The Haunted Library

Have you heard of the haunted library?

Even if you have, it’s probably not the one I mean.  The one I mean is most likely the smallest library in London, maybe the smallest in all of the UK. There’s not even a librarian.


Many people have come and gone again, and rumours a-plenty fly around  it. They are only spoken of in broad daylight (usually in the pub round the corner).

There is the tale of the small child who is suddenly behind your back, calling your name and tugging icily at your coat because it needs the loo.

Then there are whispers of the cat that once climbed to the top shelf only to find that it couldn’t get down again, and now it gently mews pitifully down to you.

Every so often, a book-browser will claim to have been interrupted by an angry man who shouts, “hurry up Mate, I need to make a call!”, only to turn around and see that there is no one there.

The area used to be covered in orchards which belonged to a nearby monastery. A monk is sometimes seen reaching for the books as though they were  pears. He only picks fruit when someone is reaching for a book, though….even if it’s on the bottom shelf!  Hmm, maybe it was rhubarb that grew here.

Right. Well none of it’s true. At least not the ghosty bits. The library is well-loved and much-used by the leave-one/take-one community.

Or maybe I just haven’t heard the true tales yet…


2 Comments for “The Haunted Library”



It’s odd what turns up when you least expect it. The neighbourhood around the little red haunted library and the search for my ancestors are linked.

I’m not a particularly avid reader; the occasional crime novel is about the extent, but I do spend a good bit of time delving into my family’s past, which I realise is not necessarily interesting to anyone else! For me it’s not about simply compiling a list of names; that bit’s easy enough. Piecing together forgotten lives is what compels me completely.

One particular bit of research lead me to discover a tale of Victorian romance with a surprising twist, that you might like.

My great grandmother was Edith Sanders and this story starts with her father James and his brother John, both born in the 1840s. John Sanders was a publican and became landlord of the Talbot Hotel, Tyrwhitt Rd, now The Talbot, just round the corner from the little library. The pub was their family home for many years.

John Sanders was acquainted with the landlord of the Barley Mo in Greenwich, a man named Charles Jeans, and his two sisters Emily and Amy. I assume that the two families were close because in the 1870s, the two brothers and sisters married:-

Emily Jeans to John Sanders
Amy Jeans to James Sanders (my 2x great grandparents)

At various times in the coming years both couples either lived in or visited the Talbot, with John and Emily listed as proprietors.

But their relationship would change in quite an unusual way. In the 1890s James died and Amy took a house in Deptford, but she spent much of her time at the Talbot. In 1904, Emily died leaving John to manage the pub.

Shortly after, the surviving couple, John and Amy, decide to marry. Brother and sister in-law becoming husband and wife must have raised some eyebrows! Together, they managed the Talbot for another 7 years, until they too died, separated by a year.

A few years ago I went to the Talbot in search of any remaining historical records, but sadly none existed. However, I did find a single gravestone for John, Emily and Amy in the Ladywell & Brockley cemetery, ending the story of their entangled lives.

As a kind of epilogue, last year I was contacted by an unknown cousin via the Ancestry DNA database. It turned out that James and Amy Sanders were our shared 2x great grandparents. Even more special was that my lovely cousin had some old photos including a few of Amy and Emily which she sent to me. They looked amazing in their formal Victorian dresses and it bought them alive again for me.

So now if ever I’m in the area, I’ll pop in to the Talbot and raise a glass to their not so forgotten lives!


This is such a beautiful story Tony, I love it! Thank you so much for sharing. The telephone booth, the Talbot and the cemetery are in my neck of the woods and I know them well. It all comes together so nicely and gives my neighbourhood a new and special sense of meaning. Next time I’m in The Talbot I’ll raise a glass too!

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