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The ghost stories of Treasurer’s House

Ghostly looking sculpture of a gentleman made from mesh in a garden with a house behind
Spot the garden ghosts on the trail this autumn | © The York BID_Gareth Buddo

From the oldest ghost story to regular sightings, Treasurer's House is known for its extra residents.

The most haunted house in York?

If you're a believer or not, here are some of the most common, and strangest spooky tales reported at Treasurer's House to date. Keep your eyes peeled when visiting and don't hesitate to report anything unexpected. With a history spanning more than 2000 years, there are likely to be a few extra visitors from time to time.

Some tales, rooms and even specific pieces of furniture are mentioned time and again, from seemingly unconnected visitors, often years apart. Other people have worked or volunteered for over 20 years without any supernatural occurrences. Make your own mind up...

Commonly reported experiences

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Spooky stories

Some of the latest stories are brought to life from the spooky rooms of Treasurer's House. Make your own mind up about the alleged haunted happenings.

Ghosts in the garden

During autumn, York BID create a rather unique trail around the gardens and parks in the city...made up of ghosts. Treasurer's House has played host to spooky additions for the last few years. Look out for more details of what's happening in 2024 later in the year.


And then there's the Romans...

Possibly one of the oldest ghosts stories from the house, and certainly the most well known, however to date only a handful of people have seen or heard the soldiers walking through the cellar walls, all around the 1950s. This could be because the area is inaccessible today so they're missed, or maybe they've moved on to whatever fate is next in store for them. Either way, here's what we know about of this popular urban myth from the archives of Treasurer's House.

First contact

The first recorded mention of Roman ghosts was by a female guest of Frank Green, who went to the cellar on the hunt for more wine. After being barred by a man dressed in a Roman soldier's uniform, she complained to her host. There was no such person in the house.

The next was the warden who only after Harry's reports implied he'd come across his own Romans, perhaps a year or so before Harry. And finally, another member of staff has since shared her experiences, but only years after leaving the house...

Harry Martindale

The most well-known story begins in February of 1953.

Harry Martindale, a young apprentice heating engineer, was working in the cellar to knock a hole through the vaulted brick ceiling as part of a boiler installation. On the second day of work, Harry remembers hearing a trumpet blast. At the time he thought nothing of it, believing it to be from a radio or something similar. Then he heard it again, this time louder. When he heard it a third time, it appeared to be coming from the other side of the wall.

As Harry looked, he saw the helmet of a Roman soldier coming through this solid wall.

The soldier walked through the cellar and disappeared into the opposite wall. Following behind the soldier came another soldier, riding a horse. Following along behind them came more soldiers, two abreast, 20 in total. Every soldier that walked through was only visible from the knees up as they were walking on the original Roman ground level, a little below the level of the cellar floor.

Man with a hard hat on and torch pointing to a point on a stone wall in a cellar
The spot where the Roman ghosts were said to have appeared | © National Trust Images / Arnhel de Serra

Harry said that the ghosts appeared solid and real – making him quite terrified that they may be able to see and react to him. Not only could Harry see the soldiers passing through the cellar but he could also hear their speech and the sounds of their footsteps.

Harry left the cellar quickly and sat down to recover. The warden at the time came across Harry and upon seeing his obvious shock said, before Harry could utter a single word, “By the look of you, you’ve seen the Roman soldiers.”

I don’t know about ghosts – you know I had never seen a ghost before that day and I have never seen one since. But I do know what I saw down here that day

A quote by Harry Martindale Apprentice Heating Engineer

The devil is in the detail

For many years, Harry did not share his story, afraid people might think he was mad or had been drunk. It wasn’t until excavations uncovered the original Roman Headquarters building, the principia, in 1969 that any attention was paid to Harry’s story at all.

Excavations have shown that Treasurer's House is located on top of one of the major roads in Eboracum, the via Decumana.

Harry's account of the soldiers was dismissed by many academics due to his insistence they were in their 30s and 40s, somewhat shabby with green tunics, leather sandals strapped to the knees and short plumes all down their helmets. Others believed he encountered the forgotten army. A peace-keeping and defensive force that would probably have been made up of older men who had lived in Eboracum all their lives, married locally and considered Britain their home.

Harry wasn't the only one

Long before Harry's story came out, in February 1957, Joan Mawson, housekeeper at the time, came to check on the boiler Harry had helped to install. As Joan approached the cellar she says she heard the sound of horses’ hooves. She thought they were coming from the street above, until she realised she was not alone. Like Harry she admits to being absolutely terrified as the walls seemed to melt away and Roman soldiers and their horses walked past her.

Joan told no one about what she had seen in this cellar because she thought nobody would believe her. She was living in the house at the time with her young ward, Caroline, whom she did not want to frighten. It wasn’t until many years later when both had left the house and were reminiscing, when the daughter said, “but didn’t that trumpet sound loud all the time”. Joan was astonished as she had never mentioned anything about Roman soldiers to Caroline before.

What do you think?

Want to hear more?

Several National Trust volunteers offer talks about a wide range of subjects. All the details of those available and how to book can be found on the Talks Service page, head to the north section looking for 'Strange and Ghostly Tales of Treasurer's House' by Glennis Whyte to hear more.

Visit during opening hours only

We get many requests from supernatural groups and experts wanting to hire Treasurer's House for their research. Please note we do not take booking for any events of this type or paranormal activities. You are welcome to visit during the usual opening times, without your kit we hasten to add, and experience Treasurer's House simply as it was intended; to be appreciated by 'anyone' who visits.

Young man looking closely at a large tapestry hanging on a wall

Book your visit

Pre-booking a tour is advised to guarantee your chosen day and time slot. Please select your chosen arrival window and the tour will depart at the end of this time. You can book for today up until 8am, and the next slots will be released every Thursday. If you've missed booking, drop into admissions and the team will book you on the next available tour.

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Escape the city and relax in the award-winning garden next door to York Minster – free to enjoy on open days. Winner of the gold award for Yorkshire in Bloom for six consecutive years and one of the best views in York.

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Enjoy a cup of coffee or a snack in the café downstairs at Treasurer’s House or grab a new read from the second-hand bookshelves. The café is open April - December in line with house opening times. Head around the corner the shop for a large range of National Trust goods including home ware, books and locally sourced food. The shop is open all year round.