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WEIRD NORFOLK: Ghostly nun who appeared in Mann Egerton’s Norwich boiler room

PUBLISHED: 18:00 11 July 2020

Inside Mann Egerton in Norwich, undated. Picture: Archant Library

Inside Mann Egerton in Norwich, undated. Picture: Archant Library

Archant Library

The ghost of Mann Egerton: ‘Each time I have seen the nun it has been daylight with the lights on. I know when she is about to appear because I get a feeling of being cold.’

L0363 Mann Egerton showroom Prince of Wales Road jan 3 1990 ArchantL0363 Mann Egerton showroom Prince of Wales Road jan 3 1990 Archant

When the temperature dropped in the boiler room, Mr Pullinger knew what was about to happen: one might say it became somewhat of a habit. In what was once the main depot of Mann Egerton and Company in Prince of Wales Road close to Greyfriars Road and King Street, the ghost of a nun was seen in the 1940s and 1960s.

In the EDP of December 9 1960, the unusual sighting was noted and the witness, a Mr AWP Pullinger of Trix Road in Norwich, interviewed. Mr Pullinger, an engineer, told a reporter that he had seen the ghost of a nun in the basement and then the boiler room of Mann Egerton three times in one year and once before World War Two.

“The nun looks as solid as you or me and I can hear her as she walks over the concrete floor, rather like a hospital nurse making the rounds of a ward at night.” said Mr Pullinger, who was 52 when interviewed.

“She always appears at the same spot, from behind one of the boilers. She walks across the room and passes through a closed fireproof door.

“She is dressed in a black or dark grey robe, with a white headdress and black shoes or boots. The place she appears from was where a hole was dug a year or so ago for a chimney. Some bones were found during excavations but they were found to be animal bones when they were sent to the Castle Museum.”

Mann Egerton was an automotive and aerospace company with its headquarters in Norwich and was formed in 1905 by Gerald Mann, an electrical engineer, and Hubert Egerton. The company supplied custom-built car bodies for Rolls-Royce, built aeroplanes in the First World War and vehicle bodies in the Second World War, particularly the Austin K2/Y ambulance. In 1964 the electrical department was sold to the Westinghouse Brake and Signal Company and Mann Egerton was acquired by Inchcape in 1973 although its woodworking business continued until it was bought out by the management in 1973. Back to our story, and Mr Pullinger elaborated on the vision he had encountered, saying that in addition to not looking translucent and ‘ghostlike’, the nun also didn’t appear at night: she preferred daylight or to appear when the lights were on.

“Each time I have seen the nun it has been daylight with the lights on in the room.”

“I know when she is about to appear because I get a feeling of being cold,” said the engineer.

He added that he felt no fear when she appeared and described how he had first seen her when he was at work on a night before the war.

“I was working in the basement when I saw the nun walking across the floor,” he said, “other people have since told me they have seen the nun in the basement, though not recently.”

The Mann Egerton building, which was largely demolished in 1993, was partly built on the site where Grey Friars, or Franciscan monks built a priory in the 13th century. In 1880, not only was the priory still marked on maps, so was Cooke’s Hospital, which was built on Rose Lane in 1692 thanks to the generosity of Robert and Thomas Cooke. The latter also built several alms-houses “…for the perpetual habitation of 10 poor old women, as well widows as maids” and the women chosen to live there were given an allowance and coal. It was demolished in 1892 after being declared insanitary. Might Mr Pullinger’s nun have been working at the hospital or might she have been paying a visit to the priory from the nearby Carrow Abbey, further along King Street? Could her appearance in the basement be because ground level in the area would have been considerably lower than it is today? And why was the ghost so ‘solid’? Equally, was there a reason she appeared during daylight hours?

Weird Norfolk hopes that other former employees of Mann Egerton, once a major employer in Norwich and across East Anglia and the rest of the country, may be able to provide some answers.

As an aside, at a branch of Mann Egerton in Bury St Edmunds, over the border in Suffolk, also in the 1960s, evening cleaning staff began to refuse to work their after dark claiming they were experiencing “strange noises and uncanny feelings”. Odd things happened at the Bury showroom: clocks would run backwards and objects move when no one was there – this time, however, the paranormal activity was blamed on a poltergeist rather than a nun…

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