes of a lost village
Now, look out to sea and imagine standing there seven hundred years ago.
You would have been looking at the village of Shipden-juxta-mere, now an echo, washed away in the 13th Century due to land erosion and the advancing sea.
It was told that men in rags would sleep on the beach and at low tides would dive under the waves to pillage anything remaining in the lost village.
Over time very little remained, apart from the church tower, known as 'Church Rock.'
Despite being destroyed in 1888 after a steamer ran aground on the rock, they say that at night, when the sea is particularly choppy, you can hear the ghostly peals, ringing out as a warning to fishermen lost at sea.
Murder on the pier
Finally, you reach Cromer's most haunted landmark, the pier.
There has been a jetty in Cromer since the 1390s and it has a rich and expansive history. Some people even believe piers to be gateways to the spirit world. Back in the autumn of 2003, plans to renovate the pier's theatre were disturbed by tales of odd noises and unexplained shadows.
Uneasy presences were felt in the auditorium and on the pier itself, bottles and glasses said to be mysteriously smashed. Staff were so concerned that a group of paranormal experts were brought in to investigate. That's when they discovered Elizabeth. An actress, she has become one of the most famous ghosts of Cromer.
It is told that she was killed on stage, either by accident after a prop knife was misplaced by a real one, or on purpose, after being strangled. Since then she is said to haunt the theatre, unable to leave or find peace. See if you can spot her silhouette passing sorrowfully over the jetty or catch her mournful singing.
Discover more ghostly tales
You can hear these tales and more on Cromer Museum's 'Ghosts and Legends' walk. Dates: Sunday 28th April and Sunday 4th August at 6.45pm, Sunday, October 27 at 3.30pm.
Meet outside the museum 10 minutes before start. Price £4, or £3 with a museum pass.
Book your place on 01263 513543 or make contact via Cromer Museum's Facebook if you want to tread the footsteps of Cromer's dark and ghoulish past.
And if you would like to explore more spooky stories from across the region, visit Weird Norfolk.