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University of Leicester Archives Uncover Accounts of the Supernatural

The University of Leicester has uncovered a series of spooky documents and images from its Library archives.

The images document the history of the site of the University’s campus over nearly two centuries, even from before the University was established in 1921.

According to Leicester Museums, Leicester is one of the UK’s most haunted cities, with more than 100 reported paranormal sightings.

Leicester Time: University of Leicester Archives Uncover Accounts of the Supernatural
Picture: University of Leicester

With a campus steeped in so much history, it should come as no surprise that the University has its own ghost stories to tell.

The ghost of Knighton Hall

According to a private letter held by the University, Knighton Hall may be haunted by two ghosts.

Knighton Hall, a twelfth-century building, is now the home of the University’s Vice-Chancellor, Nishan Canagarajah.

A lady who previously lived in at Knighton Hall wrote that people felt a presence on the top landing and experienced a feeling of being watched during the night in one of the bedrooms.

The letter said: “It is rumoured to have a secret passageway to a nearby church and to be haunted by a ghostly coachman and Grey Lady”.

The haunting of the Botanic Garden

Ghosts are rumoured to haunt two of the houses on Stoughton Drive, that are now part of student halls and the Botanic Garden.

A book entitled A Prospect of Oadby: The Story of its Northern Development From 1902 to 1992, by Helen Boynton, contains an account about two buildings: The Knoll and Meadowcroft.

The University bought The Knoll in 1964 and is now part of the Botanic Garden. Meadowcourt was bought in 1955 and is now Digby Hall.

An excerpt from the book says: “There is reputed to be a ghost in The Knoll which haunts the first floor, particularly one of the rooms overlooking the pond in the garden.

“The story goes that one of the ladies living in the house… looked out of the window and saw someone drowning in the pond, which is heart-shaped… the ghost appears towards the end of August. Lights go on and off, footsteps can be heard, and doors slam shut.”

“There is also a ghost here [Meadowcourt, now Digby Hall] and a lady in a large bonnet has been seen several times in the kitchen frightening the cook who described a rush of cold air passing on one occasion.”

Leicester Time: University of Leicester Archives Uncover Accounts of the Supernatural
Picture: Digby Hall at the Botanic Garden

Hospital and asylum buildings
The University was established in 1921, but its first building dates back even further.

Built in 1837, what we now know as the Fielding Johnson Building, was originally used as an asylum for paupers with mentally and physically debilitating illnesses.

College House, the childhood home of David and Richard Attenborough, was also part of the original asylum buildings as the Superintendent’s house from 1872.

By 1908, all patients had been transferred to a new facility at Carlton Hayes, Narborough.

The building then stood empty until the First World War, when it was occupied by 5th Northern General Military Hospital.

Eleanor Bloomfield, Archives and Special Collections Advisor at the University, said: “The University archives contain thousands of documents relating to the founding and history of the institution.

“Special Collections contains several thousand rare books; many of these are Victorian, an age which had an intense fascination with death and ghosts.

“The collections have been built up over time from a variety of different sources and donors. They are important in order to preserve and shed light on the past.”

Leicester Time: University of Leicester Archives Uncover Accounts of the Supernatural
Picture: Drawing of the Leicestershire County Asylum, now the Fielding Johnson Building