Tag Archives: Halloween

The Bridal Chest of Bramshill, or, A Ghost Tale from the Cope Collection

To mark Halloween we need look no further than the former home of the Cope Collection, Bramshill House in Hampshire. Boasting fourteen ghosts and described as ‘one of the most haunted houses in England’, many of its apparitions feature in a memoir by Sir William Cope’s great-grandaughter, Joan Penelope Cope. They include a lady in grey usually seen at 3 a.m., a woman in white, leaping from the balustrade and a green man seen by the Pale Pond, possibly one Sir Henry Cope, who favoured green for his clothing, decor and more unusually, his food. As well as these visual manifestations, heavily spurred boots had been heard on the stairs and visitors in the Chapel Drawing Room reported the sensation of having their hand taken by a child.

View of Bramshill from George Prosser Select Illustrations of Hampshire (1834-39) Rare Books Cope quarto 91.5

Of these tales, one became particularly well-known, that of a young woman dressed in white seen in the Long Gallery and the Fleur-de-Lys Room. The story went that many years ago at a Christmas wedding, the young bride had insisted on playing a game of hide and seek, only to find herself locked in the chest in which she had hidden. Despite the desperate searches of the wedding party, she could not be found. Some years later the chest was opened, revealing her remains, a sprig of mistletoe still clutched in her skeletal hand.

The association of the story with Bramshill was such that in 1890, perhaps after one too many of his visitors had asked to see the chest, Sir William Cope printed a short pamphlet on the subject, The Bridal Chest of Bramshill. Sadly for devotees of the supernatural, Cope reported that the chest concerned was no longer at Bramshill, having been removed earlier in the 19th century by the widow of the tenth baronet, and more importantly, there was no record of any bride in the family having died shortly after her wedding, neither had the ghost been seen by any living witness.

The Bridal Chest of Bramshill (1890) Rare Books Cope BRAMI 39

Cope’s explanation was that the original bridal chest, of Italian origin, had become associated with a story set in Italy of an entombed bride, told in Samuel Rogers’ 1822 poem ‘Ginevra’. Rogers wrote that he believed the story ‘founded on fact’, though at a time and place uncertain, whilst Cope had been informed that ‘a Lady of a distinguished Italian house’ had claimed the story for her family describing the chest as having been sold to an Englishman. The fifth baronet, Sir John Cope, was known to have lived in Italy during the 17th century and to have returned with various items acquired at this time.

Following the publication of the poem, the story was popularised in a ballad of the 1830s, ‘The Mistletoe Bough’ by T.H. Bayly and Sir Henry Bishop and it became associated with a number of country houses. It was retold in a play by C.A. Somerset in 1835, provided the inspiration for Henry James’ The Romance of Certain Old Clothes (1868), appeared as a short story by Susan E. Wallace in 1887 and was the subject of three silent films, including The Mistletoe Bough by Percy Shaw (1904). More recently ‘The Mistletoe Bride’ has again been retold as a short story by both Jeanette Winterson (2002) and Kate Mosse (2013).

For those who might have hoped that both the chest and its ghostly contents had been transported from Italy to Bramshill, it now appears that the story has an origin earlier than the 1822 poem cited by Cope. It is recounted under the title ‘A Melancholy Occurrence’ in the 1809 issue of The Monthly and Boston Review, but in this case the tale is set in Germany and was described as a ‘singular and calamitous event’ brought to light a few years since.

It seems that Bramshill House, currently the subject of development proposals, might be lacking one of its fourteen ghosts, but who can know what the remaining thirteen will make of any proposed changes.

Bramshill House, showing the oriel window of the haunted Chapel Drawing Room Rare Books Cope c BRAMS 72

For descriptions of more recent sightings of the Bramshill ghosts, including the Mistletoe Bride, see: Ian Fox The Haunted Places of Hampshire (1997) Cope 39.

Advertisements

Netley and the Gothic

With this year marking the 200th anniversary of the death of Jane Austen and Halloween being almost upon us, we explore the gothic ruins of Netley Abbey – the inspiration for many a literary endeavour…

Lying on the eastern bank of Southampton Water, Netley Abbey is one of the best surviving Cistercian abbeys in England. The abbey was founded in 1238 by Peter des Roches, the Bishop of Winchester, shortly before his death. The following year a colony of monks arrived from nearby Beaulieu Abbey (founded by King John in 1203). Netley was dedicated in 1246 and, following its completion, was home to about 15 monks and 30 lay brothers, officials, and servants. Henry III became a patron in 1251, bringing great wealth to the abbey.

Netley Abbey Overgrown

Netley Abbey Overgrown

The dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII brought monastic life at Netley to an end. Following its seizure in 1536 the buildings were granted to Sir William Paulet, a loyal Tudor politician, who converted them into a mansion. The abbey was used as a country house until the early 18th century, after which it was abandoned. At this time much of the brickwork added by Paulet was removed to be used for building materials. The site then fell into neglect, becoming overgrown with trees and ivy.

In time, the site came to be celebrated as a romantic ruin, eventually becoming a tourist attraction and providing inspiration to writers and artists of the Romantic Movement, including John Constable, Thomas Gray, and Horace Walpole. The latter wrote that “they are not the ruins of Netley, but of Paradise”. It is also believed that Jane Austen drew inspiration from the abbey for her Gothic parody Northanger Abbey.

Visitors at Netley Abbey

Visitors at Netley Abbey

Among the numerous other visitors was Mary, Viscountess Palmerston, who recorded her visit in a letter to her husband, the second Viscount, on 6 August 1788:

On Monday we set off from Southampton at ten in an open boat as there was not wind enough to allow of our making use of the cutter. Our party, the Hatsells, Sloane, Stephen, Maria, Captain Southerby, Mr Ballaird and a Mr and Mrs Barton great friends of the D’Oyleys, and in truth in that consists all their merit, for I have not often seen more disagreeable people. We had a most delightful row to Governor Hornby. I think you have been there and I dare say admire the situation which is in my opinion in point of view superior to anything in this country. We went on board the yatch which lies at anchor in the Hamble River which is certainly a most complete vessel. We then row’d up to Netley where we had a most elegant dinner, Sloane having sent his cook to prepare our repast, and in the cool of the evening we repair’d to the Abby which considering every circumstance of the trees, the emannance of the ivy, the beautiful state and the situation of the ruins please me more than any I ever saw. We drank tea in the abby and came home by land. I return’d to Broadlands that night.
[MS 62 Broadlands Archives BR 11/13/1]

The Cope collection contains a range of material relating to Netley Abbey, including early guidebooks, poems, a novel, and even an opera. Evidence of its popularity can also be found in the wealth of visual material among the collection.

Two of earliest items are poems. The Ruins of Netley Abby: a Poem, in Blank Verse: to which is Prefixed A Short Account of that Monastery, from its First Foundation, Collected from the Best Authority was printed in 1765. This anonymous history and poem was published during the early years of Netley’s fame and creates a vivid image of a haunted Gothic ruin:

Though claps of thunder rock and tottering pile,
And the swift lightning’s oft repeated flash
Glance through the window with its fading fire—
Or if some meteor in the great expanse,
With streaming flame o’erhand the shaggy top,
Casting a glare amid the foliage wild,
That spreads romantic o’er the abby walls—
Though from some dark recess with ghastly stare,
An airy troop of pale cold shiv’ring ghosts
Should lightly skim along the lonesome void,
By the blue vaporing lamp here let him sit,
Or by the twinkling glow-worm’s yellow light,
Behold the hour-glass ebb, and grain by brain
The trickling sand descend; whilst o’er his head
Along the broken structure hoar and rough
The moping scriech-owl, fatal bird of night,
Claps ominous her wings, foreboding death.
[The ruins of Netley Abby : a poem, in blank verse (Rare Books Cope NET 26)]

Netley Abbey, an Elegy by George Keate (1729–97) was first published in 1764, with a second expanded edition appearing in 1769. Keate was a poet, naturalist, antiquary, and artist, best known for his poem The Alps, a Poem which was praised for its “truth of description and vigour of imagination.” In his Netley poem he sets a melancholy mood as he provides topographic descriptions of the abbey alongside moral reflections:

I hail at last these shades, this well-known wood,
That skirts with verdant slope the barren strand,
Where Netley’s ruins, bordering on the flood,
Forlorn in melancholy greatness stand.

How changed, alas! From the revered abode,
Graced by proud majesty in ancient days,
When monks recluse these sacred pavements trod,
And taught the unlettered world its maker’s praise!

Now sunk, deserted, and with weeds o’ergrown,
Yon prostrate walls their harder fate bewail;
Low on the ground their topmost spires are thrown,
Once friendly marks to guide the wandering sail.

[…]

Oh! Trust not, then, the force of radiant eyes,
Those short-lived glories of your sportive band;
Pleased with its stars, through laughing morn arise,
A steadier beam meridian skies demand!

Reflect, ere, victor of each lovely frame,
Time bids the external fleeting grace fade,
’Tis Reason’s base supports the noblest claim,
’Tis sense preserves the conquests Beauty made.
[Netley Abbey, an Elegy (Rare Books Cope NET 26)]

The second edition of the poem increased the number of stanzas from 26 to 50 and can be found reprinted with John Bullar’s Visit to Netley Abbey (discussed further below).

Netley Abbey: a Gothic Story, Richard Warner (Rare Books Cope NET 81 WAR)

Netley Abbey: a Gothic Story, Richard Warner (Rare Books Cope NET 81 WAR)

Richard Warner’s novel Netley Abbey: a Gothic Story was published in two volumes in 1795. Warner (1763–1857) was a clergyman and writer, particularly of books on topographical and antiquarian topics. Netley Abbey, his first publication, recounts the adventures of Edward de Villars, the son of Baron de Villars, a loyal servant of Edward I. The Baron is banished from the court of Edward II after which he and his family relocate to the estate of Sir Hildebrand Warren near Netley Abbey. Edward receives a supernatural warning about sinister events taking place in the area and proceeds to encounter a host of gothic characters, including plotting villains, rescued captives, ghostly apparitions, and a mysterious black knight. The novel is formulaic and contains many of the gothic tropes and plot devices established in The Castle of Otranto. However, it does differ in the fact that, unlike Walpole and Matthew Lewis, Warner employs a real place. Matthew Woodworth notes that “it is the abbey’s architecture – the style of ruined Gothic itself – that is the most threatening character of all, constantly drenched in the menace of full moonlight.” It was the likes of Warner’s work that helped turn Netley into “a pivotal monument of the Georgian Zeitgeist.”

Given the popularity of the site as a tourist destination, guidebooks inevitable followed. A prominent example is John Bullar’s A companion in a visit to Netley Abbey, first published in 1800. Keate’s elegy can be found annexed to the early editions of the guidebook, with an advertisement in the volume noting that: “When first Mr Keate published his elegy entitled Netley Abbey, he prefixed to it a short sketch of the history of the foundation. In the present publication, that account has been considerably enlarged; and such other additions have been made, as to render it a Guide to those who may visit these beautifully situated ruins.” [A companion in a visit to Netley Abbey, John Bullar (Rare Books Cope NET 26)]. Running into nine editions, the guidebook provides topographical details, along with a history of the abbey, a number of vignettes, and a ground plan of the site.

Inside view of Netley Abbey

Inside view of Netley Abbey

The extremes and common tropes of the Gothic tradition made it rich territory for satire. William Pearce’s Netley Abbey: an operatic farce in two acts pokes fun at the fashion for visiting Gothics ruins, as well as the recreation of ruins (in the form of follys) on the lands of the aristocracy. The plot follows the exploits of Oakland, his daughter, Lucy, and his son, Captain Oakland, the latter of who wishes to marry the impoverished Ellen Woodbine. It transpires that Oakland is being defrauded by his agent, Rapine, who is also responsible for the fire that destroyed the Woodbine estate. The tale culminates in the Rapine being exposed and the lovers being united against the backdrop of Netley Abbey. First performed at the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden, in 1794, Paul Rice notes that the portrayal of the ruins of the abbey on stage in the final scene was “highly evocative and gained much audience approval.”

Netley Abbey, Thomas Ingoldsby (Rare Books Cope quarto NET 26)]

Netley Abbey, Thomas Ingoldsby (Rare Books Cope quarto NET 26)]

Netley Abbey by Thomas Ingoldsby was first published as part of The Ingoldsby legends, or, Mirth and marvels in the 1840s. The name Thomas Ingoldsby was the pseudonym for the Reverend Richard Harris Barham (1788-1845). A writer, as well as a clergyman, he was best known for his series of myths, legends, ghost stories and poems. While his writings were based on traditional legends, Ingoldsby’s versions contain strong elements of satire and parody – with Netley Abbey being no exception:

And yet, fair Netley, as I gaze
Upon that grey and mouldering wall,
The glories of thy palmy days
Its very stones recall!–
They ‘come like shadows, so depart’–
I see thee as thou wert — and art –

Sublime in ruin!– grand in woe!
Lone refuge of the owl and bat;
No voice awakes thine echoes now!
No sound — Good Gracious!– what was that?
Was it the moan,
The parting groan
Of her who died forlorn and alone,
Embedded in mortar, and bricks, and stone?–
Full and clear On my listening ear
It comes–again–near, and more near–
Why ‘zooks! it’s the popping of Ginger Beer!
[Netley Abbey, Thomas Ingoldsby (Rare Books Cope quarto NET 26)]

The 1889 edition in the Cope collection was published posthumously with the poem accompanied by lithographic illustrations by Enest M. Jessop.

During the 20th century, changing attitudes led to the clearing of the vegetation and debris from the abbey ruins. All traces of the later alterations were removed, and the ruins were returned to their pristine state. The abbey is now an English Heritage site and continues to draw a large number of visitors every year. As part of the events for Jane Austen 200 there will be a series of lantern Halloween ghost walks at the abbey from 30 October to 1 November. Further details can be found at: https://www.sarahsiddonsfanclub.org/events/a-mystery-of-a-horrible-nature-lantern-halloween-ghost-walk/

All Hallow’s Eve, All Saints and All Souls

31 October marks the annual celebration of Hallowe’en – or All Hallows’ Eve– now pretty much obsolete: in the middle ages, a hallow (n) meant a holy person or saint.  In the Western Christian tradition, this time of year is dedicated to remembering the dead, and in particular saints and martyrs on All Saints’ Day (1 November) and deceased family members on All Souls’ Day (2 November).   Many Hallowe’en traditions, however, are likely to have had earlier pagan roots, originating, for example, from Celtic harvest festivals.  In modern times, activities like trick-or-treating, costume parties, carving pumpkins into jack-o’-lanterns and watching horror films seem to grow more popular year-on-year.

kingcharleswindow

King Charles’s window at Carisbrooke Castle from which he made his first attempt to escape, 1839 [cq 98 CAR 93]

Carisbrooke, is a historic castle overlooking the village of the same name, near Newport on the Isle of Wight.  Over 350 years ago, it hosted an important prisoner Charles I, defeated by Cromwell in the English Civil War, incarcerated prior to his execution. Charles, having escaped from Hampton Court sought refuge at Carisbrooke but was detained by Colonel Robert Hammond, governor of the island.  Later, Charles’s two youngest children were also confined in the castle – Princess Elizabeth died there – and it continued to be used as a prison throughout the seventeenth century.

The Castle is reputed to have a number of ghosts although we haven’t come across anything specifically relating to King Charles or his daughter. Elizabeth Ruffin tragically drowned in the deep well and reports claim her disembodied face can still be seen in the well water. A “Grey Lady” wearing a long cloak and accompanied by four dogs is claimed to haunt the castle and the ghost of a man in a brown jerkin and trousers has been seen near the moat.

capjohnburleigh

Captain John Burleigh, executed at Winchester in January 1648 for attempting the rescue of Charles I while prisoner at Carisbrooke [cq 98 CRA 92 pr 297]

The Special Collections hold several books relating to King Charles’s imprisonment in Carisbrooke castle including The pourtraicture of his sacred majesty Charles I : in his solitude in Carisbrook-Castle, A.D.1648 : containing his meditations on death, prayers.

The strongroom also houses a length manuscript poem, “Elizabeth the fair prisoner of Carisbrook”, dating from the mid-nineteenth century.  It’s preface recounts the affair:

After the murder of King Charles by Cromwell and his myrmidons, his second daughter was, by order of the regicides, incarcerated in the Castle of Carisbrook, and subjected to much harshness and indignity.  Pious, learned affectionate and accomplished in a high degree, her sensitive mind soon sunk under the accumulation of misery: she pined, sickened, died, was buried and forgotten… [MS 5/32 AO205]

Princess Elizabeth was buried at St. Thomas’s Church, Newport, on the Isle of Wight.  The preface goes on to recount how Queen Victoria later erected a “beautiful and lifelike” sculpture at the church which apparently “attracts thousands to see and admire it, and few leave the hallowed spot without shedding a tear in memory of The Fair Prisoner of Carisbrook”.

Ghosts in the Strongroom

As Halloween draws closers we delve into some of the ghoulish tales to be found lurking among the shelves of Special Collections…

The Wallop Latch
Thomas Gatehouse’s manuscript history of Hampshire (MS 5/15) is dated 31 December 1778 and is the earliest history of the county recorded. The history, largely a compilation from printed sources but containing some original materials, concludes with the ghost story ‘The Wallop Latch’. Described as being “for the amusement of the Wit or the Sceptic”, it provides an apparently true account of a Miss G___ who moves into a house in the village of Nether Wallop in Hampshire after the death of her father. One evening while sitting in her parlour, she is suddenly disturbed by a great noise produced by the violent rattling of the heavy iron latch on the back door. While initially startled, she disregards the incident as most likely being the product of an idle farmhand looking to frighten her. However, the disturbance recurs on numerous occasions and soon begins to draws the attention of the whole neighbourhood, with the noise being described as “violent and loud enough to be heard in distant quarters of the parish.”

The Square, Nether Wallop c.1939 (pc998)

The Square, Nether Wallop c.1939 (pc998)

In order to solve the mystery, members of the local community arm themselves and surround the house while others wait inside for the rattling to commence. As soon as the latch begins to move, the door is swiftly thrown open only to reveal there is no one there. The narrative then continues by considering and disproving a number of possible tricks or explanations and claims that no imaginable natural cause could have produced the effect. The account is testified and signed by a number of honourable witnesses and it remains for the sceptic to explain the occurrence.

A Ghost in the Isle of Wight
The Isle of the Wight has a long tradition of ghost stories and hauntings, many associated with places such as Billingham House, Carisbrooke Castle, and Knighton Gorges Manor. Sir John Randolph Leslie, 3rd Baronet of Glaslough (1885–1971), more generally known as Shane Leslie, was an Irish born diplomat and writer. He had a lifelong interest in the supernatural which influenced a number of his writings. His novelette A Ghost in the Isle of Wight was published in 1929, in a limited signed edition of 500 copies for sale, and a copy can be found among the Cope Collection on Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.

The 14th century gate at Carisbrooke Castle (pc115), one of the many sites associated with hauntings on the Isle of Wight

The 14th century gate at Carisbrooke Castle (pc115), one of the many sites associated with hauntings on the Isle of Wight

As with The Wallop Latch, the story appears to report the true account of an actual haunting. It is told from the perspective of a narrator who stayed at the isolated Jacobean manor at Killington during the previous autumn. Having been delayed in London, he travels to the island a week after his companions and their maidservants. On his first evening in the manor he is informed that the place is haunted and that sounds have been heard at night resembling the treading of feet and the clinking of swords accompanied by the smell of lilies. Nearly a fortnight passes before the narrator himself is woken by a series of clear metallic sounds on the stairs. The following morning the whole house is investigated and the property agent questioned. The agent eventually admits that the manor was regarded as the most haunted human abode on the island. As the narrator proceeds to piece the mystery together, the incidents are revealed to be connected with an escaped fugitive, the execution of Charles I, and the story of a murdered lover…

Death on the Line
Eric Jones-Evans was a medical practitioner and actor. He maintained a medical practice in Fawley, near Southampton, and closed his surgery on matinee days to perform at the Grand Theatre in Southampton. In 1928 he formed his own company and both wrote and appeared in a number of his own melodramas, chiefly adapted from the novels of Charles Dickens and George Eliot.

A performance of Death on the Line: A Ghost Story in One Act

A performance of Death on the Line: A Ghost Story in One Act

Among the papers of Dr Eric Jones-Evans (MS 91) is a typescript of Death on the Line: A Ghost Story in One Act, dated 21 December 1952. Based on Dickens’ short story The Signal Man, the play is set in a signal-box in a deep cutting near a tunnel entrance on a lonely stretch of the railway line. The author describes it as a play of “atmosphere and tension”, with the wailing of the wind in the telegraph wires introduced judicially to provide an eerie background to the narrative. It tells the story of a railway signalman who is haunted by a recurring apparition, with each appearance of the spectre preceding a tragic event on the railway. The first is followed by a terrible collision between two trains in the tunnel (likely based on the Clayton Tunnel crash of 1861) and the second by the mysterious death of a young woman on a passing train. The third and final warning of “death on the line” causes the signalman to rush onto the track in an attempt to stop an oncoming train where he is struck and killed. As the driver and other characters stand over his body a telegram is received warning of fallen rocks on the line up ahead. The play ends as they ponder how he could have known and how many lives might have been lost if not for his intervention.

At this time it remains uncertain whether these tales represent the only cases of ghostly encounters to be found within the walls of the Hartley Library or whether further apparitions are yet to appear…

Manuscript Collections: Papers on Demonology

The 31 of October marks the celebration of All Hallows’ Eve, more commonly known as Halloween.  It takes place on the eve of the Western Christian feast of All Hallows’ Day (also known as All Saints’ Day). While the history of Halloween remains unclear, it is widely believed that many of the traditions associated with the holiday have their origins in pagan harvest festivals such as Samhain, a Celtic festival marking the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter. Traditionally it was believed to be a time of year when spirits from the Otherworld could more easily come into our world and the dead could mingle with the living. The festival was later Christianised by the early church which absorbed many of the traditional practices, transforming them to reflect Christian attitudes towards the honouring of the dead.

Image from ‘The life and horrible adventures of the celebrated Dr Faustus relating to his first introduction to Lucifer, and connection with infernal spirits; his method of raising the devil and his final dismissal to the tremendous abyss of hell’ from the collection MS 268

Image from ‘The life and horrible adventures of the celebrated Dr Faustus relating to his first introduction to Lucifer, and connection with infernal spirits; his method of raising the devil and his final dismissal to the tremendous abyss of hell’ from the collection MS 268

Today, the celebration of Halloween draws on a wide range of traditions and influences with a particular focus on the supernatural and the macabre. As such, it provides the perfect opportunity to highlight one of the more obscure collections held by the University’s Special Collections Division. The collection MS 268 Papers on demonology contains an array of material focusing on demonology and witchcraft in Great Britain, Ireland and continental Europe.

Among the collection are various notes, press cuttings, correspondence, photographs and postcards concerning customs and practices, art, folk lore and legends, persons, places, and plants with relation to the devil from the mid-nineteenth to early twentieth century. These include The devil at Montmartre, The devil passing into the body of the dead, Michael Scot, the wizard, and The devil according to the tradition and popular beliefs of Sicily.

The collection also contains a manuscript titled The Incubus and Succubus. The volume, complete with sketches and verse, begins with an examination of the counterpart demons Incubus and Succubus before exploring a broad range of topics relating to demonology. These include sections on nightmares, vampires, werewolves, devils, sorcery, and magical transformations. A large portion of the volume is dedicated to the examination of witches and witchcraft, providing historic accounts, such as that of Lady Kyteler of Kilkenny, as well as discussing subjects such as witch finders, tests and torture of witches, charms and spells against witches, and potions, philtres and witches spells.

The final part of the collections consists of cuttings and articles from periodicals dating from the eighteenth to the early twentieth century. These include copies of Giambattista Basile, 15 Sep and 15 Oct 1885; a programme for The tempter, Theatre Royal, Haymarket, 1898; lists of occult literature, 1897; a flyer for The book of black magic and of pacts; The devil’s funeral sermon preached before a congregation of free thinkers (London, 1735); The heart of man: the temple of the Lord or the devil’s workshop, in Armenian, (Calcutta, 1839); The ballad of the wind, the devil and Lincoln Minster by Arnold Frost (Lincoln, 1898); Concerning the devil by Saladin [William Stewart Ross] (London); Notices relative to the idolatry and devil worship of Ceylon by Robert Newstead (London, 1838); Tradicoes populares Portuguezas by Z.Consiglieri Pedroso (Oporto, 1882); and sections from publications on demonology including `Legendes, chansons, contes’, `Xylographische Werke’ (1835), `Le diable a Leipzig (c.1869), `Der Teufel’, `Il diavolo nelle tradizioni e credenze popolari Siciliane’, and `Sagen aus Westpreussen’.