The Ghosts of Littledean Hall by Don Macer-Wright
Meeting of 10 November 2016
Don was back by popular demand to give us more of the history and his personal stories of Littledean Hall where he grew up. Renowned as one of the most haunted houses in England, the Hall has been visited by ghosthunters and ghostbusters alike and been blessed and exorcised. Whilst Don looks for practical explanations, there is enough unexplained, and enough that he has seen and felt for the Hall to deserve its reputation.
Littledean Hall looks like a haunted house, a large grey-rendered, damp building with gargoyles. In 1982 when Don’s family opened to the public, it was the ghost stories rather than the house history (it holds the Guinness record as the oldest inhabited house in England) that brought people in.
The house is full of hidden passageways and priest holes. One of these was only rediscovered during the Great Strike, when there was no coal left at all in the cellars under the dovecote. In the passage were found skeletons and old armour – these were quietly cleared out and the passage sealed up. The hauntings all seem to relate to people and events in the house’s rich history, these include:
- Figures looking out of the top windows, one is believed to be Pyrke who was attacked here by militiamen during the Corn Riots (and bullet holes can still be seen in the shutters).
- Horses’ hooves heard in empty stables.
- Today visitors still suffer vertigo on the front staircase, the author Eddy Burke believes a previous occupant died falling down the stairs and is trapped here.
- Cavaliers seen in the courtyard: the house was a Royalist garrison during the Civil War. In an incident in 1643 nearby Royalist soldiers had surrendered but someone in the house fired a pistol causing the Roundheads to attack. Congreve and Wigmore were put to the sword in the dining room. Phantom bloodstains have reappeared in front of the fireplace ever since, even when the boards were replaced.
The dining room is a focus of activity. Don had an intense experience which still affects him today; his dog, Sam, was so terrified he was foaming at the mouth and desperate to get out. Don smelt hideous rotted flesh and the fire burnt up then went out. Flowers left in the room would be found thrown in the fireplace and a picture above was regularly found undamaged but on the floor; when it was finally hung up securely it was found next morning smashed on the floor.
The most famous ghost is the black boy. Seen in a wonderful portrait, the black servant is with his young white master who holds a squirrel on a string. The latter is Charles Pyrke, son of Captain Thomas Pyrke who had a sugar plantation. Black servants were very fashionable at the time, and often wore a silver collar as can be seen in the painting. Rumours of murder abound, but whether the boy killed Charles, or the other way around, is unknown (Charles died aged 21, but no cause is given). Supposedly two brothers killed each other in a duel in the dining room. The black boy is responsible for poltergeist activity. A visitor in the 1950s slept extremely badly due to the lights flickering under the bedroom door, this was ‘the black boy – he always haunted the landing’. An anonymous reporter in The Fortean Times saw a little black boy running across the landing, but on arriving there found only the portrait.
The well-known ghostbuster and US cop, Randy Liebeck, spend two days combing Littledean with TV crews. He found nothing except an electrical anomaly in the dining room. Don points out that the site is rich in historic iron-workings, perhaps the magneticity is an influence?
Much more is recounted in Don’s book The Hauntings of Littledean Hall – available from him for £10.99 (email@example.com). We may organise a trip to see the Roman remains at Littledean Hall, do get in touch if interested. CS