This month we are taking a spooky trip down memory lane with our colleague Dennis Cluley, exploring the history and hauntings of the local Jewellery Quarter cemeteries of Warstone Lane Cemetery, Key Hill Cemeteries, and St Paul’s churchyard. For more spooky Halloween activities for families in October half-term see our Jewellery Quarter Halloween Trail.
The three Cemeteries of the Jewellery Quarter; Warstone Lane, Key Hill and St Paul’s churchyard are the final resting places to more than 150,000 people.
We have all heard of the notable people buried in these Cemeteries, such as Joseph Chamberlain – three times Lord Mayor of Birmingham and father to former Prime Minister Neville, and Alfred Bird, inventor of Birds custard, both of whom are buried in Key Hill. The manufacturer John Baskerville and the inventor of Lawn tennis Harry Gem who are buried in Warstone lane, but what about the others who are laid to rest.
People like William Edward Hipkins whose name is etched on a grave stone in Warstone Lane Cemetery, yet his remains are thousands of miles away at the bottom of the North Atlantic with those of the Titanic on which he was a first-class passenger. Then there is the rather creepy Grey Lady, a ghostly figure who haunts the area of Warstone Lane Cemetery. Legend has it a fragrance of pear drops can be smelt coming from her, if that isn’t strange enough the smell of pear drops is what is given off when the body digests arsenic. Was this tragic woman the victim of poor health and safety at work, suicide or something much more sinister? Does she now stalk Warstone Lane Cemetery in search of the husband who murdered her? We may never know.
Moving to St Paul’s Churchyard, we find the grave of PC Moses Barber. Moses lived and died in Court 15, Great Hampton Street, which was opposite The Church Public House. It is believed that he was the first Birmingham Police officer to die whilst in service. It is said that he loved his job and his beat so much that he still walks that beat to this very day….
One creepy occasion I had in the Jewellery Quarter came when I worked at St Paul’s Church. The year was 2010 and I was due to start work exceptionally early one Thursday, so I decided to sleep in the Church on Wednesday night. As you can imagine the Church wasn’t the warmest or most comfortable place to spend the night so it’s not surprising that I was awake just after 3.30am when I heard what was without doubt the most terrifying blood curdling scream I had ever heard. Deciding I should go outside and investigate, I opened the Church doors and was confronted with one of the densest fogs I had ever witnessed, you could see no more than two feet in front of you. After taking a quick look around St Paul’s Square and finding nothing, not a single soul about I returned to the Church. So, who was responsible for that horrendous scream, was it some ghostly apparition reliving her dying moments from years before, or simply a late-night party goer making their way home after a late night from one of the local bars?