Sunday, 31 October 2010



During the 1730s the Excise or Preventative Men were the scourge of the thriving smuggling trade around Whitby. In its position of isolation on one of the main roads into town, Saltersgate Inn, with an ex-sea captain as landlord, was the ideal place in which to conduct this nefarious business with relative immunity.

With an eagle eyed-lookout surveying the countryside for customs officials, alarm was usually raised in plenty of time to give the locals ample opportunity to hide the contraband and secrete the evidence of crime securely away. By the time the officers of law burst into the hostelry, to all intents and purposes it was a normal working pub. The landlord was serving ale, two men were deeply engaged in a game of cards, a dog slept by the fire and a drunk was mumbling to himself sprawled over a table in a corner. No one was ever caught.

One night, after the usual unsuccessful raid, the Excise Men hatched a plan to catch the reprobates red handed. One of them stayed behind and hid in a nearby farm outbuilding until the cogs and wheels of the secret trade began turning again inside the alehouse. Freezing cold and windswept, after an hour or so he stealthily crept to the entrance. Gathering all his moral fibre together he kicked open the door, brandished his gun at the throng and shouted "I am arresting you in the name of the King!"

Seemingly it was all over for the crew of felons caught squarely in the act. But unbeknown to the officer, one of the locals had nipped outside to answer a call of nature. He saw the Excise Man in the doorway on his return, and quickly felled him with a judiciously swung barstool to the head.

The Excise Man was stone dead. After debating the issue of how to cover up this murder of an official of the King, a plan was devised which involved burying his body beneath the fireplace. The slabs were lifted and the corpse was incarcerated beneath the hearth of Saltersgate Inn. The fire was always kept burning to make sure it was impossible to carry out a search there.

When the landlord died thirty years later it had become a tradition for the fire to always remain lit day and night. Legend decreed that if the fire ever went out the vengeful ghost of the Excise Man would haunt the inn and wreak rack and ruin on the pub.

Now, due to renovation work, the fire has indeed been extinguished. Unfortunately the money ran out and the inn is now a semi derelict shell, a sad phantom of its former self. Does the blame fall on economic circumstances, or possibly the malevolent spirit of the Excise Man returning from the dead to punish the living?

Search me !


Rebecca said...

Hi my names Rebecca I lived in and worked at saltersgate I helped run it through the summer of 2001 the landlord and landlady at the time were sharon and michael milner. I loved it working there. Michael kept the fire going even in summer and it did live up to its legend 😊

Chris said...

Hello Rebecca. Thanks for your comment.

If you have any stories about life at the pub, especially anything weird or a bit spooky, feel free to share them with me and I'll write them up on the blog. You could send an email to my address, which is sonotaphonomy@yahoo.co.uk

How sad it is to see the pub derelict.


Rebecca said...

It is sad to see the pub derelict but I have some lovely memories of the pub! I loved it there it was my home for 8 months and I did miss it when I left! My mum came to stay for christmas and the pub was shut on Mondays so we were sat in front of the famous fire one night when we heard a noise coming from the men's toilets it was the hand dryer going off! The pub was shut and there was no one else in the pub! My mum ran upstairs faster than road runner lol that's the only thing that ever happened up there yet people had told me stories of men walking through walls and things flying about