The Old Lady of Threadneedle Street is a common nickname given to one of the world’s most senior financial institutions in the entire world: The Bank of England. Or is it? Is this Old Lady a very real young lady?
Paul Whitehead Found Guilty and Hung for Forgery
Legend has it that the Bank of England is haunted by an apparition best known as The Black Nun. The true identity of this Nun is said to be one Sarah Whitehead. She had a brother called Paul who was a member of the esteemed Bank staff in the early 1800s. Paul had quite a privileged job inside the Cashier’s Office until the beginning of November 1811. This was the day that Paul was charged with forgery. The following year Whitehead was sent for trial at the Old Bailey and a guilty verdict was returned. Paul Whitehead was sentenced to death and hanged.
Sarah Whitehead Asks to See Her Brother
For the Bank and its employees, this was a matter that had been resolved and almost forgotten. The staff there seemed almost surprised to discover Whitehead’s sister turn up on their doorstep one day and ask to see her brother. Not wishing to hurt her feelings, one clerk at the Bank told her that Paul was away on Bank business. When she returned the following day, she was told precisely the same thing. The subsequent day to that one yielded the same results. Each time Sarah Whitehead turned up at the Bank, she was always dressed in the same style. A long black dress with a matching full-face veil did tend to make the staff and customers a little uneasy. One time that she turned up and asked one member of staff where her brother was, he revealed his fate by accident.
The shock on hearing this development had a significant negative impact on the poor woman. Learning of his fate was bad enough, but being kept in the dark for a substantial amount of time just made a bad situation worse. Sarah’s grief took on a disturbing turn. Once again, she turned up at the Bank in identical attire and requested to see her brother. Something about her appearance seemed much more intense though. Clearly, she was in denial over what she had been previously told, while her more stringent persistence unnerved people even more than before. Even from behind the veil, some reckoned that Sarah Whitehead was descending into madness.
A Compromise is Made
It is believed that the Governor of the Bank decided to offer her a compromise. Provided that she not enter the Bank for the rest of her life, Sarah Whitehead would receive a stipend as a means of compensation from the death of her brother and whatever grief the inconvenience of not being informed had on her. Sarah agreed to this and kept her word. For the rest of her life, she didn’t bother the Bank or its employees.
Did Her Spirit Remain at Threadneedle Street?
When the Bank of England discovered that the wronged woman had passed on, they generously offered to intern her remains in a plot behind the Bank itself. Could this have been the worst thing that they could have done to her? Now not bound to the contract made when she while alive, Sarah Whitehead’s spirit found itself free to roam within the grounds of the famed institution. For the next couple of centuries, countless reports of a woman in dark clothes asking random passers-by if they have seen her brother anywhere have been made.
Other Sightings of the Black Nun
Not far away from the Bank of England building is it’s namesake Underground station. A ghostly apparition of a woman dressed all in black has been seen there as well. Commuters that haven’t seen anyone lurking within the passageways of the station have experienced the next best thing: overwhelming feelings of despondency and apprehension, moans and wails along the platforms. Bank Underground station has a dark history all of its own. Originally built on the pits of the Great Plague, it became one of the numerous safe points utilized in the Second World War during air-raid warnings. In 1941 a German bomb fell on it and cost 19 civilians their lives. Did these victims find a kindred spirit with another spirit? A more notorious spirit?
Modern London thrives on its tourism, like any other major city in the world. One of the tourist attractions that London can offer is the Bank of England on Threadneedle Street. If a tourist is approached while marveling at the local site, be wary of a female voice that wants to know if you have seen her brother.
Sites pulled: 20 February 2016