WAS A SPOOKY PICTURE SPIRITED AWAY FROM A PUB AT EAST PRESTON?
By WENDY HUGHES
Looking through some old newspapers for ideas for a new book I came across an interesting story printed in The Evening Argus 9 July 1976. It concerned a macabre painting that had mysteriously vanished from a village pub in East Preston.
Two legends are associated with Roundstone. The first concerns the villagers who feared the soul of a dead criminal or suicide, so they pinned his body to the ground with a heavy millstone and thrust a wooden stake through his heart, in the belief that the ghost would not be able to get up and haunt anyone. They then buried him at the then lonely crossroads.
The second legend states that a millstone broke loose and rolled down from Highdown Hill and killed a man who was walking on the Worthing road and, as no one could lift it, they piled earth on top of the man and the millstone. Others claim the millstone lay on the grass by the crossroad at the southern end of the lane, roughly where the level crossing is today, but this crossroad had disappeared by the 20th century. We are not told if these drastic measures proved effective in laying the ghost to rest, but the Roundstone public house was opened in 1939 and obviously got its name from these tales. During the 1960’s the sign outside the pub showed a skeleton struggling to lift a millstone.
The then licensee and his wife, Mr and Mrs Fry claimed that they had seen the ghostly figure of a man in the pub in 1973 just prior to them taking over the pub. They had been out walking and had called in for a drink and told the legend. An unknown artist who was inspired enough to produce a painting showing a tortured skeleton pinned down by a grey millstone and fixed by a brown wooden stake against a black background. The painting was screwed to the wall above the glass doors of the Millstone Bar where it remained until it was stolen even though it was in clear view of everyone. Was it spirited away I wonder?
However Mrs Fry did see the apparition of man in her bedroom when she was suddenly awoken by the mournful howl of her Old English sheepdog called Professor Higgins at 3 am one morning. At the time Mrs Fry explained that she did not believe in ghosts, nor had she drank or had a vivid imagination, yet in her mind she could clearly see the man. She screamed and the man disappeared. Her husband believed she must have been hallucinating and dismissed her claims. But at 6am one morning he was sitting quietly having a cup of tea by the fireplace in the Millstone Bar when something made him glance up and he saw a man standing behind the bar. Her got up to ask the man who he was, but he disappeared before his eyes. We can only guess that for some reason the painting spirited away, or had someone slipped in and stolen it? No one knows. We can only guess.
Today the pub is now a Premier Inn and still called the Rondstone.