Monday, April 24, 2017

The Prince of Wales Niagara-On-The-Lake

Located on King Street and Picton in the historical precinct of Niagara-on-the-Lake, The Prince of Wales hotel was built in 1864 by William Long.  Niagara-on-the-Lake, once known as Newark was the first capital of Upper Canada and the bustling shipping town had served as the First Seat of Parliament and headquarters of the British Army during the War of 1812.  The 1864 cornerstone of the hotel, still visible today, shows that the building was constructed three years before the Confederacy, the uniting of the British Colonies of Canada, Novia Scotia had New Brunswick to create one Dominion of Canada.  

William Long called his hotel Long's Hotel and it originally catered to all manner of guests.  Long was a hotelier as well as an auctioneer.  He often used the hotel dinner bell to advertise sales during his auctions. The hotel was completely rebuilt in 1888.  Built in red polychrome bricks the building is designed in the Second French Empire style.  Adhering to this architectural style the Prince of Wales has a unique mansard roof, beveled corners and quoins.  In 1890 Long was involved in an accident involving runaway horses.  His recovery was drawn out and the ensuing stress meant the hotel was eventually sold in 1899 to Patrick J. O'Neil.  The hotel was renamed Niagara House.  

The hotel was marketed by O'Neil as an "Uptown Summer Hotel" that was catering to the well-to-do travellers coming to Niagara-on-the-Lake from the United States and Europe.  Among the guests that came to stay at the hotel were the Prince of Wales King George V, son of Queen Victoria, and his wife Mary.  In honour of the visit the hotel name was later changed to The Prince of Wales.  Following O'Neil's death the hotel was sold to the Brownlee family. The hotel lost popularity during the depression.  In 1975 the Weins family purchased the hotel.  They refurbished the hotel, extending it along Picton and King Street.  John Wein added a South Wing, the Court Building and the Studio.  

In 1997 the Prince of Wales was added to the Vintage Hotel properties owned by Jimmy Lai.  The hotel was closed in 1998 for extensive refurbishments. Lai placed his sister, Ms. Si Wai Lai in charge of the renovations.  She went on to hire design architect Victor Tarnay to assist.  On July 1st 1999 the Prince of Wales reopened.  The renovations captured the essence of the hotel's history.  A large stained glass wall, created by Gundar Robe, decorates the foyer.  Ms. Lai also payed homage to her Chinese heritage acquiring an ivory table, dating back to the K'ang-his dynasty of 1662-1722, engraved with a battle scene, that once belonged to the Empress Dowager Tzu Hsi. The Prince of Wales has the largest collection of Victorian style rooms in Canada.  

There are many conflicting accounts of the hauntings in this building.  One account suggests that a wooden house on the land prior to the hotel was the home of a young woman.  During the siege of Niagara-on-the-Lake in the War of 1812, an American soldier was asked to search the supposedly abandoned building.  After searching the first floor and finding it clear the soldier had proceeded upstairs to the second floor.  He saw a figure by the window, rushed towards it and ran his bayonet through what he thought was a British soldier.  He actually murdered Molly McGuire, an innocent woman, who had been looking out at the lake hoping her husband was returning.  The room that sits in the location of the place in which Molly McGuire was murdered is room 207 in the Prince of Wales. Lights have been known to flicker in this room and water faucets turn off and on by themselves.  

Another source confusingly cites the origins of the ghost, whose spectral form has been seen wandering in the foyer, along the halls and in room 207 as actually being a woman from the early 1900s.  The woman supposedly fell in love with a soldier training at Camp Niagara during World War One.  With the soldiers departure date approaching the young couple decided to have the ceremony and honeymoon at the Prince of Wales.  Following the ceremony the soldier was sent to France.  For a year they wrote letters of love and longing before the woman received a cable explaining that her husband had been killed.  The woman refused to believe it was true and locals in Niagara-on-the-Lake got used to seeing the forlorn bride standing at the window of her room in the Prince of Wales looking out at the street.  She became so distraught and convinced her husband had deserted her that she never left the room.  The woman was found deceased in the room clutching a picture of her husband.  In relation to this haunting there have been flickering lights, the sighting of a wispy spectral figure, rapping on doors and an ethereal face staring from the window of room 207 when no one is in the room.  

One of the problems with the paranormal not being taken seriously is the fact that many of the supposed "experts" or "investigators" writing about these reported events do no research and dates are wrong.  Ghosts and hauntings are described with all sorts of errors in the events.  These pieces of information are then shared and a game of Chinese whispers ensues resulting in erroneous details being shared and hence giving skeptics fuel.  

I have been to Niagara-on-the-Lake many times and always stay at the beautiful Prince of Wales.  I enjoy the High Tea served in the Drawing Room and the beautiful suites decorated authentically.  If this lovely hotel is haunted it doesn't ever feel like something bad. I have had a little experience here myself while lounging in one of the beautiful baths in the corner suite.  My radio turned on unassisted.  I just enjoyed the bath and the ethereally chosen music.  


Monday, April 17, 2017

The Temple, London

Just off the Strand in central London, the Temple is an almost hidden district.  With an interesting mix of 17th-, 18th- and 19th-century architecture, the Temple also houses the historic Temple Church.  One of only two round churches in the United Kingdom, the Temple Church is modelled on the Temple in Jerusalem.  Originally known as 'Novum Templum', meaning 'New Temple', in the 12th Century, the Temple Church was built by the Knights Templar, serving as a stronghold for the Knights Templar who were moneylenders, warriors, and mystics.  

The Knights Templar, with their distinctive white mantles emblazoned with a red cross, was a military order that reported to the Catholic Church.  The order was recognised in the papal bull Omne Datum Optimum of the Holy See.  A public decree issued by the Pope, a papal bull is named after the leaden seal, or bulla, that is attached to the bottom of the decree to authenticate it.  The order of the Knights Templar was founded in 1119, and was active from around 1129 to 1312.  Wealthy and powerful, the order became a favourite charity throughout Christendom, adding to its membership and influence.  

With its increasing power, the crown heads of Europe started to perceive the Knights Templar as a threat.  The Knights Templar were associated with the Crusades and, when the Holy Land was lost, trust in the Order diminished.  King Philip IV of France, deeply in debt to the Knights Templar, took advantage of the situation and outlawed the Order, torturing and burning many members at the stake in order to get false confessions.  Under pressure from King Philip IV,  Pope Clement V dissolved the order in 1312.  The Temple was claimed by the Crown following the dissolution of the Knights Templar.  In 1324, the Knights Hospitallers claimed the Temple from their deposed rivals.  Edward II, however, bestowed the Temple on a favourite of his, Hugh Le Despencer, who was later hung, drawn and quartered.  Following Hugh's death, the Inner Temple was given to the Mayor of London and then, in 1333, to William de Langford, the King's Clerk, for a ten-year lease.  

In 1337, the Knights Hospitaller petitioned the King, now Edward III.  In response to this petition, the Inner Temple was divided between consecrated land to the East and unconsecrated land to the West.  The Eastern part was the Inner Temple, and the Western part became the Middle Temple.  Langford kept the Middle Temple, with his lease running out in 1346, while the Knights Hospitaller eventually leased the Inner and Middle Temples to lawyers, continuing a tradition which began in 1320.  Henry VIII dissolved the Knights Hospitaller in the Reformation, but he allowed the barristers to remain as tenants for the Crown.  The Outer Temple was given to the Bishop of Exeter and, eventually, was purchased by Robert Devereaux, an English nobleman and favourite of Elizabeth I.  

The location of the Temple was increased in size when the River Thames was embanked by Victoria Embankment.  After WWII, the Inner and Middle Temples had to be rebuilt.  With an area that is now bound by the River Thames to the south, Surrey Street to the West, The Strand and Fleet Street to the North and Carmelite Street and Whitefriars to the East, the Temple is the main legal district of London.

The Temple includes the Inner Temple which is one of the four Inns of Court.  All practitioners of law in England and Wales must belong to one of the four Inns of Court.  The Inns of Court originated as hostels and schools for student lawyers in the thirteenth century.  Each Inn has its own gardens, dining halls, libraries and administration buildings.  The Inner Temple was one of the two halls constructed by the Knights Templar, and still retains the buttery from its medieval heritage.  The Inner Temple serves as a professional association for Judges and Barristers.  The Middle Temple, also a remnant of the Knights Templar (though none of the original build remains), houses the Honorable Society of the Middle Temple.  New Court was built in 1676 by Nicholas Barbon.  The L-shaped Fountain Court was created in 1680, with the fountain being renovated in 1919.  Fountain Court served as inspiration for authors such as Charles Dickens.  The Temple Church is located between Fleet Street and the River Thames, and the Temple Bar was the principal ceremonial entrance to the City of London on its Western side from the City of Westminster.  At one time, part of the Temple housed The Devil's Tavern.  This establishment hosted the likes of Ben Johnson, English playwright, critic and poet, who hosted gatherings of the 'Tribe of Ben' in the Apollo Room.  William Shakespeare, Jonathan Swift, Alexander Pope, Dr Samuel Johnson, and Samuel Pepys were also known to frequent the Devil's Tavern.  The Tavern was demolished in 1787. 

From early on, there have been whispers of satanism and black magic performed in the Temple.  Many strange events and vicious murders have occurred within the precinct.  When electricity was installed in the Middle Temple, a skeleton in a box was discovered.  The perfectly-preserved skeleton was believed to be over 200 years old.

When a Miss Broderick took up residence in the Middle Temple at Brick Court, she is said to have arranged to meet her lover, a Mr Eddington.  When he arrived late without a satisfactory reason, she shot him dead.  

Sarah Malcolm, an educated, middle-class young woman, was hanged at twenty-two years of age for a triple murder in Tanfield Court in the Temple.  She was employed as a launderess for several chamber apartments in the Inns of Court.  One of her customers was a frail elderly woman called Lydia Duncomb.  Mrs Duncomb lived in an apartment in Tanfield Court where she was assisted by two live-in servants, sixty-year-old Elizabeth Harrison and seventeen-year-old Anne Price.  It's said that Anne Price had her throat cut, Elizabeth Harrison was strangled, and Lydia Duncomb was strangled or had died of fright.   Although Sarah Malcolm claimed she was part of a group robbing the home, she was the only one charged and executed for the crime. 

The Temple is famously haunted by Judge Henry Hawkins.  His full-bodied spirit has been seen with judicial wig and papers under his arms walking through the Temple precinct, even in daylight.  He is said to appear most often when only one person is present to see his spirit.  Henry Hawkins, 1st Baron Brampton, was an English Judge who served in high-profile cases as Judge of the High Court of Justice between 1876 and 1898. 

I love London, and the Temple is such a fascinating place to visit.