More about Bold Lane

I mentioned the Bold Lane Library ghost earlier. We used to see a shadowy figure down the far end of the building, usually just as we were about to close and on going down there to warn them, found there was nobody there. From what I have worked out, the stage would have been down that end of the building, but it’s hard to be sure as the building had been altered several times and many more since we left around 1970. I have learned only recently that the building was not built as a theatre originally, either, but as a malthouse and later converted into a theatre, so it was considerably older than we first thought. I think the malthouse may have dated from around 1717 and was converted into a theatre in 1773. Prior to that, there had been a clay pipe works around the site somewhere with a kiln, and arrow makers(were also in Bold Lane, which had originally been called Bolt Lane.) So there had been plenty of activity on the site before we got there. However, we all felt our spook was a theatrical one. After all, Sarah Siddons played there twice…

One Saturday morning, I arrived early, well before 9am, as someone had give me a lift and there was nobody there. No cleaners, no caretaker or his dog. I sat by the mirror in the cloakroom doing my hair. There was a skull on the dressing table, in case I forgot to mention that. Librarians are a funny lot. It belonged to a member of staff who’d lent it to an art student/medical student whatever and forgotten to take it home. Or something. I forget. Anyway, all was silent until I heard footsteps coming up the stone stairs. Women’s steps in high heeled shoes. They came up to the door and just stopped. Silence. No-one came in. No-one spoke. No-one moved away again. I called hello. Silence. I went out and looked. The place was empty. It was ten minutes before anyone else came in and nobody had apparently been in before.

We had many interesting characters who used the library(live ones)as well as our ghostly inhabitant. One elderly lady had been a nurse in the First World War and used to tell us fascinating stories about her life. She invariable asked us discreetly if she could use our somewhat erratic toilet before she left and would disappear down the far end near the haunted cloakroom from whence we would hear some desperately non-ghostly clonking sounds before she re-appeared bewailing ‘It won’t GO, you know!’ which always set us off giggling. We also had fortnightly visits from the local prison at Sudbury and the denim clad trusties used to disappear behind the shelves to have a discreet fag before they were caught, and actors from the old Derby Playhouse in Sacheveral Street were fairly frequent visitors. One guy loosely connected with both the Library and the Playhouse was Arthur the Carpenter, who was sometimes called upon when we had some problem that couldn’t be fixed by Mr Something beginning with M (and the Works Dept. was in Matlock and How Long is Forever? )Arthur was a thin dark guy of indeterminate age who always wore a little black beret and rode a clanking bike. I think he had wire-framed or horn-rimmed glasses and knew absolutely everyone and vice versa. Arthur seemed taciturn to begin with and was man of few words, to begin with, anyway, but what he had to say was terse and to the point. Very much to the point, in fact, and if you wanted to know what was going on and better still, who was having it off with who, Arthur was your man. Arthur looked exactly like some ancient French artisan in an old black and white movie, in his navy overalls and on his clanking bike, minus only the baguette on the handlebars, and that was how I last saw him, somewhere between Friargate and Brick Street when he rattled past me one evening on his old bike about 1970 with an ‘Ey Up’ or ‘How Do’ rather than a ‘Bon Soir’ but that’s how I remember him.