Fortean London: The Walking Nunhead Dead

By Scott Wood Last edited 168 months ago

Last Updated 13 May 2010

Fortean London: The Walking Nunhead Dead

45. One Day At A Time.jpg
Nunhead spook caught by Tyla'75.

Nunhead Cemetery Open Day is this Saturday which got us thinking about a tall, undead banker with a sad story.

William Daniel Jenkins was a six foot, seven and a half inch tall clerk who worked at the Bank of England until his death on 24 March, 1798. William lived in a London of resurrectionists stealing the dead for dissection, particularly the bodies of giants. 200 guineas had already been offered for his corpse and William was “considerably disturbed in his mind” that his body may be snatched after his death.

So friends of William obtained permission to have his seven foot, six inch coffin interred in the court garden of the bank. The safest place to deposit a giant bank clerk being a giant bank.

William’s troubled soul did not rest easily, however, and his gangly ghost would shake the rifles of the Bank’s armed guards. JA Brooks, in Ghosts of London, wondered why his image was not then picked up by the guards replacements, the CCTV cameras installed in 1973.

This may be because there is actually no such thing as ghosts, or maybe because in 1923 William Jenkin’s coffin was removed and moved out to Nunhead Cemetery to be reinterred in consecrated ground. A photograph of his coffin from this time can be seen on the Bank of England’s website.

William rested in the eastern catacombs of Nunhead until thethe seventies when, ironically due to Williams fear of grave robbers, the then abandoned cemetery was robbed and coffins were stripped of their lead and torn open.

In 1975 a council workman saw a “tall dark stranger” dressed totally in black emerge from the the eastern catacombs before disappearing into the undergrowth. He was carrying a large book, like a ledger.

In 1976 a journalist contacted Ron Woollacott, local historian and Mr Nunhead, to ask him if someone in the cemetery might fit the spectre’s description. Ron, writing in the Friends of Nunhead Cemetery newsletter years later, found the best candidate for the ghost: the sorry shade of William Jenkins.

But where was he of to when the counil worker saw him? Had he started commuting back to the City and, if so, which All Bar One or Corney & Barrow is he drinking in? Fortean London would like to know.