Garlick Hill – London

In this district (which gets its name from the fact that garlic was formerly sold there) stands the beautiful church of St James Garlick Hythe. A legend has grown up over the last 150 years or so, to the effect that it is occasionally haunted by a grey, withered figure, with its hands crossed over its chest, to be glimpsed standing rigidly in some obscure corner, apparently staring towards the altar. This is ‘Jimmy Garlick’, the ghost linked to a naturally mummified corpse which was discovered in 1855 when the vaults were being cleared out. The dead man’s real identity is unknown, since the church records were lost when the building was gutted in the Great Fire of London, and this has given rise to much modern speculation, unsupported by evidence. He has been variously asserted to be Belin (a legendary king of the Britons), a Roman general, Henry Fitzailwyn (a medieval Lord Mayor, who died in 1212), Dick Whittington, or a youth called Seagrave Chamberlain who died of fever in 1765 and is commemorated by a plaque in the north aisle.

The body was so well preserved that for almost a hundred years it was displayed in a glass case bearing the traditional verse:

Stop Stranger Stop As You Pass By.

As You Are Now So Once Was I.

As I Am Now So Shall You Be.

So Pray Prepare To Follow Me.

The choirboys used to take it out on Sundays and prop it up in a pew. Some have supposed that this glass case was the actual coffin, but this can hardly be so; more likely, it was constructed to display the mummy after its discovery. During the air raids of 1942 a bomb shattered the case, and the mummy is now kept out of view, in a chamber of the tower. The church is also haunted by a phantom cat, which some regard as confirmation of the Dick Whittington connection.



Haunted England : The Penguin Book of Ghosts – Written by Jennifer Westwood and Jacqueline Simpson
Copyright © Jennifer Westwood and Jacqueline Simpson 2005, 2008