Honiton: Message from beyond the grave for Allhallows Museum

EVEN the most sceptical of sceptics cannot deny they have heard footsteps on the stairs at Allhallows Museum, Honiton – when there has been nobody there. The noises are so pronounced that a group of mediums was last week granted access to the building...

EVEN the most sceptical of sceptics cannot deny they have heard footsteps on the stairs at Allhallows Museum, Honiton - when there has been nobody there. The noises are so pronounced that a group of mediums was last week granted access to the building, which is the oldest in Honiton.

The psychics were in the museum, once chapel of the former revered Allhallows School, from 9pm to 1.15am overnight on Wednesday. There to independently witness and record their findings were museum archivist Margaret Lewis, her daughter Donna and Midweek Herald editor Belinda Bennett.

Events uncovered a shocking evil (don't miss next week's Herald), a demented woman at a spinning wheel, a black cat with a white spot and a heartwarming plea from the late Mary Doidge.

Encased in glass, mannequins wearing antique Honiton Lace were just an eerie reminder of the town's great industrial past. They were not frightening. In the semi-darkness of a far corner of Allhallows Museum's lower ground floor, the garments that hugged their inhuman frames flowed like symbols of a cottage industry that is no more.


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It was in this setting that 'Mary' made her presence felt.

"There is a lady here and she is asking 'What have you done with the papers or letters?'" a medium said.

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He went on: "She says she is called Mary and she is anxious. She was happy when she could see them."

Museum archivist Margaret Lewis was asked if this could relate to something that had been taken off display. It was stressed, the medium could see something with a crown motif on the top.

Margaret said no, not to her knowledge.

There was nothing in the museum that could fit that description, she said. No lacemaker fitted the description.

The medium said he could see the woman with a wooden frame.

Later, no more than half an hour, he came up with Mary's surname - Doidge.

When he uttered the word, it struck an immediate chord with Margaret.

An embroidery sampler, crafted by a Mary Doidge, had been put into storage less than a month before after being on display for a number years.

It had been moved to make way for an exhibition to commemorate the start of World War Two.

The medium felt, quite strongly, that Mary was proud of the work and preferred it to be kept where she, and others, could see it. He felt she had devoted much of her life to needlework.

The Midweek Herald recorded the moment Margaret carefully removed tissue paper the sampler had been stored in.

When the needlework was uncovered, it revealed that Mary Doidge was just eight years old when she painstakingly sewed each stitch.

At the top of the sampler were two crowns. A verse below them stated (exact grammar, including spellings):

See Israels gentle shepherd

With all engaging charms

Heark how he calls his little lambs

And folds them in his arms

Margaret agreed to ensure the sampler goes back on display soon.

Later, Mary's spirit came forward through the same medium, to say thank you. She did not wish to say anything else. She "stood back", the psychic explained.

The next day, the Herald examined the sampler in greater detail.

It may be a coincidence, but Mary dated her work October 31, 1844.

October 31 is hallowe'en - also known as All Hallows Eve!

It is believed from national census records from 1844 that Mary was born in Devon.

Her sampler says "Sydenham School". Sydenham is a local name and the museum is trying to establish if there was ever a school in the town of that name.

Meanwhile, the Herald is checking the history of an exclusive, private girls' school of the same name in Lewisham.

Mary's sampler forms part of a collection donated to the museum in the 1940s.Nothing is known of the collection's origins, because no records were made at the time.

What is known is that Mary Doidge's needlework was advanced for an eight-year-old and that her sampler shone out from the rest.

It is worth seeing.

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