Today I visited an old haunting ground of mine. The Cross Keys Inn is one of the oldest pubs in Sheffield and being the only one built on holy ground. The pub stands in the grounds of St Mary’s Church, Handsworth and is alleged to be haunted by a ‘monk’ or at least a person wearing a habit.
St Mary’s Church originally dates to 1170, the Cross Key’s Inn building again is very old and was not always a public house. When it was originally built in the mid-13th century, it was used as a Church House for the chaplains and lay clerks attached to St Mary’s Church.
The Rector of the Church lived at the Rectory and his assistants lived in this Church House – the Church was very wealthy and powerful institution in the Middle Ages. After the Reformation, the old medieval church house was converted into a school, and in 1823 it became a public house and has remained so ever since.
It was during this conversion that a passage was discovered running from the Cross Keys towards the opposite side of the road, however this could be local folklore with a tinge of truth. Almost following the line of the alleged tunnel, sightings of a shadowy figure crossing the road outside of the pub has been seen a number of times.
Back in 1987 and at the young age of fifteen I had a handful of “investigations” (I was still using a bible and crucifix as a part of my artillery) under my belt and was looking for my next investigation. Luckily Valerie Salim released two fantastic books “Ghost Hunter’s guide to Sheffield” and “More Sheffield Ghosts” – one of which mentioned the hauntings of The Cross Keys Inn and its monk.
When I visited, after catching the bus for five pence from Sheffield to Handsworth, I discussed the hauntings with the landlady of the time and she described how she would often hear a bell ringing from the church. It wasn’t the peal of the church bells, but rather the ringing of a hand bell. Sometimes there would be sightings of the black monk, some of the locals believed he was a murdered soul walking from church to the pub where he was killed (they probably didn’t realise it wasn’t a pub in his time). However the landlady believed there was something far more active and powerful in her living accommodation. Many times she had experienced Old Hag Syndrome but also witnessed a sinister, tall male shadow standing in the corner of her bedroom. Little is known of the ghost but it often appeared after she had experienced the crushing sensation on her chest.
I was never given the chance to investigate the Cross Keys but it was great to revisit this haunted location that reminded me of when I first started to research and investigate the paranormal. And the reason for my visit? To see a relic visiting St Mary’s church – another area of human belief.