Nicola Metcalfe: „The Ghost of Thomas Streckton“ – Eine wahre Geistergeschichte

Die Autorin der Kurzgeschichte: Nicola Metcalfe.
With friendly permission of the author.

Im März diesen Jahres traf ich mich mit der Künstlerin Nicola Metcalfe in ihrem Wohnort in Marlow (Buckinghamshire), über die ich in meinem Blog schon einmal berichtet habe. Sie stellt wunderschöne Dinge her, die man sich auf ihren Webseiten ansehen kann. In meinem Wohnzimmer hängen zwei ihrer Kunstwerke und auf dem Rücksitz meines Autos liegt ein ganz tolles Kissen mit Motiven aus Marlow.

Während unserer Unterhaltung kamen wir zufällig auf das Thema Seckford Hall Hotel (ich stellte es in meinem Blog bereits vor) zu sprechen, und da erzählte sie mir, dass sie verwandtschaftliche Verbindungen nach Woodbridge in Suffolk hat, wo dieses Hotel steht, und dass sie einmal eine kleine Geistergeschichte geschrieben hat, die sich um dieses  Hotel und die St Mary’s Parish Church dreht. Es ist eine wahre Begebenheit aus ihrer Kindheit, und das Besondere daran ist, dass ihr Vater, der ein sehr pragmatischer Mensch ist, der eher nicht an Übernatürliches glaubt, es so erlebt hat. Die Geschichte hat sich also tatsächlich so abgespielt wie Nicola es in ihrer Geschichte erzählt. Ich finde die Ghost Story sehr gut geschrieben, und sie erinnert mich an die Erzählungen von Montague Rhodes James . Mit Nicola Metcalfes Genehmigung darf ich „The Ghost of Thomas Streckton“ hier in meinem Blog wiedergeben. Streckton Hall ist also gleich Seckford Hall und den Tudor Room gibt es wirklich. Hier ist ein kurzer Film über das Hotel.

The Ghost of Thomas Streckton

My father is a total sceptic. He’s an ex-engineer with a perfectly rational explanation for everything. 
But even he admits, something very odd happened late that evening in 1978.

Our family name is Strexton, a straightforward, yet slightly obscure English surname that most people misspell. A keen genealogist, Dad had always been interested in researching his origins. His mother was born on the borders of Devon and Cornwall but looked every bit the Celt, with her plume of jet black hair and dark twinkling eyes. His father, a fine chapel man, was also the owner of a thriving village shop in deepest Sussex which provided a hub for the local, mainly farming, community. Through his research, Dad discovered that Strexton was not a local Sussex name though. Indeed, Strexton’s origins were in Suffolk. It was a pioneering Jack Strexton, a miller by trade who upped sticks from the comparatively flat environs of Woodbridge to down sticks near the rolling Sussex Downs. The cause of this move was unclear but encouraged Dad to pursue our Woodbridge connections

A family outing was arranged. I was a child of nine and probably displayed little interest in anything, especially decaying relatives who lay at the end of a long car journey. My parents, my two brothers and I arrived in Woodbridge on a damp, cold November morning and, having visited a little tea shop, headed immediately for the Parish Church. I cannot remember the name of the church, but I do recall the temperature dipping a couple of degrees upon entering. There was hard, artificial light which opened up the belly of the Nave to thorough scrutiny by a small party of Strextons. Thus, we began the study of wall plaques, floor slabs and the mottled Parish register which lay, somewhat vulnerably, in a chapel, on the northern side of the church. Two ladies arrived and busied themselves with flower arranging and a little light dusting. Dad was bent low over the register.

‘Who are you looking for?’ said the lady with the duster.

My Dad explained that we were pursuing a ‘Jack Strexton’ and we had reason to believe he was born in Woodbridge.

‘Strexton!’ the lady said, rather excitedly. ‘Is he any relation to Thomas Streckton? Thomas Streckton is a very famous man in Woodbridge, a great benefactor and influential citizen. That’s his tomb, just there and in the North window of the West wall, you can see his coat-of-arms. Come and have a look.’

This was a development in his research my Dad had not anticipated. Could we really be related to such an lofty figure and if so, at what point did Streckton become Strexton? We learned from the duster lady that the Streckton’s had enjoyed the benefits of a family seat no more than a mile from Woodbridge, which was now a hotel and therefore, open to the public. It seemed an appropriate place to adjourn for lunch.

Streckton Hall lay in a natural hollow, beyond a towering gate house and winding drive. Very much an Elizabethan property, the brickwork of this beautiful house was a soft red colour and was topped with a multitude of chimneys and crenellations. The monumental front door opened into a reception room bedecked with sumptuous carved beams and joists and a unique, medieval looking partition with the most intricate latticing, gently screened the Great Hall beyond. We enjoyed hot soup in the bar, observed by perhaps sixty faces, which were carved into doors, over fireplaces and on wooden panelling. The hotel literature told us that Thomas Streckton was not only a man of importance locally but nationally. He had been one of the Masters of the Court of Requests to Elizabeth I. Indeed, Elizabeth I had held court at Streckton Hall. Hotel guests could, if they chose to, sleep in The Tudor Room, home to a four poster bed circa 1587 and decorated with vast oil paintings and suits of armour. Also a feature of this room was the ghost of Thomas Streckton himself, a nightly visitor, by all accounts, who wafted benignly across the foot of the bed! Needless to say, this really captured our imaginations and heading home later that day the atmosphere in the car was taut with possibilities. Could we, the Strextons, really have such an impressive ancestor?

Suffolk is a long way by car from Marlow, and being November, daylight soon vanished and most of the drive was undertaken in chilly darkness. Us children were fed and put to bed and my parents opened a bottle of wine and sat down to contemplate the days events. Mum noticed it first, a sudden dip in temperature. She adjusted the thermostat. The whole fabric of the house creaked as the boiler trickled heat into the radiators.

‘What do you think about a night in the Tudor Room?” said Dad. “Could be rather exciting.”

There was no reply. Mum was holding her glass of wine with a look of incredulity. When she had picked it up, it had left the stem behind on the coaster. She fetched another glass from the kitchen and transferred the wine into the new glass. She shivered.

“It’s not getting any warmer,” she said. Despite the creaking of the radiators, the temperature did indeed appear to be dropping. Dad felt the radiator.

“This one’s scorching,” he said.

They sat in silence. The big wall clock ticked. The room felt like the inside of a church. They expected to see their breath clouding out in front of them.

“I’ll put the fire on,” said Dad after a while. He lit the gas fire, sat down and picked up his glass. As he tipped it, to drink, the whole rim of his glass fell cleanly into his lap.

“Now, that is odd,” he said, but ever the engineer, attributed this to a sudden change in temperature. The curtains at the far end of the room drifted open slightly.

“Oh, well there you are,” said Dad. “It’s no wonder it’s cold. We’ve left a window open!”

He drew back the curtains but all windows were soundly shut.

“Are you going to get another glass?” said Mum.

“I don’t know,” said Dad.

They lapsed back into silence. The lights dimmed very slightly. They looked at each other.

“I’ll get another glass,” said Dad.

“I’ll come with you,” said Mum not wanting to be left alone.

They returned with the new glass and tentatively sat down. It was hard to know what to talk about so they continued their spell of quiet contemplation.

“The clock’s stopped!” said Dad, suddenly.

“So it has,” said Mum. She shivered violently and said, “When is it going to warm up in here?”

“Have another drink,” said Dad. Mum picked up her glass. As her fingers applied gentle pressure to it, the whole vessel seemed to fold in on itself and she was left holding great chunks of glass with wine pooling on the carpet.

“I don’t think I want any wine now,” she said, looking ashen-faced. She felt a strand of her hair alight briefly on her cheek, fanned by a sudden sighing in the air. “I don’t like this!” she cried and stood up, panting, her eyes flying from one object to the next, her hand still grasping the broken glass which was digging into her skin, though she was oblivious. They looked at each other again and listened, their ears probing the silence for some kind of clue as to what was going on.

“Perhaps we shouldn’t stay in the Tudor Room?” said Dad slowly. He awaited a response, not necessarily from Mum. Silence again. He ran a hand round the neck of his jumper. “The gas fire’s done the trick,” he whispered. “I’m sweating now.”

The temperature had suddenly risen and was almost intolerably hot and the lights glowed a little brighter. The clock chimed midnight. The door opened. I stood there, complaining I was hot.

My parents knocked off the heat and went to bed though I’m not sure they slept.

It is no surprise that we have never returned to Streckton Hall. We have never dared to even discuss returning there. For some reason he didn’t want us. Perhaps there was some dark family secret to which we were indubitably linked. Whatever it was, I like to believe that he was protecting us in death as he had benefitted those in life. But protecting us from what? I don’t want to know.

The End

Copyright: Nicola Metcalfe

Seckford Hall bei Woodbridge in Suffolk.
Eigenes Foto.

The Parish Church of St Mary’s in Woodbridge.
Author: Martin Pettitt.
This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

Published in: on 2. Mai 2019 at 02:00  Kommentar verfassen