The tragic tale of John Davies and the Robber's Grave of Montgomery

Border Counties Advertizer: The grave of John Davies. Picture: Montgomery Blog Spot.The grave of John Davies. Picture: Montgomery Blog Spot.

Next year marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of one of Montgomeryshire's most enduring supernatural tales.

The sad tale of the so called Robber's Grave of Montgomery has been passed on to passing generations ever since 1821.

John Davies, a plasterer from Wrexham, was found guilty of assault and robbery and sentenced to death by hanging despite protesting his innocence throughout his trial.

The tale of John Davies is a tragic one.

He had served as a steward at a local farm and had revived its fortunes while also earning the affection of the daughter of his employer who had been widowed several years before.

This had earned the resentment of rival farm owner Thomas Pearce and jilted fiance Robert Parker who had orchestrated a violent robbery and left evidence behind to incriminate their mutual enemy.

Hundreds gathered in the town to witness Davies' hanging.

Border Counties Advertizer: Montgomery's St Nicholas Church.Montgomery's St Nicholas Church.

It is recorded that a storm had begun no sooner than when the noose had been placed around the condemned man's neck and thunder and lightning had soon engulfed the town.

The lightning is said to have illuminated the face of Davies who had addressed the crowd by saying "If I am innocent, the grass, for one generation at least, will not cover my grave."

Rumours had soon spread of the dead man's final words and some had come to believe him innocent.

Such rumours of a curse being placed Pearce and Parker had also taken flight in following years following the death of Pearce in a blasting accident while Parker is said to have led a wasted life.

As Davies had prophesised, no grass had grown on his grave for the next century while even today the site in the town's St Nicholas Church has bare patches and can still be seen today 30 feet from the gate.

The courthouse and county jail where Davies was condemned and spent his last nights have long been converted into cottages though reports of the ghost of the 'Robber's Grave' have continued for nearly 200 years.

The Powis Castle spirit who guided a seamstress to riches

Border Counties Advertizer: Powis Castle in WelshpoolPowis Castle in Welshpool

In 1780 an elderly seamstress had come to serve at Powis Castle, seemingly unaware of staff tales of a haunted room on the property.

The woman had been shown to a grand room with only her Welsh Bible as company to spend the night.

She is said to have been awoken by an ‘opulently dressed man with a gold laced hat and waistcoat’ who had entered her candlelit room three times, walking to the window and leaving the room and politely closing the door behind him.

On the third visit the elderly woman summoned enough courage to ask the apparition what he wanted.

The ghost gestured for the woman to follow him, leading her into a small room where he began to pull up a floorboard, under which was a locked casket.

The spirit showed the woman to where a key for the casket had long rested with the instruction to send the key to the Earl’s address in London.

None know what was in the casket though what is known is that the Earl was so delighted he had rewarded the woman with a home and enough money to see out her remaining days in comfort.

The spirit was never seen again, but tales of a woman in white haunting the castle persist, an unidentified man has also been seen on the ground floors, and a horseman in the grounds.

The evil spirit long confined to the depths of Lake Vyrnwy

Border Counties Advertizer: Lake VyrnwyLake Vyrnwy

These days Lake Vyrnwy is a peaceful haven and tourist spot.

But beneath the depths lies the old village of Llanwddyn, a community said to be haunted by all manner of spirits, including those in the form of a headless man, a pack of hounds, a bull and a greyhound.

But the most well known of these tales was that of Yspryd Cynon who was said to plague a local farmhouse, Cynon Isaf.

A famous parson, known as Dic Spot the Conjurer, was called in to rid the community of his evil antics, trapping him in a bottle or a quill and placing it under a large stone in the river below the farmhouse.

Centuries passed though legend of the evil spirit’s confinement under the Carreg Y Ysprid, the Rock of the Spirit or Ghost Stone, had endured.

Locals believed the ancient tale enough to raise their concerns when the Liverpool Corporation had revealed their plans to flood the valley and the village of Llanwddyn in the 1880s, blasting Carreg Y Ysprid with dynamite

But all that emerged was a frog which had appeared as if awoken from a long slumber – though locals had reported hearing sounds like chains being dragged along the ground for several nights afterwards.

The tragedy of the woman who became White Kitty of the Grove Cave

Border Counties Advertizer: Plynlimon, where Catrin and Rowlant are said to continue to haunt.Plynlimon, where Catrin and Rowlant are said to continue to haunt.

The story of Catrin had been as lost to the passage of time as the village in the mountains where she had grown up, Llachwedd Cwm Gwarchau near to a lake known as Bugeilyn, at the turn of the 18th century.

However in 1829 the story was reborn following a report in the Cambrian Quarterly Newspaper.

Two local shepherd brothers, Evan and Lewis Jones had come across a ruined cottage and nearby water in the mountains and while a fisherman, who recounted the story, had been intrigued and sought a closer look at the ruins the two shepherd boys had flatly refused.

Lewis had finally told the fisherman “In the name of the heaven sir, don’t go, you will meet with White Kitty of the Grove Cave.”

The fisherman discovered that White Kitty had been born Catrin, married a shepherd called Rowlant Humphrey in 1704, and had lived in the mountains.

One day the 16-year-old and pregnant Catrin had set off on the nine-mile trip to market with a group of friends.

But in stormy weather, a growing mist and driving rain which pounded Plynlimon, Catrin and her friends drifted apart.

Catrin’s husband Rowlant had been awoken the next day by Catrin’s dog scratching at their farmhouse door, and followed the hound through the crags of Gelli Gogo to a stream and bog where something caught his eye – the red cloak with which poor Catrin had been presented on their wedding day.

Catrin’s body was never found and Rowlant had gone mad with grief. It was said the spirit of Catrin had haunted Plynlimon ever since.

Shepherds reported seeing a young woman, clad in a shredded red shawl with green weeds covering her hair and shoulders, and which emanated a red and white glow.

While Rowlant’s spirit has never been seen there have been chilling accounts of a man’s voice calling out in pain the name of his dead wife and stones being thrown in caves at Grove’s Cave near the River Rheidol.

The man awoken by the spirit of Owain Glyndwr 450 years after his death

Border Counties Advertizer: Owain Glyndwr. Picture: Wikicommons.Owain Glyndwr. Picture: Wikicommons.

It was 1870 and preacher Richard Rhys had arrived in Machynlleth expecting decent lodgings – only to end up in a crumbling farm house owned by the deacon.

Soon after falling asleep, a noise in the house disturbed him.

“At first I had thought something had fallen in the next room but by and bye when more sounds came I could hear the tramp of many feet on the stairs,” he wrote.

“Suddenly the door of my room swung open and in walked a troop of men. I could see them as clear as possible as the moonlight was as bright as day. And what I thought most odd was that all the men were dressed as armed men of hundreds of years ago.

“One of them planted themselves by the chimney piece and the others stood before him.

Border Counties Advertizer: Parliament House where Richard Rhys stayed. Picture: Wikicommons.Parliament House where Richard Rhys stayed. Picture: Wikicommons.

"The men seemed to be debating and the leader apparently giving directions when one of the number rushed forward and with his sword lifted, attempted to kill the leader. In the twinkling of an eye the head man sprang forward and the assassin was foiled.”

It was only many years later that the history of the building became known to the preacher – it was where Welsh rebel leader Owain Glyndwr had survived an assassination attempt at the hands of Sir David Gain, the Fluellin of Shakespeare, in 1402.

Two years later Glyndwr would be crowned Prince of Wales and made the house which he had survived death at the hand of Sir Gain the site of his first parliament.