Mark’s account went all the way back to 1953, six years before I was even born. He talked of a plumber of that time called Harry Martindale who was seventeen. Apparently he was working alone in the cellar of the treasury house when he heard the sound of a bugle or trumpet type instrument. As he looked round, much to his astonishment, he saw a legion of Roman soldiers, one on horseback and the rest on foot, marching through the wall and exiting the cellar through the opposite wall. One thing that he noticed was that the figures were only visible from the knees up. This was the tell tale sign I was looking for because I have had many such experiences myself, seeing only certain parts of the entity. He told every body that he knew about his sighting but nobody believed him except for the caretaker of the treasurery building.
A few years later in the 1970s, a massive archaeological dig revealed a Roman palace in the vicinity of the Minster accompanied with finds of weapons, gold and swords. A roman road was also discovered leading through the grounds of the treasury house, confirming what Harry Martindale claimed to have seen twenty years before. A man called Peter Broadhead who years before had been a friend of Harry Martindale was the very first person to set up a ghost walk of this kind and found huge demand for the nightly excursion through the streets of York. Peter later sold the ghost walking business to Mark Graham the current owner of the business.
York is apparently still haunted by 2,000 year-old ghosts: the lost Roman Legion. Harry Martindale, an apprentice plumber installing a heating system in the cellars of the Treasurer's House, spotted the ghosts in 1953. He heard a horn in the distance, and then a disheveled Roman soldier on a horse emerged from the brick wall. This soldier was followed by others, all looking dejected, carrying swords and spears. They appeared to be walking on their knees, but really an old Roman road is located fifteen inches below the cellar, so the ghosts could have been walking on their own familiar road, on their way to the Minster. Others after Martindale have spotted these soldiers as well, so many that the area is now closed to visitors.
ere differenYork is known as the most haunted city the world3, and one of its more interesting ghostly encounters happened in the cellar of Treasurer's House. In 1953, a young plumber named Harry Martindale who did not know about this discovery had an exciting story to tell about a day he spent working in the depths of the house. He claims to have heard a horn then seen a collection of Roman soldiers </dna/h2g2/A3421072>. The men were tired and dirty, hardly the usual image of a pack of proud Roman soldiers. What interested historians was a number of details about the soldiers such as their armament and the colour of their kilts which wt to what historians expected, but later turned out to be accurate. It is this which persuades some otherwise sceptical people to believe this story, and perhaps, to believe in ghosts in general. The soldiers marched through the wall into the cellar, though they were cut off at the knees – they were walking at the level of the original Roman road </dna/h2g2/A1283122>, part of the city's Roman legacy </dna/h2g2/A6377790>, which was later discovered under the existing floor at the level where their feet would have been.
What had come out of the wall was the almost complete figure of a Roman soldier. Harry watched in fear and amazement as a large horse ("like a great big carthorse") then emerged from the wall, with a Roman soldier sitting astride him. It was only when the horse reached the excavated part of the floor did Harry notice its bushy fetlocks.
The Treasurer's House in York was once used to house the treasures of York Minister from the 12th century until 1546. The last treasurer, William Cliffe, resigned, after all the treasure was removed during the dissolution of the monasteries. The house was extensively rebuilt in the 17th century. Today it is owned by the National Trust, and has the reputation of being one of the most haunted buildings in Europe.
One ghost story stands out above all the others however and concerns Yorkshireman Harry Martindale who, in 1953, was apprenticed to a firm of plumbers in Micklegate, York.
In February of that year, he had to make a hole in the ceiling of the cellar of the Treasurer's House to take a new central heating pipe. The old curator didn't really want Harry there, but the job had to be done. Harry stood his ladder on a section of old Roman road, about 6 feet in diamater, which had been excavated in the centre of the cellar floor at a depth of about 18 inches.
Just before midday, whilst he was chiselling away at the stone ceiling, Harry heard what he described as "just a blare of a note" which seemed to be coming from within the wall. He was four rungs up the ladder and, as he glanced down, he saw in line with his waist, the top of a plumed helmet with a person underneath it, coming through the wall! Gripped with fear, his hair standing up in fright, Harry stepped off his ladder, fell backwards and landed on his backside in the corner of the cellar.
In June 2006, I went to the Treasurer's House in York where Richard Felix had arranged for Harry Martindale to give a talk about his famous ghostly experience of 1953. Harry was fascinating to listen to and I was delighted to be able to go with him into the cellar to see the exact place where he saw the Roman soldiers. He signed my copy of The Ghost Tour of Great Britain - Yorkshire which has lots of other York ghost stories in it!
Harry only talked publicly about his experience for the first time in the early 1970s, in a TV interview and needed his medical records to confirm the exact date that he had visited his doctor nearly 20 years before.
As the last pair went through the opposite wall, Harry hurriedly made his escape, frantically scrambling up the cellar steps to the ground floor, leaving behind all his tools and ladder. He was met by the old curator who saw him and said, "By the look of you, you have seen the Roman soldiers!"
Harry was in such a state that he went back to Micklegate and "told his boss what he could do with the job at Treasurer's House" before calling in at his doctors on the way home. His doctor immediately signed him off work for two weeks suffering from 'shock'.
Once the horse had cleared the cellar and gone through the opposite wall, about twenty, Roman footsoldiers followed, walking in pairs. They were small, dark men, and each carried a large round shield on his left arm and a spear in his right hand, with a long-bladed, dagger-like sword in a sheath, hanging from a belt round his waist. "I could see them, and all they had to do was glance at me and I'd had it, but not one of the soldiers looked in my direction," remarked Harry. Like the horse, the soldiers too seemed to be walking on their knees until they reached the excavated section when it was clear that they were walking on the Roman road. One soldier carried a long, trumpet-like instrument, which looked very battered & worn and was obviously the source of the noise heard moments earlier.
Harry Martindale later joined the police force and worked for a time at York Assizes. During the late 70s and 80s he would take visitors on ghost walks around York, but had to stop doing them because of ill health.
For the past twenty years, Harry has not spoken of the events of that day in 1953, until Richard Felix persuaded him to tell his story for his DVD Ghosts of York
Perhaps the most extraordinary thing that Harry noticed was that the men looked weary, miserable and dirty, shuffling along like an undisciplined rabble. Some looked ill, even wounded.
Harry described the soldiers as having plumed helmets, beards and wearing 'shiny tops' over green tunics. Round their waists they had short, red 'skirts' with strips of leather hanging down. They had thongs tied from their ankles up to just below their knees. For many years it was thought that Roman soldiers tied these thongs just above the ankle, but in the 4th century they tied them right up to their knees. Another factor dating these ghostly soldiers to the 4th century was their shields. It was widely thought that Roman soldiers only used one type of shield, the 'scutum', which was very large and rectangular in shape. However, an archaeological discovery recently made at Hadrian's Wall showed that auxiliary troops during the 4th century used round shields, similar in size, shape and description to those seen by Harry. This fact was not known in 1953.
Richard Felix and Harry Martindale have
both signed my copy of The Ghost Tour
of Great Britain - Yorkshire
Harry Martindale talking to us in the
Treasurer's House in York
An artist's idea of Harry Martindale's story
Harry Martindale talks to Richard Felix in the
cellar of the Treasurer's House, York
The Treasurer's House, York
Harry Martindale (1935-2014)
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Harry Martindale passed away on 21st October 2014, aged 79.