SPIRITS: YORK | GREEN JENNY


There’s been a couple of occasions when I’ve mentioned the Haunted York book that I’ve recently re-written (with maps!), partly because it was relevant but also as a shameless piece of self promotion (thought it best to be honest) and I’m mentioning it again for the same reasons.

The book plug is just to let those of you interested in ghost stories know that the publisher I mentioned have decided to go ahead and the book is due for release next month (hurray). It should be easily (I hope) available in retail outlets in York (I’ll publish a list when I know more) but if anyone has trouble getting hold of a copy just let me know and I can supply you directly.

In terms of relevance, that’s the drawing posted here; a picture of Jenny, who features in the book. This is the second Haunted York piece (the first being YORK | COLLEGE STREET) and I know what you’re thinking: why is she called ‘green’ Jenny?

Story time again:
Jenny (the ghost, as oppose to the original girl) has only been seen once and that was way back in the early years of the eighteenth century, so it’s a very old story. She was a serving girl at the pub that is now known as the Watergate Inn (and previously known as the Five Lions) in York’s town centre. Apparently an ostler (the olden days’ term for a stable boy) had seen a young lady wearing a vivid green dress ascending a set of stairs in the pub that led to a room used for blood sports such as rat baiting and cock fighting (both of which were made illegal by the Cruelty to Animals Act in 1835). Startled by the fact that a woman was about to enter such a room he at first thought that it was the innkeeper’s wife. He was then doubly perturbed when the girl acknowledged him with a wave and he realised that it was in fact Jenny, who had recently died.

So the dress is the reason for the name, possibly because, as with dreams, it’s unusual for a colour to be so apparent during a ghost sighting. Which I suspect is due to the fact that people are so surprised to see a ghost that any colour involved with the experience just doesn’t get noticed, unless it is very vivid, such as bright red hair, or Jenny’s green dress.

Given that the colour green is an important element of the story I feel that not only should the collage materials reflect this but that there should be some actual green in the artwork. If you look at the thumbnail gallery it may be obvious that green is not a colour I use a great deal, and so I’m going to have to give some thought as to how to approach this.

I’ll let you know what I come up with…

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SPIRITS: GUILDFORD | THE SILENT POOL

GUILDFORD | THE SILENT POOL
Graphite and collage on plywood board
22” x 32”

For those of you old enough to remember Basil Brush (the original, far superior version voiced and puppeteered by Ivan Owen) I feel I ended the last post on a distinctive ‘what, you can’t stop there Mr. Derek’ note and I think it only fair to open the story book once more and finish the tale.

After the poor Emma had met her watery fate (with her brother, possibly, following shortly behind her) word of the dastardly act by King John reached the ears of none other than the Archbishop of Canterbury, Stephen Langton who, suitably appalled by the King’s disrespectful behaviour towards a young lady, avowed to bad mouth the monarch at every available opportunity and, having gathered a well sized gang of Barons around him, ultimately caused the King so much trouble that his majesty agreed to the signing of the Magna Carta. Well done Archbishop!
There was, apparently, more to this tale than the rightful avenging of a poor girl’s death. The Archbishop himself had been the victim of King John’s thuggery when they were both young men and John was still a prince. At the same location as Emma’s unfortunate meeting with the King, the Archbishop, free at this point of the restrictions of the church and happily in a relationship with a girl named Alice, had accompanied his beloved on a walk through the woodland around the Silent Pool. At this point our villain of the story made his appearance along with a gang of ruffians who beat the teenage Stephen Langton unconscious and made off with his girlfriend. Although both victims recovered from their ordeal they had remained separated and each assumed the other had met an untimely demise. As a result they did what any self respecting bereaved lover would do in such circumstances and joined the church.

The ghostly form of Emma has apparently been witnessed on a number of occasions, usually walking into the pool without creating so much as ripple and, obviously, making no sound. Once in the water she then vanishes.

All this is makes for a fabulous piece of dramatic history with the slight problem that none of it’s true. The whole thing was fabricated (with the exception of the use of real historical figures) by the poet Martin Farquhar Tupper in 1857 by way of attempting to make the area more interesting (presumably he ran some sort of tourism business as a sideline) and bestowed his own seal of credibility upon the tale by claiming that it ‘may be depended upon for historical accuracy in every detail’. Yeah right, and the Loch Ness Monster uses the pool as a holiday get away so keep your cameras handy.

What is true is that the area became the focus of the disappearance in 1926 of Agatha Christie. Almost as though she had slipped into the imaginings of one of her own novels, her car was discovered abandoned with its headlights still on and the celebrated author was nowhere to be seen. An extensive manhunt of Guildford and the surrounding areas ensued, which included the dredging of the Silent Pool. No body (of either Agatha or Emma) was found and the mystery of the lady vanishing barely left the newspapers until, eleven days later, she was finally located living it up in a hotel in Harrogate.

Although she couldn’t provide any details as to how she got there it seems fairly clear that the recent request by her husband for a divorce had all been a bit too much for the poor woman and travelling over 250 miles north was clearly the best way to deal with it. It was significant that she had booked into the Swan Hydropathic Hotel using the name Mrs Teresa Neele, the surname matching that of the young woman that her husband was leaving her for.

Our tale concluded (you’ll be relieved to know I shan’t be singing a song) I can get back to some artwork. I’ve started yet another version of Brigantia which I’m determined to finish and I’ll include a photo of the drawing in my next blog post.

Original Artwork : £290.00

See more information in the gallery

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SPIRITS: STAITHES | MERMAIDS
ADAPTING THE ART TO THE FRAME


Although fascinated by creatures of myth and fantasy I hadn’t intended to use such subjects at this point as I have an awful lot of ideas for artwork that are more rooted in history and legend, and delving into a world that I consider to be fictional (I know, it’s a fine line… and who says faeries don’t exist?) wasn’t in my plan.

However, one must be adaptable and I had an idea (oh dear…)
Do not fear, it’s a good one! I think…

Being a regular visitor to Haworth (the inspiration for my Wuthering Heights | Let Me In piece being the result, plus an as yet unfinished portrait of Emily Bronte… must get back to that) I always drop in on Steve Jarrett to see what he’s been up to and see if any of his hand made jewellery takes my fancy (I already own a fabulous bracelet he made) and on one such visit in August he mentioned driftwood. Ah ha! I thought… I wanted a driftwood frame for my Whitby | Sea piece so that the Silver Street Gallery can take it off the floor and hang it on the wall. I enquired as to whether Steve could create such a thing and the answer being yes, I duly gave him the commission and the frame was picked up a few weeks later.

Something I hadn’t accounted for was that Steve, being a bit of a craftsman, had created something a bit more than just a standard frame (albeit one made of driftwood) and I was now the proud owner of a multi-layered frame decorated with pieces of sea washed branches and coloured stones.

This, I felt, called for something a bit different. As a result, I consulted Mr. Google and came across a very old story concerning the north east coastal village of Staithes, itself host to an annual and quite amazing arts festival and a beautiful place to visit (and also once the home of a youthful Captain Cook who, before moving to Whitby, worked as an apprentice in the local grocers).

The story, oddly similar to the Merman of Orford tale, involves the plight of two mermaids who became so exhausted after battling against a storm that they ended up on the beach at Staithes where they intended to rest and recuperate before heading back into the sea. Unfortunately, a number of sailors who were also waiting out the storm found them, imprisoned them in nets and hung them up for the villagers to stare at. Even more unfortunate was that a number of residents decided that just staring wasn’t enough and took to hurling stones at them.

Obviously this was not very friendly, but during the months that our hapless sea creatures were detained the locals began to get used to their presence and some would even speak to them. As a result, they were able to talk a fisherman into letting them out of the nets for a temporary reprieve and, the freedom of the ocean beckoning, they seized their opportunity and legged it (obviously not literally as they didn’t have legs). Having made it safely back to the sea they were never seen again, unlike the previously mentioned merman story where, having gained his freedom, he apparently returned to captivity as though it was some sort of game. He escaped again, hung around for a bit, then finally disappeared, never to be…you know the rest.

The pencil drawing isn’t finished yet but here’s how the mermaids are looking so far… when it’s finished I’ll photograph the artwork complete with frame.

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SPIRITS: GUILDFORD | THE SILENT POOL
…ANOTHER EMMA AND A GHOSTLY LADY OF THE LAKE


I know what you’re thinking… why Guildford? And Lady of the Lake? shouldn’t that be Glastonbury?

All fair questions that I shall do my best to answer (hopefully without confusing you).

The choice of Guildford is entirely down to the fact that I used to live there, although it was many, many years ago when I was just a young lad… although not a lad, as that’s what they call young folk up here in the frozen north. In Guildford I was a boy (although perhaps the term ‘lad’ has spread to the southern parts since my departure?) and despite being only 12 when I left I do remember the place surprisingly well (and not in a negative way). I remember the chums I had (even some of their names, and not just because of Facebook) and the town itself (especially the High Street and it’s big black and gold clock) and many of the good and bad times that transpired during the time I was there (which actually wasn’t very long as we moved around a fair bit).
I did re-visit the place as a teenager to see a couple of those chums and was back there a few years after that when one of them got married and kindly invited me and my sister to the wedding. After that though, not been near the place. Which is a shame but I’m a poor, starving artist and Guildford is an awful long way, but perhaps one day I’ll get back there, but in the meantime I have relied on the power of the internet and the trusted aid that is Google to find a suitable story that would make a good subject. And it’s a good one.

It’s a tale that that seems, on the face of it, to be very familiar to those still living in the area although I have to confess I was completely unaware of it, so either it wasn’t so well know when I was there or I was too young and daft to take any notice. Following in the footsteps of Collage Street it’s another actual spirit, although this hapless lady is trapped in a more watery environment than the young girl in York as she is the resident spectre of the Silent Pool. As is common with many a body of water (notably Blake Mere Pool, which is on my list of subjects for a future piece) there is a legend that the pool is bottomless and that birds don’t sing in the trees, This is clearly nonsense as the place is full of singing birds and the water is so clear that you can see the bottom. In fact it’s the transparent nature of the water that makes the pool unusual (apparently the result of the water’s source being an underground, rather than overground, stream. Somewhat similar to the crystal clear and allegedly healing nature of the water that supplies the Chalice Well in Glastonbury). It’s silent (hence the name) and peaceful location imbues an added element of mystery. Something that the poet Martin Farquhar Tupper clearly thought when he wrote the story back in 1857, although he did claim (and who are we to argue?) that it was based on historical facts. So, what happened? I’m glad you asked.

A long time ago, in a village far away (although not if you live in Guildford) a young lady by the name of Emma would frequent the pool and take advantage of it’s unsoiled nature to have a bath. On one fateful occasion she was spotted by a man on horseback who, upon emerging from the cover of the trees, could be clearly identified as none other than King John who, as all those familiar with the stories of Robin Hood will know, was a nasty piece of work. True to his ‘boo, he’s behind you’ nature King John advanced his horse into the water in pursuit of the young lady at which point the desperately retreating Emma found herself disappearing beneath the pool’s surface and, unable to swim, implored for help. King John, being King John, did nothing and Emma vanished from sight never too be seen again (which is quite a task in a crystal clear lake). A different version of the story has her brother racing to her aid but, arriving too late, he also disappears into the depths and is as equally conspicuous by his absence at the family’s dinner table as Emma.

There’s a sequel to this story involving the Archbishop of Canterbury, lost love and the Magna Carta (I can see a Game of Thrones style mini series in this) and I’ve not even mentioned Agatha Christie yet, but that’s all going to have to wait until I’ve finished the piece, which, although the pencils still need some work, shouldn’t take too long as I have all the collage materials ready to go.

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