Great Britain is rich in its ghostly history. And wherever you go, north or south, there’s nearly always a white lady, or maybe a grey one. This mysterious ghost, white or grey, is often associated with a tragic event of a romantic nature: here are just three of the very many sad stories. But are they true?
York’s Theatre Royal
A grey lady is said to haunt the room behind the dress circle of York’s Theatre Royal (see image below), which is of Georgian origin. In mediaeval times, however, the building was part of St Leonard’s hospital, and run by nuns. Predictably, one of these nuns had an affair with a nobleman. As punishment for her dalliance, she was apparently bricked up in a windowless room (lovely behaviour!) and has haunted the theatre ever since. Somewhat surprisingly, seeing this woman is said to be a good omen for the evening’s production!
Winster Hall, Derbyshire (privately owned)
Winster Hall, a grade II listed building, was constructed in the early 17th century. In the late nineteenth century it became the home of Llewellynn Jewitt, a noted engraver and prolific writer. In between these periods, legend suggests, a daughter of the house jumped from the roof, along with her lover: her lover was said to be one of the servants. The ghost of the woman, a white lady, is said to haunt the spot where she fell. The hall later became a pub for a while.
Winster village is noted for the extent of its preservation and is an official conservation area. There is a local history of lead mining and the hall’s first owner was himself a mine owner.
Samlesbury Hall, near Preston
Samlesbury Hall (see top image) has a history of tragedy. Its Priest’s Room was named after a Catholic priest who was murdered there, during the Reformation. Despite the best efforts, his blood couldn’t be removed from the tiny floor. The room was then bricked up for 200 years. Even then, when the boards were removed, the stain came back every so often…
The white lady, named Dorothea Southworth, came from a Catholic family but fell in love with a Protestant soldier, by the name of de Houghton. They defied their families and met in secret, but, planning to elope, they were caught that night and her lover was murdered in front of her eyes, with two of his friends. Dorothea was sent to a convent abroad but she never recovered, and sadly died.
Her ghost has been said to haunt the hall, and has been seen on the drive, or in the nearby grounds. She was often seen in the two world wars, by soldiers stationed at the hall, presumably looking for her lost lover.
In the late 1800s, three bodies were discovered, when road works led to an excavation: could these be her lover and his friends?
Stately Ghosts: haunting tales from Britain’s historic houses, London: VisitBritain Publishing, 2007.