MUSEUM: Corridors of the building haunted by ghost of Australian soldier

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IN the cold light of day, the Peterborough museum - which is celebrating 75 years at its Priestgate home - might seem much like any other. But it has more than its fair share of things that go bump in the night.

IN the cold light of day, the Peterborough museum - which is celebrating 75 years at its Priestgate home - might seem much like any other. But it has more than its fair share of things that go bump in the night.When it first opened 75 years ago, the musuem was very different from today – the art gallery had not been built on the back, the top floor was rented out as office space (the income from which helped pay for the running of the museum), and the only full-time member of staff was the caretaker, Mr Yarrow and his wife and two children.

The Yarrow family lived on the premises, in a flat on the first floor in today what is part of the geology gallery – but it was to be a flat which was to chill their blood and give them the fright of their life.

In September 1931, Mr Yarrow went out for the afternoon taking his sons with him. His wife was left alone in the building to deal with the last few visitors and lock up at the end of the day.

This she did, then went back up to the flat in order to start preparing the evening meal ready for the family's return.

After about half an hour, she heard a noise out on the main staircase, which she assumed was her family returning and went out to greet them.

But when she reached the stair doors she came face-to-face with a young man coming up the stairs.

She described the man as being about 30, with brown hair, and wearing a green suit. Mrs Yarrow assumed he was a visitor she'd locked in by mistake.

But she soon realised he was no human visitor . . .

His footsteps were unnaturally loud, which were scary enough in themselves, apart from the fact that he was actually floating up the stairs.

The ghostly figure reached the landing in front of her, walked through the doors right next to her – without opening them – and down the corridor, and vanished into thin air.

Mrs Yarrow left the building as quickly as possible.

The ghost is thought to be that of a First World War Australian Soldier, Sergeant Thomas Hunter. Hunter was born in Newcastle in 1880, but emigrated to Australia as a young man, where he worked as a coal miner in New South Wales.

In 1914, at the outbreak of the war, he enlisted with the Australian army, the ANZACs, and served at Gallipoli and on the Western Front.

He was seriously wounded in June 1916, then treated in a field hospital. It was decided he needed treatment in a more specialised hospital in Britain, so was shipped back, then put on a train north.

Medical staff found that his condition was worsening, so the train was stopped at the next convenient station – Peterborough.

He was taken to the nearest hospital, which is now the museum, but by then it was too late. He died in the building on July 31, 1916.

He is buried in the Broadway Cemetery, and his ghostly figure hasn't been seen since the 1970s, but a cold atmosphere may descend over certain parts of the building with no warning.

And people have felt the touch of an ice-cold pair of hands. And museum staff report that furniture is regularly found moved around overnight . . .

Read more: A place to learn, have fun and discover - Happy 75th birthday Peterborough Museum.

For more details, call the museum and art gallery on 01733 343329, visit the website: www.peterboroughheritage.org.uk/museum/ or e-mail museum@peterborough.gov.uk.

Page 2 - Collection founded in 1871 >

Story by Jemma Walton

< b>HAVE YOUR SAY: Contact our reporters with your comments< /b>Collection founded in 1871

THE museum's collections were founded by the Peterborough Museum Society in 1871, and they have been held in various locations throughout the city, including the Becket Chapel in the Cathedral precincts and a house in Park Road.

The impressive Georgian building on Priestgate became the museum in 1931 and the art gallery was added in 1939.

The building itself dates from 1816 and was the town house of newlyweds Thomas and Charlotte Cooke.

But in 1856 the Priestgate mansion was sold to the third Earl Fitzwilliam, who allowed it to be used as the city's first hospital, the Peterborough infirmary from 1857 until 1928.

Many of the original Georgian features can still be seen today, as can traces of its use as a hospital – the modern conservation room, with its high ceilings and white walls is the old operating theatre.

In 1871 the Peterborough Natural History Society and Field Club began assembling the museum collections. Within a decade the society had widened its interest and laid the foundation of a museum and a library. It became the Natural History, Scientific and Archaeological Society and in 1947 took its modern title of Museum Society.

Time for a party

THE museum is celebrating its 75th birthday with a day of celebrations on Saturday, September 9, between 10am and 5pm.

Visitors are invited to join a birthday party, including a buffet and celebratory cake, at 2pm. There will be various family activities, including birthday card-making and a mock fossil dig.

Costumed characters, including a Roman soldier will be there to give visitors the chance to find out about life in Roman Peterborough and the Roman army. People can also try on typical Roman armour. There will also be behind-the-scenes tours at 11am and 2pm.

Admission to the birthday celebrations is free.

For more details, call the museum and art gallery on 01733 343329 or e-mail museum@peterborough.gov.uk.