Court In The Act

Lost on the streets of Monmouth, hosting the tripping championships, dressing in gowns and wigs and getting a stranger to participate in a mock trial can only mean one thing – another episode of Calamityville Horror.

Monmouth Shire Hall

Monmouth Shire Hall

Last night we managed to convince Monmouth Shire Hall to let us hire it out for five hours, so we invited our mates Tom and Amy. Tom had a taster of Calamityville when he joined us at Berkeley castle but Amy has never come out with us before. We were super organised – we even found a free car park and saved a map of it. Using the map, we set off for the Shire Hall, loaded up with rucksacks full of equipment, food and drink and 5 camera cases. Think pack mules. Only to spend ten minutes walking in a circle then trespassing the grounds of a school because Cat thought it looked ‘Shire Hall-esque’. Neen rescued us with her navigation and we found our way to the Shire Hall. When we got there, the worker, Thom, who had volunteered to stay the night, asked where we’d parked. When we told him, he said that was miles away and we could have parked right outside. Thank you Parkapedia, you are joining AA Route Planner on The List. Thom asked if it was just us 5. Yes. Members of the public would not pay to spent the night ghost hunting with us. Our lack of insurance would not cover the injury damages they would sustain.

Monmouth Shire Hall

courtroom 1

Thom gave us the guided tour and warned us about the many steps to trip over. We assured him we would trip anyway. Then we proved it. Repeatedly. The most trips occurred on the steps up to the judge’s seat in court. Either we weren’t looking where we were going, or the ghost of the judge that haunts this place didn’t want clowns in his seat. As we were having the guided tour, the Ghost Radar said “Fire.” We assured Thom we would not burn down the building. He seemed pleased about that.

Monmouth Shire Hall

judge’s chambers

We went into the judge’s chamber where a mannequin of Judge Nicholas Tindal sits, appearing to be graffiting the desk. The K2, which had been quiet, bleeped by Nicholas’s elbow. After setting up base camp in the learning room, we decided to explore. Neen found gowns and wigs in the judge’s chambers for dressing up. In her haste to get to them, Lynx tripped over the platform the judge’s chair was on. It kicked off a night of clumsiness that has surpassed all other episodes. Unfortunately, most weren’t captured on camera. Even Tom and Amy joined in with the calamities, with Amy tripping as much as Lynx and Tom smacking his head in the air raid shelter, hard enough to draw blood. Naturally we did what all good mates do – laughed and took a photo. While we were donning the gowns and wigs, worker Thom came to check on us. We asked him to take a photo. He admitted we were not like any other ghost hunters he’d met. Apparently they’re very serious.Monmouth Shire Hall

The Monmouth Shire Hall is known for holding one of the most famous trials in history – the Chartists’ trial. The Chartists wanted the vote for all men and when leader Henry Vincent was imprisoned and convicted, riots broke out on November 4th 1839, led by John Frost, Zephaniah Williams and William Jones. But William was captured and held inside the Westgate Hotel in Newport. The Chartists gathered outside, demanding he be released.

Monmouth Shire Hall

steps to the cells

There was a riot, a gun was fired and this was seen as an assault on the hotel. 10 Chartists were shot and killed by soldiers inside the hotel. On 31st December, Frost, Williams, Jones and 5 others were put on trial for high treason in courtroom 1 of the Shire Hall. Nicholas Tindal was one of the judges. On 16th January 1840, the men were found guilty and the three leaders were sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered but on the day before their execution, Lord Melbourne, under Tindal’s advice, asked Queen Victoria that their sentences be changed to transportation. On 2nd February 1940, they were put on the steamer Usk to Van Diemen’s Land, now Tasmania. In March 1854 they were pardoned conditionally and in 1855 unconditionally. Williams and Jones stayed in Tasmania but Frost returned home to a hero’s welcome.

Monmouth Shire Hall

the cells

We decided to stage a mock trial and had brought one of our gavel pens from Edinburgh Dungeon to use, along with shackles from Oxford Castle. Tom was first in the dock for dogging. The court were shocked. None of us expected that of him. He’s always seemed like such a gentleman. Lord Chief Justice Neen presided with Cat as the prosecutor, Lynx as the jury and Amy as the public. Ketch, our cuddly executioner from Edinburgh Dungeons, sat on the judge’s bench, ready to dispense the Queen’s justice. Next Lynx was on trial for witchcraft. Lord Chief Justice Amy presided, with Cat as the witness, Neen as the jury and Tom as the prosecutor. Then we decided to be a bit professional and did our information spiel about the history of the Shire Hall and it’s supposed ghosts. Turns out, a medium who had previously visited the Shire Hall could smell burning and said a previous building on the site had burned down. The Ghost Radar saying ‘fire’ earlier now seemed relevant. It is also haunted by a family that were hanged for theft, three girls tried for witchcraft, a judge, a woman in white who staff see entering rooms only to disappear. The medium also reported seeing fierce dogs.

Monmouth Shire Hall

this way to the air raid shelter

We began the important business of ghost hunting. After all, it is supposed to be a ghost hunting show. We did group vigils in the cell area and the air raid shelter then had a quick refreshment break and left the JVC  filming the motion sensor lights in courtroom 1 with the Ghost Radar. When we returned, the last word spoken was ‘vote’. This was the courtroom where the Chartists were tried for treason after trying to get every man the vote. We did vigils in courtroom 1 and courtroom 2, where Amy joined us in another Calamityville tradition – dancing. We treated the ghosts to the Monster Mash and the Time Warp. If the ghosts were impressed, they didn’t admit it. Later, in courtroom 1, the K2 bleeped when it was lying on the table. We moved a battery and DVR away from it but it continued to bleep then went silent. We returned to the judge’s chamber but the K2 didn’t respond to Nicholas this time. We set a motion sensor light on the windowsill and part way through our vigil, it lit up. Tom and Lynx thought they might have been responsible so repeated their movements. The motion sensor stayed dark.

Monmouth Shire Hall

courtroom 2

It was time to split up for lone vigils. But first, we needed refreshments. While we were refuelling,  Neen went rummaging in a craft box and found scripts for a trial of Count Dracula. The lone vigils were abandoned in favour of a mock trial. But we needed another participant. Luckily worker Thom is an actor and was more than happy to join in. We donned the gowns and wigs again and assigned parts. Cat was the judge, Amy the usher, Neen the defence barrister, Lynx the prosecution barrister, Tom was Count Dracula and Thom took the witnesses roles – Boris the Bat, Isabella a village girl, Spook the cat and Mr Frank Bolt, complete with different voices for each character. He was also the foreman of the jury.

Monmouth Shire Hall

the air raid shelter

We’re so glad he was the one who volunteered to stay the night. He has to be one of our favourite people we’ve had on the show. It was brilliant. You don’t get this on other ghost hunting shows! Or on public tours. Imagine if Calamityville were in charge of a public tour – we would have had a full jury cast and filled the seats of the public gallery! And this is why people would not pay to join us 😀 Thom asked if we were actors. Clearly our acting skills are better than our ghost hunting ones. We admitted we’re writers, Neen is a scenic artist for TV & film, Tom works for a well known game shop and Amy works with children.

Monmouth Shire HallWe stopped pissing about to finally do our lone vigils. Neen took the air raid shelter, Cat the cells, Tom went to courtroom 2 and Lynx and Amy stayed in courtroom 1, as we only had 4 cameras between the 5 of us. Cat heard footsteps when she was in the cells but thought it may have been Tom. Lynx and Amy spent most of their vigil trying to frighten the locals by flashing their lights out the window at the pub opposite. Not one person looked up. That will change when we have our laser pens! The Ghost Radar chatted to Neen for a while in courtroom 2 before falling silent. Cat moved to the air raid shelter. She asked for footsteps. And got them. But as she was the only one down there, she couldn’t be sure whether it was one of us walking around. We’ll have to sync the cameras to see. Her tape and battery ran out so she returned upstairs for a swap. We then switched places. Neen took courtroom 1, Cat returned to the air raid shelter with Tom and Lynx and Amy squeezed in the cell with Zephaniah Williams. Lynx and Amy heard footsteps marching around above them and presumed it was Neen. When we all regrouped, Neen said she hadn’t moved. Cat took a walkie talkie and went walking in the learning room and court while Lynx returned to the cell. She couldn’t hear Cat when she was in the learning room, but could hear her in the courtroom, but wasn’t sure if the footsteps sounded the same. We’ll have to check the cameras.

Monmouth Shire HallSadly it was time to call it a night. We mobbed poor Nicholas in the chambers, but he got his revenge when Cat got her head stuck under his arm while attempting a headlock pose. It’s the first time a mannequin has ever fought back against us. Well played, Nicholas. We were sad to leave the Shire Hall. It was one of the most fun episodes we have ever filmed. Other locations will find it hard to beat for its sheer fun factor. Where else will we get our friends to join us then put them on trial? Calamityville QC, coming to screens near you.Monmouth Shire Hall


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