IT’S a new chapter for a well known Warwick inn which has recently reopened as a Spanish restaurant and cocktail bar.
But, while the team and interior may be new, there’s no doubting the building still retains its original spirit – in every sense!
The 17th-century former manor house in West Street, regarded as one of the most recognisable buildings in the town, is now home to Flamenco restaurant – and a resident friendly ghost called Jennifer!
Spooked staff at the business have reported a series of unexplained sights and sounds over the years, from shadowy figures to flying glasses and self-rocking rocking chairs.
Former manager Sweetie Sohal, whose family have owned the building for 18 years, recalled her first ghostly encounter in the winter of 2010.
“I remember I was pregnant with my first child and, on two occasions, I came through the door and heard a young lady say ‘hello’ even though I knew there was no one else in the building.
“A lot of people would say to me that when you’re pregnant your brain plays tricks on you so I’d put it down to that and didn’t think any more of it.
“Then, a few years later when my daughter was about five, we were here on a Sunday evening with friends who were having a birthday meal. One person was taking lots of photographs and video. There’s a small window going up the stairs and, in all the years, I had never seen anything in that window. But the camera shots revealed a face in the window. It was a young girl of similar age to my daughter with olive skin. And it looked like there was a skull shape next to her which was freaky.
“Everyone was shocked when they saw the picture. She looked very sullen and sad like she wanted to play with the children but couldn’t come out.”
One of the town’s oldest inns, The Grade II Tudor House was among only a handful of buildings to survive the Great Fire of Warwick in 1694, which destroyed most of High Street, Church Street, Sheep Street and parts of Jury Street and New Street.
From a manor house it went on to become Sunnyside Apartments in 1888, an auction house in the early 1900s, Tudor House Café and then Tudor House Inn bed and breakfast, as it’s best known today. It’s this rich history – and tales of the supernatural – that still attract ghost hunters from across the country.
Sweetie’s spiritual encounters continued throughout the years including glimpses of ghosts and sinister activity.
She said: “One day I caught the back end of somebody going up the stairs and no one was in the building. I believe I saw the tail of a black skirt.
“Three or four of our older customers tell us how they used to come in as a child 40-50 years ago, and they remember seeing a maid standing here in black and white. And it was always in this room on those stairs.
“A few years ago there was a lady in here who sketched a picture and she said: ‘I’ve just seen this lady and wanted to sketch a picture for you.’ It made me jump out of my skin because it was the maid wearing the black and white outfit!”
There have also been sightings of a man who used to sit smoking at the bar wearing a distinctive hat adorned with a long feather.
But Sweetie is quick to reassure customers that the ghostly guests mean no harm. Jennifer is a friendly young spirit whom, she believes, is just keeping a watching brief on her former home.
She said: “I was told by a spiritualist that the spirits within this building like me and I will not have a problem. She gave me advice that if I made changes and I felt something was going wrong in here, like the electrics or water etc. just to stand in the middle of the room and talk to Jennifer and say ‘today, this is what we’re going to do and I will make sure I am on top of it and no one damages anything.’
“Any time we would have a party of, say 50 or more people, the Coke hose on the bar would stop working. After the last person had left, I would say ‘try the Coke gun now’ and it would be working. It’s because she doesn’t like that many people in the building.”
She added: “She was here before me and I am just a passer through. I think she just wants it to be recognised that she’s there. It’s nothing to worry about. She is a nice spirit and is not here to cause anyone any harm, it’s more a blessing really.
But three years ago Sweetie’s nerve was first tested when, whilst staying in one of the bedrooms with her daughter during building work on her home, she was forced to take action.
“We stayed in Room 10 and one night the television came on and it went ice cold at the bottom of the bed. I turned it off but it came on three times! I woke up my daughter and did the only thing I could think of and got the Bible and started reading a Psalm out of the New Testament. I left the Bible open, and all of a sudden that freezing cold feeling had gone and that’s when I personally experienced what some customers will talk about that happens in Room 10.”
Bar manager and waitress, Julia Correderas Orozco, from Spain, admits she was not a believer in ghosts – until she started working at Flamenco three months ago.
She said: “Customers recently reported seeing a glass just fall off a table that had no one was sitting at and I saw for myself one fly off a shelf while I was pulling a pint.
“I also help clean the rooms here and have heard the TV turning itself on regularly. And guests have asked about the presence of ghosts because they hear noise in the night and their rooms suddenly go deathly cold, despite their radiator being on.”
Flamenco opened in April and marks the second project for new restaurateur Alex Clayton who recently won Best Spanish Restaurant award for Tasca Dali which he opened seven years ago.
He now hopes to replicate this success with his authentic and traditional cooking methods specialising in tapas, paella cooked over flame and hot stone cooking (meat is cooked on a hot stone) – plus live music and cocktails. This cooking style was the inspiration for the restaurant’s new name Flame’nCo.
But Alex Clayton is yet to get the approval of his ‘special guests.’
He said: “I believe this place has an energy. The good news is that all the indications we have from the experts are that the ghost is benign and there’s nothing to be afraid of.
Despite that, there is still one feature of the business he is reluctant to change – a decrepit rocking chair that is believed to be haunted with the ghost of Jennifer.
Sweetie said: “I have told Alex not to move the rocking chair in the back room. Every time we had a party and I’d have to move it I would gently pick it up and place it somewhere else and would reassure her: ‘Jenny, you sit here and keep an eye on everybody. It’s going to be a good night and we’re going to have a great party.’ Nothing would ever seem to go wrong then.
“I remember once, three years ago, moving the rocking chair to the balcony in the bar while we were redecorating and had a massive water leak gushing through from upstairs and I blamed it on the chair. When I moved it back to its rightful place nothing ever happened again.
Alex respectfully added: “It will be kept here. It is part of the furniture of the place. It’s part of the building and in the same way we respect the building we try to respect the history that comes with it.
“People can come and ask the chair if it will let them sit in it and we will see how it responds!”