Traditions and Hearthside Stories of West Cornwall, Vol. 1, by William Bottrell, , at sacred-texts.com
Little more than fifty years ago, the building in Chapel-street, which now serves as a dispensary, with the adjoining house at the entrance to Vounderveor-lane, formed a mansion which belonged to, and was occupied by, an elderly lady, Mrs. Baines. At that time there was, in the rear of this mansion, a large garden, or rather orchard and garden, extending westward nearly to New-road, and bounded on the south by Vounderveor. The south side of the lane was an open field, and at its west end there were no dwellings. Where the School of Art, the Methodist vestries, and other houses stand, was all known as Mrs. Baines's orchard. This pleasant spot, in which the lady took great delight, was stocked with the choicest apple, pear, plum, and other fruit-trees then known. The town-boys soon found out the fine flavour of Mrs. Baine's fruit, which was to them all the sweeter for being stolen. When the apples were ripe and most tempting, the mistress and her serving-man watched the garden by turns—the man during the first part of the night, and madam would descend in her night-dress every now and then, to see that all was right, in the small hours of morning. One night Mrs. Baines, suspecting that man John was rather careless in keeping guard, sallied forth to see if he was attending to his duty; and, not finding him anywhere about the garden, she went to a tree of highly-prized apples and shook down a good quantity,
intending to take them away, and thus prove to John that, through his remissness, the fruit was stolen. But her man Jan, armed with an old blunderbuss, charged with peas and small shot, was at no great distance dozing under a hedge. The rustling of shaken branches, and noise of falling apples, awoke him, and, seeing somebody, as he thought, stealing apples from their favourite tree, he up with his gun and let fly at his mistress, exclaiming at the same time, "Now you thief, I've paid ’e off for keeping me out of bed to watch ’e! I know ’e I do, and will bring ’e before his worship the mayor to-morrow!" "Lord help me, I'm killed!" cried the lady, as she fell on the ground. Jan stayed to see no more, but, frightened out of his wits, ran away and couldn't be found for several days. At last he was discovered up in Castle-an-Dinas, half-starved. By good luck the old lady's back was towards her man when he fired, and the greatest portion of the charge took effect below her waist. Doctor Giddy was fetched, and, after some delicate surgical operations, which the lady bore with exemplary patience, pronounced her fright to be more than the hurt.
However, a short time after the old lady got shot, she died; and then she kept such ward and watch over her orchard that few were so bold as to enter, after day-down, into the haunted ground, where the ghost of Mrs. Baines was often seen under the tree where she was shot, or walking the rounds of her garden. Everybody knew the old lady by her upturned and powdered grey hair under a lace cap of antique pattern; by the long lace ruffles hanging from her elbows; her short silk mantle, gold-headed cane, and other trappings of old-fashioned pomp. There are many still living in Penzance who remember the time when they wouldn't venture on any account to pass through Vounderveor-lane after nightfall, for fear of Mrs. Baine's ghost. Sometimes she would flutter up from the garden or yard (just like an old hen flying before the wind), and perch herself on the wall; then, for an instant, one might get a glance of her spindle legs and high-heeled shoes before she vanished. Her walking in the garden might have been put up with, but she soon haunted all parts of the premises, and was often seen where least expected both by night and at noonday. The ghost became to troublesome at last, that no person could be found to occupy the house, where she was all night long tramping about from room to room, slamming the doors, rattling the furniture, and often making a fearful crash amongst glass and crockery. Even when there was no living occupant in the house, persons standing in Chapel-street, often saw through the windows a shadowy form and lights glimmering in the parlours and bedrooms.
The proprietors, driven to their wits’ end, unwilling that such valuable property should become worse than useless, all through the freaks of this vexatious ghost, at last sent for a parson who was much famed in this neighbourhood as an exorcist (we think the name of this reverend ghost-layer was Singleton), that he might remove and lay the unresting spirit;
and he succeeded (by what means our informant knoweth not) in getting her away down to the sand-banks on the western green, which were then spread over many acres of land where the waves now roll. Here, this powerful parson, single-handed, bound her, to spin from the banks, ropes of sand, for the term of a thousand years, unless she, before that time, spun a sufficiently long and strong one to reach from St. Michael's Mount to St. Clement's Isle. The encroaching sea having swept away the sand-banks, Mrs. Baine's ghost is probably gone with them, as she hasn't been heard of for some years, and, if she returns, the present occupiers of the old abode wouldn't mind her.
Long after parson Singleton laid the old lady's ghost, many persons were deterred from taking the house because there was a story current that the spirit was confined to a closet in some out-of-the-way part of the house, and that the door of this ghost's place was walled up and plastered over, yet the sound of her spinning-wheel was frequently heard in the upper regions of the old house.
About the time that Mrs. Baine's ghost carried on its freaks in the above mansion, an open pathway passed through St. Mary's chapel-yard, which was then often crossed, as it shortened the distance to the Quay; but, for a long time, few persons liked to pass through the burial-ground by night, because a ghostly apparition, arrayed in white, was often seen wandering amongst the tombs, from which doleful sounds were frequently heard. Sometimes the fearful figure was also met on the path or seen in the chapel-porch. One dark and rainy night, however, a sailor, who neither knew nor cared anything about the ghost of St. Mary's, in taking the short cut through the chapel-yard, came as far as the chapel-porch, when the ghost issued forth on the path and there stood, bobbing its head and waving its shroudings before him.
"Holloa! who a or what are you!" said the sailor.
"I am one of the dead!" the ghost answered.
"If you are one of the dead, what the deuce do you do here above ground? go along down below!" said the sailor, as he lifted his fist and dealt the ghost a stunning blow over its head, which laid it sprawling on the stones, where it remained sometime, unable to rise or descend, until a person passing by assisted it to get on its legs, and discovered that a frolicksome gentleman, called Captain Carthew, who then lived in the house which is now Mrs. Davy's property, had long been diverting him- self and frightening the town's-folk out of their wits by personating the ghost, which was most effectually laid by jack-tar, and served out for its tricks on the timid and the credulous.
From Penzance we take out course westward, keeping near the southern coast, hence to the Land's-end. This route will bring us, at short intervals, to many objects of interest,—grand and picturesque carns, cliff-castles and caverns, celtic monuments, ancient hamlets and mansions, with which quaint legends are associated, &c.