With Halloween just around the corner its time to rake the leaves and think about ghoulies and ghosties and things that go bump in the night. The British Aisles have many haunted places from Roman soldiers disappearing through the walls in the city of York, to spooks wandering around the Tower of London to friendly and unfriendly spirits in castles and stately homes.
One I would like to share with you is the Grey Lady of Longleat. The story was told to me by the late Marquis of Bath in 1974 during an interview when I was doing a radio series about the stately homes of England.
Longleat house, the Wiltshire home of the Marquis of Bath is a lovely old house with 375 windows. It started as a priory that lasted until Henry VIII nationalized the monasteries. It reverted to the crown in 1540. It was sold to Sir John Thyne by the protector, the Duke of Somerset, for 53 pounds. After much rebuilding it has been in the same family ever since.
The ghost is said to be that of the "Grey Lady" Louisa Carteret, wife of the second Viscount Weymouth, from 1710 to 1750. Louisa is said to haunt an upstairs passage where her lover, a young footman was killed in a duel by her husband. The poor lady walks the passage in agony looking for her lover. Louisa was locked in her room for the rest of her life.
To quote Lord Bath, "Well you know, Weymouth was a thoroughly unpleasant chap and she didn't like him very much. When my father was putting in central heating, they had to dig up the floor of the basement to put in a boiler. The workmen digging came across a skeleton all dressed in a sort of livery including high boots. Instead of calling for help, they moved the thing and it all fell to bits. Several years later we had a secretary who was doing some inventory upstairs, a very sensible woman, who said she just could not walk along that passage."
Lord Bath has since gone to join Lady Louisa and Longleat has been inherited by his heirs. An interesting note, that secretary later worked for us and she was indeed a very sensible woman, who knew nothing of the legend and told us the same story.
There is another more pleasant ghost at Longleat. That of an old man in long scholars robes who walks the famous library. He is said to be the founder of the library.
Happy Halloween and as the bard said, there are more things in heaven and earth, etc.
- TTFN Linda