Peter Slater who now lives in Scunthorpe, recalls a
Mysterious event from his Derbyshire childhood.
During the war my mother was an active member of The Woman’s Institute organisation. One of her duties was to look after the room that the ladies used on every Friday to sell their Garden produce, home made jam and cakes.
The room was situated on Cockpit Hill in Derby, in what used to be the bar of The Canal Tavern. Mother kept the room clean and tidy, tables laid out, and ensured that a good fire was going when the weather was cold.
Through these weekly meetings she made a good friend with Violet Huddlestone, who lived with her father in The North Lodge Gate House at Kedleston Hall, I believe that he was the gamekeeper for the estate.
As a result of this friendship we often used to go over and stay for weekends at the lodge.
This was quite an adventure for me at ten years of age, and being a “Townie” as well! Preparing to go for a weekend was quite something, bags to be packed and food organised, which in 1944 was still on ration.
It also meant a ride on one of the Trent Traction Companies lovely red buses, with polished radiators, and magical names, Guy, Dennis
Leyand and Gardner. It was a treat to see them with their engines slowly ticking over before starting out.
The bus dropped us off at the lane end, which meant quite a long walk to the lodge gates, but with hardly any traffic and unspoilt hedgerows it soon seemed to pass and the sight of the Imposing lodge gates was more than welcome, with the prospect of a good tea with good home made bread and cakes.
The event that I am about to relate happened in the September of 1944 and has still stayed in my mind, as fresh, as the day that it occurred.
I was given quite a free range in the park to play, but I was told that on no account was I to cross the bridge at the end of the main drive which leading to the fore-court of Kedleston Hall.
Several small brooks ran down the park into the river and I followed one which lead to a reed bed, in which I had a nice hide-out, from which I could observe the water rats and water hens (“wazzers “we used to call them).
It was early morning and slightly misty as I then made my way along the bank to the foot of the stone bridge, when over the other
“forbidden side”, caught up in the reeds I spied a bottle, boyish fantasies of pirate treasure and secret messages ran through my mind, a quick look, no one coming, all caution thrown to the wind, crouching low, I ran across the bridge to retrieve the bottle, only to find it empty!
Suddenly, along the river bank, coming towards me, was a horse and rider. I just froze, here was I an intruder on “forbidden territory”, just what was to become of me?
The rider was a youngish slim woman on a chestnut coloured horse, dressed in a long grey coat, with a black veiled hat, she was riding side-saddle and carried a riding crop in her gloved right hand.
Passing about six feet away from me, she looked down and smiled at me and carried along the river bank. As soon as she passed I took to my heels. And ran back to the bridge, stopped and looked back, she had simply disappeared! Horse and rider vanished!
Not a trace of the horse and rider was to be seen.
Now with no cover on the bank, no bushes or trees, and the elapsed time mere seconds she had just simply gone! But how?
That evening at teatime, Violet asked me what I had been doing all day with myself. I decided to tell them of my encounter. Violet smiled and turning to her father said “Young Peter has seen The Lady in Grey”. Questioned by my mother Violet told how several of the villages and estate workers had seen the rider in grey, but they themselves had never seen her.
I moved away from Derby in 1959 and to this day I have always remembered the sighting. I would very much like to know if anyone else in that area has seen, in recent times, or perhaps can recall a relative mentioning see “The Lady in Grey"
Scunthorpe August 2005