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Berta Rosata

Places > Chicksands > Ghosts

Legend of the 'naughty nun'
26th July 1984
Ampthill and Flitwick Times

A MYSTERIOUS and terrifying "Green Lady" is said to haunt Church Walk, a lonely avenue of limes in West Kempston. She made newspaper headlines in 1968 when children told of how she would jump out at them from behind the trees or glide in a sinister fashion through the river-mist. Cub-scouts and bell-ringers stopped going to their evening meetings at All Saints' Church for fear of meeting the dreaded phantom. Believed to be the ghost of a woman drowned in the river many years ago, she seems to have established a permanent place in the local children's folklore. Not far away is Ladies' Walk, which runs alongside the course of an old Roman road and takes its name from the host of phantom ladies who walk there. This path was once the favourite stroll of two girls called Sophia and Frances whose ghosts, hand-in-hand, still linger in the company of other, sadder shades.

Here Lady Snagge can sometimes be seen and heard calling for her lost son, and the spirit of a pretty girl still mourns the death of her Cavalier sweetheart.

A legend of a ‘naughty nun' is supposed to account for the multiple hauntings at Chicksands Priory, now part of the American Air Force Base. A nun called Berta Rosata apparently became pregnant after a love affair with a monk. This was considered to be such a heinous crime that she was walled up alive in the cellars and forced to watch her lover being beheaded before the last brick was placed. Berta's ghost reappears on the 17th of each month whenever the moon is full.


Sightings of phantom ladies at the Priory have been numerous over the last eighty years.

In 1914 a maid dropped her tray in terror when a "tall fascinating woman dressed in white" flashed past her in the picture gallery.

In 1954 an American officer sleeping in the same room woke in the early hours of the morning to see a woman with "a ruddy face and untidy hair, wearing a dark dress with a white lace collar." When he switched on the light the apparition floated to the foot of his bed and disappeared.

Another airman reported being violently shaken from his sleep by a powerful ghostly hand, but he was surprised to see a beautiful and youthful face smiling down at him.

Suddenly the vision shot away at great speed until it receded into a tiny pinpoint of light, accompanied by a "hollow ringing howl".


A long-haired woman dressed in black with a very old and wrinkled face has been seen to walk straight through the wall that divides the picture gallery and the King James room...

Many people have reported feeling cold hands on their ankles and hearing the rustle of silk in these two rooms.

And a female figure who was sighted outside the Priory actually floated up into the air and glided through the wall of the first floor. It is recorded that there was once a staircase here, demolished during alterations in 1740.

Some say that the legend of the unfortunate Berta was the creation of an 18th century romantic, that the hauntings are largely the product of the over-vivid imaginations of American servicemen.

But this would not account for the strange case of the man who was literally scared to death at some time during the First World War.

His body was found one morning just outside the Priory, his features frozen into a look of indescribable horror; his black hair turned as white as snow.


And it is certainly true that there were naughty goings-on here in the past.

Both monks and nuns were housed in the Priory, which was founded in 1150.

In 1534 a Doctor Layton discovered "two of the said nunnes not barren". One of them had been made pregnant by a servant, the other by a priest.

Page last updated: 23rd January 2014