Through its four colleges and fourteen listed buildings, the University of Roehampton has its fair share of ghostly goings-on. Aside from the eerie 119 bodies buried on main campus, Whitelands College has been providing higher education to women for longer than any other institution in the country, and with that 177 year legacy, has conjured many a spooky story. Read on, if you dare…
Whitelands’ focal point, Parkstead House, has had three names in its 258 year history – Parkstead, Bessborough and Manresa.
During its time known as the latter, there were countless accounts of hauntings and unexplained activity by staff and guests alike. In July 1979, archaeologist and historian Joan P. Alcock wrote an account of the happenings – we’ve compiled a selection of excerpts.
The Ghosts of Manresa
Manresa has the reputation of being haunted. Certainly there is an atmosphere within certain parts of the building which is difficult to define and there are unexplained sounds. When the building was being altered in the early 1960s the workmen refused to stay in parts of the building after dark, even refusing overtime work.
During this period one student was telephoning from the booth outside the present staffroom late in the evening. He heard footsteps pass the booth, turn to the left and continue down the corridor by the side of St George’s Courtyard. He thought nothing of this until he realised that the corridor was blocked by a partition and that no one could pass along the corridor.
One lecturer felt someone brush against him in the stone corridor; another stepped to one side to let something unseen pass by him and did this instinctively before he realised what he had done.
Another lecturer walked into his room at the end of the first floor corridor near to the Science laboratory and thought that he saw a figure, dressed in a long robe, get up from the desk and move across the room.
Some staff and students have ‘felt’ pressures and something indefinable in parts of the building.
One of the domestic staff reported that she saw papers moving or ‘turning over’ in the Science laboratory. Another reported that one morning she laid out coffee cups in Room 1, left the room, then returned to check if she had brought in the sugar. She found the room in disorder. The small tables were on their sides and the piles of magazines, which had been on them, were strewn across the floor as if someone had given them a sharp blow with the side of the hand. After that she wedged the door open whilst she was in the room.
A visitor, who was brought into the college by the writer, asked what had happened in one of the rooms on the top floor of the Bessborough house as he felt ‘something’ had happened in the centre of the room.
The first caretaker reported that his dog refused to go into certain parts of the building or snarled and bristled when forced to do this.
The first Principal felt that parts of the building, particularly near Room 1 and the music rooms (formerly the sacristy), had an atmosphere associated with them.
The events seem to be connected more with the parts of the buildings associated with the Jesuits and to be concentrated on the areas round the Science laboratory and Room 1.
Even so, it would not be out of place for Manresa to have its unseen inhabitants who pursue their accustomed paths through the building. It would seem that on occasions these paths have crossed with our own.