Twilight Shadows Paranormal

Drews Pond Wood

On Saturday 28th June 2008, James and Maria from Twilight Shadows Paranormal met up with Jacky from Phoenix Paranormal, Chris, (psychic medium) from Wessex Paranormal and Pete Tomlinson (medium) and his wife Nettie to investigate a double location in Devizes.


The second location was Drews Pond Wood.


After an interesting visit to Roundway Hill, we set off for Drews Pond Wood. We parked our cars and walked through the streets looking at the buildings (now modern housing) which used to be the Wiltshire Lunatic Asylum. I found this place extremely eerie which is a strange concept as there are people living there with cars parked outside the residences so it had a modern ambience. But I could still feel the past and its horrors locked away inside the original facade of the buildings.


These beautiful Italian style buildings are constructed out of Bathstone, designed by Mr.Thomas Henry Wyatt. The Roundway County Lunatic Asylum circa 1851, only closed its doors as a Mental Health Hospital in 1995.


Asylums were notoriously cruel institutions during the 18th and 19th century. The most famous asylum was Bedlam, the Bethlem Royal Hospital in London. This asylum is well known for the severe treatment of the mentally ill. Public torture was rife and viewing of its crowded cells became a macabre pursuit for trendy Londoners.


Physical restraint was generally used in asylums and some asylums had a tranquillizer chair installed with straps, handcuffs and other restraints attached to it.


Another 'treatment' which was used to shock patients out of their illness was the Plunge Bath. Unsuspecting patients were told to walk across the floor by staff. As the patient was walking, a trap-door opened underneath them and they fell straight into a bath of icy water.


During my research into Roundway Hospital, I discovered that this asylum admitted 'patients' who were too poor to afford private care and better treatment (the Old Manor Hospital in Salisbury was a private asylum in Salisbury for the wealthier patient). Roundway hospital housed 400 patients, many of whom were alcoholics and the homeless. People with learning difficulties, epileptics and women with illegitimate children were detained there alongside people who were suffering from depression, schizophrenia and dementia.


I have found some information on patients admitted to Roundway County Lunatic Asylum. Although their names have been published I will not name them on this website, out of respect for them.


In 1881, a 22 year old survived less than a month after admission to Roundway. He came to Roundway from the workhouse in Swindon. This man's condition was described by the doctors as "congenital idiocy - having little power of thought or understanding" and upon his paperwork they wrote "idiot" for his occupation. The staff described his behaviour as disgusting and claimed that both the staff and other patients were afraid of him. They stated that he "threw a knife at the wards man." Staff documented that he "tore off his clothes and was generally half naked" most of the time. The words "disgusting behaviour" was recorded repeatedly and "his habits are dirty and depraved, having no sense of proper decency." He died three weeks after admission to Roundway. The cause of death was not recorded.


Also in 1881, a widowed labourer was admitted to Roundway following a suicide attempt. This man had unsuccessfully tried to strangle himself with his leather braces by making a slip-knot and tying one end to the head of his bed-stead. The diagnosis given to this man was Senile Dementia and his records claimed that he was "confused and irrational in his mind and appears to have had little thought or expression." This man died from a brain haemorrhage the following year.


Another patient was a 53 year old cloth worker who was admitted to Roundway after he threatened to kill himself and his wife. His diagnosis was Mania and his records say that he was "restless and talkative and converses in a rambling and childish manner without proper reflection. His demeanour is flighty and he passes sleepless nights. He is possessed of the delusion that he is instigated by unseen persons to acts of violence." This man died a year later of epileptic convulsions.


One horror recorded is that of a man who was confined inside an oblong trough, chained down and whipped.


Many of the patients admitted to Roundway (and other asylums) would now not be considered to have a mental health problem at all.


Nearby to the original buildings of Roundway Asylum is a 7.5 acre area of woodland and meadows. Part of this area was the grounds of Roundway Asylum which was used as a burial ground for both staff and patients of the asylum. This place was left derelict for approximately 50 years but is now cared for by a local volunteer group.


While researching the area of the woods I read an account written by a female dog walker who had ventured there one Sunday afternoon with her friend. They were in the area of the staff headstones. One woman had not been to Drews Pond Wood before. She said that she had the feeling that someone was behind her the whole time, she kept looking around but nobody was there. They carried on walking and she heard a jangling, metal sound, like keys being rattled. They kept walking and as they passed through the wooden gate, she told her friend that she had heard the jangling and had felt as if they were being followed. Her friend replied "it was probably the Roundway Ghost."


Knowing this story I was very excited about our visit to Drews Pond Woods.


Chris and Jacky led us to the burial grounds.


This area had a pleasant and comfortable atmosphere. As we approached I really couldn't wait to get into the woodland and explore. Chris and Jacky knew some of the history and it was fascinating.


As we walked along the path Chris showed me a large pond and told me that a wedding party from the nearby cottage had been travelling past the pond in a carriage. Tragically, the carriage had overturned and the carriage with the wedding party inside had tipped into the pond and everyone had drowned. This catastrophe occurred around 1750.


We carried on walking and Jacky showed me where a cottage once stood. The cottage was once utilised as a hostelry and at one time was frequented by drovers bringing sheep to market along Drews Pond Lane.


The hostelry was also used by the asylum staff during the 20th Century.


We all stood inside the foundations of the cottage. Steps leading up to the garden can still be seen.


We all stood for quite a while inside the foundations of the old cottage.


While chatting Nettie asked Pete if he had just held his hand in front of her face. Pete said that he hadn't put his hand near her face. Nettie was surprised as she really thought that he had done this.


Erica asked Jacky if she had put her hand upon her shoulder. Jacky said that she had put her hand on Erica's shoulder. As they talked about this, Erica informed Jacky that she meant the other shoulder. Jacky said that she hadn't touched that shoulder.

We left the area of the cottage and went further into the woodland. We came across some headstones in the woods.


After exploring this area, we rejoined a pathway. We gathered around chatting. The atmosphere remained tranquil. Chris had some sophisticated night-vision equipment which was amazing to look through. At one point I heard a noise a bit like a strangled cry. Nobody else seemed to hear it so I did not mention it. Shortly afterwards, Nettie noticed a pair of eyes in the woodland. Chris checked with his night-vision and identified a black cat. On being discovered the cat meowed and I recognised it as the same cry I had heard earlier.


Eventually we decided to finish our time at Drews Pond Woods and we walked back to the area of the old asylum. Although I felt no paranormal activity in the area of the woodland, as soon as we walked through the old Roundway Asylum, I could feel activity and spiritual excitement all around me, as if spirit people were saying "over here, over here." Obviously we could not investigate this further as people are living there.


We walked back to our cars for our journey home. We would like to thank Jacky from Phoenix Paranormal and Chris from Wessex Paranormal for a most interesting evening. James and I both enjoyed this location so much.


Written by: Maria Williams