Book Haunted Inns and Hotels in West Dorset

The Old Ship Inn

16 High West Street, Dorchester

In 1619, a retired sailor arrived at Dorchester. He opened this inn with his pension and gratuities. It is now the oldest pub in the town. Part of the original wattle and daub wall from this building is now exhibited at the local museum. The inn exhibits ghostly manifestations. These include the sounds of ragtime and music from the Second World War. Locals knew that the pianist, Russ Conway, who went on to star at the London Palladium in later years, was stationed in the Royal Navy barracks nearby. He had been a frequent customer at this inn. Legend is that the ghost of Russ Conway is still in residence, playing his old and favourite tunes. There was a gibbet near here many years ago where people, who had been hanged, were contained and left to rot. Locals think that the ghost that haunts this area was either a woman from the Tudor period or Martha Brown, the last woman to be hanged for murder in Dorset. She the authorities executed outside Dorchester Prison after being convicted of killing her second husband, John Brown, 13 days previously. The prosecution said she had attacked him with an axe. However, Martha Brown maintained he had taken a whip to her before the axe attack. The novelist Thomas Hardy was among the crowd of 3,000–4,000 who watched the hanging of Brown. Hardy was aged 16 and standing close to the gallows. He wrote, many years later, that he was ashamed to have been there. He described the hanging in his novel, Tess of the Durbevilles. There is also a phantom army of Roman soldiers on the old road outside the town. Thomas Hardy wrote about these in the Roman Road.
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