The Poltergeists of Penhill

Swindon, Wiltshire

The housing estate of Penhill was built in 1952- 1955 and was built due to Swindon expanding and it became an ‘overflow town’ in which to house those mainly from London. The area on which the estate was built had been mainly farmland. It was a spacious place to live when it was first built and residents there seemed happy to class Penhill as their home.

It was in 1973, when the BBC aired an episode of a program called Leap in the Dark- Hauntings. The show was about the supernatural and on this particular episode it featured a young married couple, Dave and Sheryl Pellymounter with their 3 year old son, Alan, who lived in a house on Westbury Road, Penhill. They had been experiencing poltergeist activity and had called in an exorcist to rid the house of whatever was causing this activity.

The Pellymounters had witnessed their items being moved around, the feeling as though they were being watched, the radio being switched on and off as well as doors opening and shutting as though by invisible hands.

Photos © - Swindon Advertiser

On the program, Dave Pellymounter told of how he came home after work, placed his wallet in his coat pocket, which he hung in the hall and went upstairs to clean himself up. When he came down, his wallet was no longer in his coat pocket so he retraced his steps and looked to see if it had fallen somewhere but to no avail. He decided to look all over the house and came to find it under the marital bed, even though he had only visited the bathroom, so it had gone from his coat pocket to under the bed.

The strange and eerie goings on tended to happen downstairs, especially the hallway. Voices that were muttering would be heard there and also rustling noises as if some invisible persons were walking through the hallway.

Their 3 year old son, Alan, would be very afraid to walk through the hallway and he would stand before it and just cry. The Pellymounters called in a local vicar, Father Walker, who then called upon Canon Harman, from the local Diocese to conduct an exorcism. The program showed Canon Harman performing the exorcism and Dave Pellymounter said the temperature was very cold during the exorcism and as it progressed, the temperature went back to normal.

I have seen this episode many years ago but unfortunately, I’ve not been able to find this particular episode so if you know where I can find a copy, let me know!  

We now go onto the 2nd exorcism that happened just half a mile and 7 years later from the above case. It was 1980 and a teenage couple, Perry and Donna Bryce, lived on Melksham Close, Penhill. The young couple said that the activity started as soon as they moved in with their 3 week old daughter. The first morning they were woken up by their dog howling and their back door was being banged upon as though someone was trying to get in the house. They also found that the loft door was fully opened and that the door of their pantry had been ripped off its hinges.

A friend was in the kitchen with Donna and they were making coffee when all of a sudden, loud banging on the back door was heard. Again, it sounded as though someone was trying to get in the house. Both women fled in pure fear!

The couple decided to sleep in the living room, with their baby besides them, in a cot. As they lay there trying to go to sleep, the light in the living room kept flashing on and off. As that was happening, a cassette recorder was witnessed levitating and then thrown 10 feet towards the baby’s cot.

The Bryce’s turned to the local council after the last activity as they felt whatever this force was, it might hurt their baby daughter. It was the council who said they would get an exorcism on the property and would also rehouse the young couple.  

It would appear rather strange that 2 houses within a half mile of each other, had similar poltergeist activity. It might be suggested that whatever had been on the land before, could have some reason as to why these houses had poltergeist activity. The Penhill estate was built on farmland and it had been owned by the Merton Oxford College estate at one time. There was also a site of a well head on Inglesham Road, that supplied the water for Arkells Brewery. Inglesham Road is not too far away from where the Pellymounters lived. There may have been some cottages on the land for the farm workers, that were knocked down when the estate was being built.  

I did find 2 interesting and rather morbid accounts that happened when the land was farmland. An inquest was held in 1866 on the death of 19 year old Elizabeth Legg. Elizabeth had been working as a domestic servant at the time of her death. She had put turpentine into an oven, for the purpose of cleaning furniture. As she took the turps out of the oven, her clothes caught fire. She had rushed outside, screaming and despite quick attendance in putting out the flames, she was to die from severe burns, not long after the accident. Her death was recorded as ‘Accidental Death’.

Another person was to lose their life on the farmland too. It was in 1913, in the winter at around 5.45am, when a local man, Albert Kirby, who was a carter, came across a dark object laying under a hedge on Penhill Farm. Albert Kirby took a closer look at the object and was horrified to see it was the body of a man, lying face down. Albert touched the body, and it was very cold so he ran and sought the assistance of a police officer and when they returned to where the dead body lay, a wagon was bought so the body could be taken away to the mortuary at the local workhouse in nearby Stratton.

The body was recognised at the workhouse as Thomas Pert, 52 years of age and a watercress and mushroom vendor. Thomas Pert had no fixed address and it had only been the week before, that he had stayed at the workhouse, on the casual ward. Thomas had had a varied life, joining the Gloucester Regiment as a young man but after a while, deserted the regiment. He had never married and spent most nights sleeping rough, in barns, hedges and occasionally, the workhouse. The cause of death was ‘Exposure’.

Could these untimely deaths have anything to do with the poltergeist activity in both these houses? I’ll leave that up to you to decide.