The Eclipse Inn, on Winchester’s “The Square” was my favourite pub whilst I was at University. I mean, just look at it. It’s also one of the oldest buildings in Winchester dating from the mid 1500’s. Inside it is a rather quaint little pub, with barely enough room to swing a cat but it’s the history of this building that gets me particularly given the rather harrowing experiences I’ve had in there.
This pub, formerly a private residence as well as a rectory, is the last place that Lady Alice Lilse ever saw. She spent her last night on earth in the rooms on the upper floor of this building, having been condemned to death. On the 2nd September 1685, Lady Alice Lilse stepped out from an upper floor window onto the scaffold that had been erected outside, and there she was beheaded. Her supposed crime? Harbouring fugitive cavaliers. The worst part of the whole thing was that Lady Lilse was 71 years old.
The story goes that during the Monmouth Rebellion, Lady Alice had harboured a cavalier by the name of John Hicks. She was betrayed by four townspeople despite claiming that she had no idea Hicks had fought for Monmouth. Alice was arrested by a former cavalier who had a grudge against her husband, a man who had been a strong supporter of Oliver Cromwell. Lady Alice was tried by Judge Jeffries, who according to tradition bullied witnesses so that he would get a successful conviction. He did, and sentenced Lady Alice to be burnt at the stake. However, due to the uproar of the people the sentence was changed to beheading.
The upper floors of the Eclipse, where Lady Alice spent her last nights on earth, are said to still be home to Lady Alice Lilse. In the room where she stayed guests have reported seeing a grey shadowy figure at the foot of the bed which then disappears, ghostly footsteps are heard, people have reported the feeling of being watched and even gently pushed by someone who turns out to just not be there. The corridors and rooms where this all takes place is actually now where the pub toilet is, and there is a distinct feeling on unease as you walk down the corridor. It is also unnaturally cold up there. The first time I ever went up there on my own I was scared out of my wits as the temperature just dropped suddenly, and ever since then I was unable to go on my own. It was one of those moments where if any of us girls needed the toilet, we took someone else with us. Though I never saw Lady Alice up there, I have a feeling that these stories are correct. That poor old woman, condemned to die in the most horrible of ways – perhaps it’s that reason why she can’t leave the building.