This is probably the most famous ghost story in York. In 1953, a young apprentice plumber, Harry Martindale, was working in the cellars when heard a noise three times. A Roman soldier appeared through the wall blowing a trumpet and looking very weary and plodding. At first only the top half was visible until the soldier stepped into the trench Harry had been digging, when all of him was visible. He passed through the wall opposite and was followed by a soldier on horseback and then another 20 soldiers. All looked dirty and unshaven. They were wearing green tunics and had short sword on their right side. There was no standard. They all passed through the opposite wall and the music faded. Harry described them as very solid figures which looked just like real people. Afterwards he went off sick and never returned to his job. He joined the RAF and later became policeman in York. In 1969 during work to stabilise central tower of the Minster, it was discovered the line of Roman Road went directly under the Treasurer’s House. Harry went public with his story. Experts questioned him and decided he had seen the ‘Forgotten Army, the skeleton army left behind after the Romans had left. There have been other sightings but none for several years.
You can listen to Harry “talking”:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iT3oD-Shkp8 here:
The “Treasurer’s House”:http://wasleys.org.uk/eleanor/stately_homes_castles/england/north/treasurers_house/index.html now runs cellar tours into the part of the cellar where Harry saw the ghosts. There is a maximum of 12 people on a tour and they cannot be prebooked. They are popular so it is worth reserving a place as soon on the day as possible.
The tour begins with a brief description of Roman work before donning hard hats to go into the cellars. These are a network of narrow brick lined passageways beneath the Treasurer’s House. There is one very low bit where you do need a hard hat.
The tour takes you past the remains of a Roman pillar found when the cellars were extended in the early C20th when Frank Green bought the house. He didn’t want it moving, so built a small brick alcove round it. In fact the pillar has been moved at some time and isn’t in its original position.
We were taken to see the wall where the Roman soldiers appeared and were told the story. There were no ghosts this visit.
The present floor level is above that of the Roman road. This was excavated in 1969 but was back filled. There is periodically talk of exposing it again, but there has never been the money to do this.
Was it worth doing? It is a good story but all you see is a piece of wall. I’m pleased to have done the tour, but it isn’t one I’d do again. It is quite difficult to give a star rating. The story is 5* but the actual experience probably isn’t worth this much. It is unsuitable for anyone in a wheelchair.