The ghosts of Owlpen
'Owlpen Manor', etching by Fred Griggs, 1930
Owlpen, a 900-year-old gabled manor house, stands peacefully at the head of a picturesque wooded valley in the Cotswolds, near Uley. But all is not what it seems, for Owlpen is one of the most haunted houses in Gloucestershire. It is traditionally home to at least four ghosts.
Queen Margaret of Anjou
The most famous phantom is that of Queen Margaret of Anjou, the 'ardent queen' and consort of Henry VI, who visited the old manor on her way to the battle of Tewkesbury on 2nd May 1471. Her rival Edward V was to rout her Lancastrian army at the fateful battle two days later, and her husband and only son Prince Edward were cruelly murdered in the aftermath. The tragedy marked the end of the Lancastrian cause, and she spent the rest of her years in exile, widowhood and penury in France. It is said that her last happy night was spent at Owlpen, in the 'Queen's Chamber' named after her, today hung with tapestries. She seems eager to return, particularly, it is said, on the eve of the battle.
The manor is open to visitors in the summer. If you tread softly, you may join those who have glimpsed the phantom of a grey lady clad in fur-trimmed gown, steeple hat and wimple. The costume was described by child evacuees from the blitz in Birmingham during the second world war. Barbara Bray, the lady of the house, would usually go up to say goodnight to them.
Francis Comstock, the American architectural historian, related how Queen Margaret of Anjou made one of her apparitions:
One night, in making her customary round, she looked in to see that the four children were sleeping; she found them all awake and excited; they told her of their visitor, 'a lovely lady with long sleeves and dress all trimmed with fur, and with a funny peaked hat that had a long veil hanging down behind' -- a description of such a costume as Queen Margaret might have worn, and of which the children must have been completely ignorant.
The Black Monk
Owlpen's older east wing is also home to a hooded figure, the 'Black Monk'. Some say he was a member of the de Olepenne family who lived at the manor throughout the middle ages; one of them is known to have died as a Benedictine monk of St Peter's Abbey in Gloucester. Others say he was a monk fleeing from the sack of Kingswood Abbey at the Reformation, four or five miles away, who was walled up and starved to death in the manor. The monk's bones apparently crumbled to dust when the space came to light, as the measurement of the rooms and walls was found not to tally inside and out.
Then there is a wizard and alchemist, believed to be the seventh Thomas Daunt, lord of the manor of Owlpen in Georgian times, the last of his line, who dabbled in the black arts. He stalks the attic floor of the 1616 wing. In his room up a spiral stairway his books and papers had been sealed up for a generation when Parson Cornwall was sent for to destroy them in the 1830s. A bonfire was made, and as the papers caught fire, blackbirds were seen by the awe-struck villagers to fly out from the flames. Others say the ghost was the family tutor, who raised the devil, wrote books on sorcery, and was found dead in his chair.
Other ghosts include a mischievous child, who repeatedly runs up and down the back stairs, disturbing the tranquil sleep of guests, and moves objects in the house. The face of a small child has been seen peering from the oriel windows, on a photograph taken when the house was known to be empty. Many visitors continue to relate the presence of unexplained sights and sounds -- and even scents.
But the occupants, Nicholas and Karin Mander and their five children, say it's important to live and let live, and claim their sleep is ever undisturbed.
Notes of May Lloyd-Baker (local historian) from the archives, 1930s:
The Daunts ... seem to have been people of determined characters. The last of the line was believed locally to have been a magician, and I have been told that when he died his books were thought so dangerous that Mr Cornwall [the parson, 1828-42] was sent for to destroy them, and that as they were burning birds (possibly evil spirits) flew out of them.
Thomas VI was the last male Daunt to live at Owlpen
Archaeologists' visit, 1912:
This is perhaps the same incident referred to when the local Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society visited Owlpen in 1912:
On the second floor of [the west] wing there is a small room without a fire place which had the credit of being haunted, and which in consequence was kept locked up for many years -- a sure method of producing ghosts of the ordinary four-footed kind, if they did not previously exist there. When it was opened it was said to contain a large quantity of old papers.
(Trans. B.G.A.S., vol. 35, 148)
Old postcard, 1921:
An old Frith postcard of Owlpen has a visitor's note written 'Tues: aftn: 25 Jan: 1921', recording the writer's chief interest:
Haunted small bedroom -- ghost of Tutor who was mixed up with Sorcery, raised up the Devil, & wrote books on Sorcery which have been burnt. He was found dead in his chair.
Typical of recent letters, Helen Shields writes, 26th January, 2005:
We spent most of our time just enjoying our surroundings, eating, drinking and, of course, relaxing. Marco managed to see a ghost in the early evening on Boxing Day while standing outside the House. It was, of course, towards the direction of the Church! He thinks he saw a lady with a cape and was pretty spooked. Could you let me know if you've heard of any other strange sightings. I know that Owlpen Manor is known for its ghosts, but I never actually thought one of us would see one!
Living TV: Series Four
23 March 2004
Yvette Fielding was interviewed after filming at Owlpen, having stayed up all night trying to catch ghoulish capers on camera. When she was asked what was the closest she had come with her team of investigators to 'finding something', she replied:
It's hard to say, but it was probably at Owlpen Manor. Even Dr Smith admitted to that one. We have actual footage of poltergeist activity. Books were flying off the shelf and hitting members of the crew. We could hear footsteps in the room, the floorboards were creaking and no one was there. We could feel people walking towards us, but not see anything. I have never been so petrified in my whole life. I said to camera: 'It feels like something is coming in.'
On this occasion, ghost hunter, Erik Arorah, was possessed 'by a so-called evil entity'. Yvette Fielding adds, 'I was scared to death'. The incident is posted on You-Tube:
Owlpen Manor has a recorded history of 1000 years. It was owned by the Owlpen Family 1100-1462 and handed to the Daunt Family through marriage until Thomas Daunt 7th died childless. In the 1200s there were various occupations, the Normans even went there. And with so many people living and dying there it is said to be a place with a lot of activity.
The Manor was saved in 1927 with many changes occurring and lots of families lived there. There were also lots of visitors to Owlpen Manor including artists and royalty.
The present owners The Mander Family took a ghostly picture of what looks like a figure standing looking out of one of the windows.
There are 3 apparitions seen regularly, a grey lady, a tall elegant woman, Queen Margaret who was the wife of Henry 6th and the sighting of a large hooded monk who was starved and walled up. Witnesses have seen someone in a red jacket walking toward a cupboard towards where a staircase used to be. Other ghosts seen are that of the 7th Thomas Daunt who was a wizard and alchemist and a mischievous child running up and down the stairs. The owner said the best way to deal with being on your own in a house full of ghosts is to talk to them!
Yvette chatted to Phil Whyman the paranormal investigator about what might be the most active places; the back stairwell and the Queen 's chambers and attic room. They discussed the photo that the owners had taken and Phil's own personal opinion was that the photograph was an unintended fake, where he thought someone may have been in the house at the window when the photo was taken and didn't realise it.
Yvette, Derek Acorah and Phil Whyman - They started off in the Oak Parlour where Derek picked up straight away on what he described as a gracious soul, who walks around the home with the tinge of sadness about her due to a tragedy bestowed on her. DA said her heart went out to a young male who meant so much to her. He could see that this young boy had been grabbed and taken away from her and murdered. He described how she liked to look her best and had dresses of many colours. DA had the dates 1751-1770 but these were difficult to trace without more details from Derek. He also picked up on a male prescence who was a "bad lot". DA said he owned the house one and described him as a degenerate- evil. At 11pm they moved upstairs and Yvette began to feel bad painsin her back which had come from nowhere. DA said it was drainage due to the male spirit. so painful been fine all day.
They moved to the Queens bedroom - DA described it as - delightful, peaceful and serenity ... they heard a noise downstairs. phil went to check. DA said the lady spirit was not alone, accompanying her is a young male, thinks its her son. Derek got the name Margaret and Anjou and the dates 1429-1482. DA picked up on the the lady being the wife of Henry VI and the names Queen or Queen's consort. Yvette asked Derek for the name of her son and Phil asked how old was he. DA said he felt boy was no older than 8 years old.
In reality Queen Margret of Anjou's son was called Edward Prince of Wales and he died at 17 years old when he was slaughtered. There was also the spirit of a little young blonde girl, very mischievous, who runs up the stairs. People would hear noises and see spirit lights and hear laughter, but this was harmless said Derek. Outside the room there was a corridor which Yvette wanted to take Derek down, as she said she really didn't like it. DA picked up of the feelings of children and also the male spirit hovers about there also, something to do with evil practices. DA said how this person would welcome travellers into the house by pretending to be jovial, nice and kind when hiding behind that front was sheer evil intent. Derek came up with the name Daniel for this dark male spirit that he had picked up around the house. DA said he moved along this corridor with other people that were linked to him. Next they went to the East wing bedroom, DA got the name Loughton and said he walks here. There is no connection to Owlpen Manor with that name. DA thinks they must have lived here as he picked up the energies of children. DA said it wasn't just residual energy he picked up on but also real activity such as noises and the manifestation of a spirit shape. Yvette's back pain was continuing.
Everything seemed to go quiet for a few hours and there was no activity on the monitors. Yvette then called in Ian Lawman psychic, and they along with carl, stuart and the owners' dog went up to the attic room. Everyone heard a cry and IL asked for a sign to let them know a spirit was present. Everyone said they felt an energy there with them and faint noises, tapping and creaking was heard. Something hit carl on the back of his neck, a book, which came from nowhere. Everyone was still hearing strange noises and Yvette said she felt like she was being watched and was very nervous. A whistling noise was heard and IL could see something -- he asked it to come closer then, after half an hour of waiting their nerves stretched and all experienced an oppressive atmosphere in the room. A floorboard creaking was heard as though someone was standing there with them. The owners' dog started to whine. Il called out to any spirits to come closer. A big thump was heard then little dog started barking and whining. An impressive light anomaly was caught on film moving past the door slowly. From behind a door near Stuart noises were heard.
They then called Derek (DA) up to the attic room with them. DA said that this soul hated a man called Daunt (the Daunts were one of the main families to own the manor from 1462-1615). DA said as they see each other, the clash. As DA was talking a book fell down and a picture fell out of it containing some disturbing drawings. The family did not know who had drawn these pictures. As they opened the door which seemed to have noises behind it, a book flew out and hit one of the team hard on the leg. Derek got brushed past by a strong presence/force. Yvette asked for the spirit to give more signs and you could hear tapping noises and more books came off the shelf. A Seance at 3 a.m. started off with not much happening until DA began channelling. Richard Felix asked who it was and it was hard to make out what the spirit was saying, but he did start to hiss and shout at Yvette "leave me! leave me!" and Yvette began yelling back. It took them 15 minutes to bring Derek around and Yvette said she didn't know what to think, but secretly had been scared to death as she challenged the spirit that Derek had channelled.
Conclusion: all known areas of the manor that experience paranormal activity had been quiet during the investigation and the one room which had no reported activity (the attic room) seemed to have the most activity occurring.