The Legend of HMS Asp

By Terry John Lamphey
HMS Asp

One of the most well-attested Pembrokeshire ghost stories was that of HMS Asp. This small paddle steamer had been a passenger boat plying between Ireland and Britain, but had been taken over by the Admiralty. There were many rumours about the ship during its civilian life, but it was not until about 1850, when the ship was sent to Pembroke Dock for a refit, that the stories became widely known.

The newly appointed commander of the Asp, Captain Alldridge, was warned when he first stepped aboard that his ship was haunted. A complete disbeliever, he chose to ignore the stories, but within days he was forced to admit that there was something very strange about the Asp. Loud noises could be heard coming from the empty cabin next to his, but when anyone entered it to investigate, nothing could be found.

On several occasions drawers were yanked open by unseen forces, disembodied human voices were heard and once Alldridge was woken when his bed was dragged around the cabin. Even more alarming were the times when the bedclothes were pulled roughly to the floor or a cold hand caressed his forehead.

Other members of the crew and some of the workmen who were refitting the ship also experienced these supernatural occurrences. Many refused to remain on board. Things came to a head one night when the Quartermaster was terrified by the sight of a woman standing on one of the paddle-boxes, pointing towards the sky.

Eventually Captain Alldridge decided to investigate the past history of the Asp. He discovered that, many years before, during its time as a passenger vessel, a young woman had been murdered in the cabin next to the one he occupied. No-one ever found out who she was and who killed her, but the haunting only ceased when the Asp was broken up.

The Running Man of Lamphey Palace 

Some ghosts haunt a particular spot because they have an unfinished task to perform. One such is the Running Man of Lamphey Palace near Pembroke. This ancient building was the home of the Gunter family in the years before the outbreak of the Civil Wars in the 17th century.

John Gunter was a convinced supporter of Parliament and, when the fighting began, he set off to join the opponents of King Charles I, leaving his wife Mary in charge of the palace. Knowing that she, as the wife of a prominent Parliamentarian, would be a target for Royalist attack, she prepared a defence, blocking doorways and erecting a wall on the most vulnerable side of the building.

Each night she sent one of her most trusted servants to patrol the lanes between Lamphey and Carew Castle, the nearest Royalist garrison, to give warning of an enemy approach.

One night early in 1643, the expected attack came. The servant heard a troop of mounted soldiers approaching in the darkness and spurred his horse towards the palace to give warning. The enemy troopers opened fire, shooting his steed from under him. Thrown to the ground and injured, he nevertheless scrambled to his feet and attempted to run on, shouting aloud as he did so. He was surrounded by his mounted pursuers and shot down.

Ever since then he has been heard running through the darkened fields towards the palace, attempting to give in death the warning he was unable to give during life.

Categories:History, Autumn, Pembrokeshire

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