DCP was not the luckiest with homes – or assassinations
He rented ‘The Mount’ in Bexley that was the lodge house to the singer Dorothy Squires’s large home. This ends up being an anecdote within an anecdote. The inner tale is of a fire that gutted the main house and the lodge; the outer tale is of his houseguest at the time.
DCP was not a morning person. It was usually mid-morning before the glaze in his eyes departed and he was on it. So, imagine him wet shaving early one morning and hearing his lady, Inger, screaming from upstairs. Still not fully awake he looked up to see her throwing down her furs and other possessions. He did later recall seeing flames across the ceiling above her but he was then distracted by screams from outside. It was Dot’s sister screaming that Dot was inside the well ablaze main house.
DCP smashed a small window beside the front door, putting his bare fist through the glass (still not fully awake), but then the sister pulled him to the rear door again saying Dot was inside. He kicked that in with his bare feet and pulled Dot out. However, having put a hole front and rear there was a whoosh and the fire accelerated. Dot lost all her celebrity paraphernalia, her mementoes of Roger Moore – and her dogs!
Several of us were called down to the house where everyone was safe but all possessions, except Inger’s, were lost in the fire. They were in nightclothes out on the lawn and we were despatched to purchase clothes, shoes etc for them to be able to leave the scene.
The ‘anecdote within the anecdote’ was that the newly appointed worldwide president of Hugin and his sons were houseguests at the time. DCP and others had believed him to be in line for the role and were extremely disappointed when a local Swede, previously from IBM, got the job.
The new president was on his first visit to see the UK operation, acknowledging that DCP had been his sternest opponent for his role. He came for a board meeting but was accompanied by his two teenage sons in order to take a short break.
On his first day one of our team drove them around London to see the sights. Unfortunately they were in the Tower of London when an IRA bomb exploded, killing one and injuring forty-one others. We promptly postponed the board meeting and for their safety transported them DCP’s home to at Bexley – which was gutted overnight. They lost everything they had with them.
Having decided it was best for them to go home, we cancelled the board meeting. As a colleague was parking up in Heathrow Terminal Two to drop them off a small IRA bomb exploded there!
The number two in Sweden telexed DCP saying, ‘What? You missed him three times?’
A haunting and its aftermath
As a result of that fire, DCP next rented Arden’s House in Faversham from two teachers who based themselves for ten months of the year in Geneva. I mentioned above flying back from Sweden for an overnight stay. This was at Arden’s House, originally the guest house of Faversham Abbey, adjoining the outer gatehouse and with a ten feet thick outside wall. The abbey was founded in 1148 CE.
The house still has priest holes from Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries (late 1530s) and boasts an Elizabethan dining room. Thomas Arden was a former mayor and controller of the port of Faversham, a member of the Confederation of Cinque Ports, though not one of the actual five. He had a role with the government office that was selling off Henry VIII’s confiscated monastic properties and as an early piece of ‘insider trading’ acquired the house, hence its name. He was not alone in being involved in such shady deals during this period.
I had stayed at Arden’s House before with Jane and the children. The room used both times had originally been a small chapel and later set aside for the use of abbey guests. This time, when I put my overnight bag and briefcase in the room I must have been unsettled enough to leave the light on and the door open. Over supper there was something DCP asked me to show him which was upstairs in my briefcase. I went to get it from my room.
The door was closed but it was an old house and I was not concerned. The light was off but I was still not disturbed. The bulb may have blown or fused. When I crossed the room it was freezing cold and as I bent down to take my briefcase I sensed a presence and unable to move. I saw and heard nothing and it took all my energy to shake off the feeling.
I told my colleagues about my experience and none of us was prepared to go back up there. We played cards all night. What really surprised me was that both my colleagues confirmed that they believed in ghosts whereas I had firmly denied their existence before that night. DCP and Inger had felt a presence in the house before but it gradually became more intrusive, resulting in neither of them wishing to be alone in the building. I started to research the subject in general and the house in particular.
I soon established that Thomas Arden had been murdered in the parlour of the house on 15th February 1551. I will leave conspiracists to contemplate that this was 420 years to the day before a date that had been so significant for me – Decimalisation Day. And there’s that 42 again! Oh, I didn’t leave it to conspiracists.
Thomas was murdered by his wife Alice who, escaping a dull marriage of convenience, was having an affair with Richard Mosbye. Alice was described as ‘young, tall, and well favoured of shape and countenance’. Mosbye, a ‘black, swart man’ who was previously servant to Sir Edward North, Alice’s father in law’ had ‘settled as a tailor in London’.
Through the local goldsmith, Mosbye hired some dubious guys from the village to kill Thomas for £10. If the account using this illustration is to be believed, several domestic staff were enjoined in the crime too. Thomas was strangled and his throat cut while playing backgammon with Mosbye.
Alice and Richard were incriminated and burned at the stake (Alice at Canterbury); the two villagers were hung and drawn. The two domestics were also executed in what became a notorious crime of the 16th century. An early account suggests one of the killers was called Black Bob and I might assume that this was significant, perhaps the reason it was I who woke the ghost of Thomas. However, more recent research reveals he was actually Black Will of Calyce [Calais]!
In 1592 a play called Arden of Faversham was produced. Some suggest Shakespeare’s hand is revealed in the work, others believe it may have been a collaboration in which Shakespeare was a co-writer. It was later adapted by George Lillo. There are two contemporaneous formal accounts – Holinshead’s Chamber Book of Days and the Newgate Calendar. The details of the murder are described differently in these but essentially the players and the outcome were the same. Holinshead however includes a local rumour that ‘no grass would grow on the spot where Arden’s dead body was found’. The play has occasionally been performed in those very gardens.
DCP called the owners who confirmed they knew about the ‘presence’ and refused his offer to have it exorcised. But as DCP and Inger found it more intrusive, neither would stay there alone and they soon moved out.
But was it Thomas Arden who grabbed me? I’ve no idea, though it shook up my beliefs. The real surprise was that when I told friends of this, many of them were not only ready to accept the tale but had their own experiences to relate. I read widely at the time in an attempt to rationalise what had happened, but by the mid-1980s the tale had merely become a distant amusing anecdote and I was busy.
Imagine my surprise when some years later Cameron Macsween, a pal and colleague, introduced me to his new French female bestie who was a medium. Before saying Bonjour or mwah-ing me she asked me ‘Why won’t you help him?’ She went on to say someone from the ‘other side’ was asking for my assistance and I had to help him. I politely explained that when watching a horror film and seeing one of the cast heading to some dubious room I am the one shouting out that the solution is simple – don’t go there.
But it got me thinking and I checked through my diaries to find it was the 20th November when I had that experience and bizarrely I realised I had since then had three licence endorsements (the only ones to-date in 50+ years of driving). These were on 20-Nov 1978 and 20-Nov 1979. I naturally stopped driving anywhere on that day but later forgot and my third was on 20-Nov 1984. Now that’s quite spooky!
There is no way you will ever find me anywhere near Faversham on or around that date! Yet that night was not all bad news. None of us would go upstairs that night and instead we played cards – I won enough to take my family on holiday to Greece.
|ASIDE: At around this time there was a memo exchange between Bob Holmes and DCP that was something of a classic. (Bob was the third person at Arden’s House that night). He sent a memo to DCP outlining some savings he had found from the budget. DCP replied that while laudable it wasn’t enough for Bob to get a new car. |
Fairly soon thereafter Bob found further savings and persisted, saying that as DCP came to mention it, his company car was overdue for renewal. DCP wrote back using a popular saying of the time that ‘his answer had two Ls in it’ – Bob replied ‘Thanks, he hadn’t even contemplated a Rolls Royce.‘