The Museum is situated in Priestgate just a few hundred metres south west of the Cathedral square centre of the town. It houses over a quarter of a million objects and it is no surprise that it's history is somewhat interesting: The Building The first records of a fine property being on or close to the present site are from the sixteenth century. A well known family name of 'Orme' resided within for some considerable time spanning over a century until it was sold to a northern business man - Thomas Cooke in 1815. Cooke had the house extensively rebuilt in Georgian style. Some 45 years or so later after Cooke had died it was acquired by the Earl of Fitzwilliam and was to become the City's hospital, remaining so until 1928. It is from that period of time that many ghost stories have sprung. It opened as Peterborough's museum in 1931.
The Ghost of a Servant Girl? at the top of the building is a second staircase leading to a corridor and small rooms now used as offices and not normally open to the public, but does this part of the building hold a dark secret? The design of this part of the building would infer that it was once the servant's quarters. Certainly we know that servants served at least two households during the 18th and 19th centuries. Many people over the years have reported a presence; - a feeling of someone brushing past them, a female voice and other unexplained noises, a drop in temperature, and most significantly a feeling of unease and nausea, particularly experienced by women. The story from folklore that has been passed on through the years is that of a servant girl that fell to her death on this staircase. She had apparently become pregnant by one of the male servants who may have raped her. Did she fall? was she unwell and lost her balance? Was it deliberate . . was she pushed? We will never know, but the most startling testimonies have come from women who have not known of this legend and yet claimed they felt a hand push against them. Also it was not uncommon for females to feel unwell and dizzy when in this area.
There are many documented ghostly accounts from the building that is said to the most haunted in the area. Here is a taster.
The First World War Soldier that didn't make it home 1916, The Battle of the Somme and a sergeant from the Australian and New Zealand army was transported to a field hospital and sailed to Portsmouth with serious injuries. You might be forgiven for thinking he was one of the lucky ones not to die on the battlefield itself! However, as he was being transported on a hospital train bound for Halifax, Yorkshire, his conditioned severely worsened and an emergency stop was sought. Peterborough station was on route and a very short journey to the infirmary. Sadly all efforts to save him were in vain and he died on July 31st in the building that is now the museum. There have been several accounts of sightings of a grey suited figure (thought to be an army uniform). The first just months after the building opened as a museum in 1931 and more recently a handful of times since two museum workers saw him in 2005. It was reported in the 'Citizen'as long ago as 1932 and since then the figure thought to be the ghost of ANZAC soldier Thomas Hunter has been seen by dozens of people, often around late summer and nearly always on the stairway gliding up before vanishing!
Heard but not seen! The ghost of a little girl is said to haunt the Gallery on the first floor. She has been rarely seen and when she has the sightings have been fleeting. Her face appeared in the mocked up shop window to a sceptical visitor one evening, and she was noticed behind a closed glass door but when the workman that had seen her investigated, he found no one there and that the door led to nowhere! Who she is nobody knows.
A Former Physician that hadn't left In the late 1940's a girl who was the daughter of the Museum's then caretaker fell ill with Chicken pox. The family lived in a first floor flat. She claimed to have been visited by a doctor only to find the doctor turn up some time later. Nothing more was thought about the conversation she had supposedly encountered with the friendly old gentleman that sat at the end of her bed until some time later when clearing out some old photographs she came across him and pointed him out to her father. The man she pointed out was Alfred Caleb Taylor, former registrar at the building when it was the old infirmary. He had died twenty years earlier!
These are just some of the spooky tales about the building, there are many more.