PETER LEWIS looks at some of the haunted places in the New Forest in the south of England
The New Forest, in the south of Hampshire, is an unparalleled, unspoilt place of immense natural beauty. It is also a place of immense mystery and magic. Naturally, with a place being of such an age, as the New Forest, for it dates back to the very creation of England as we know it today, that stories are abound, and not in short supply, of hauntings, apparitions, visitations and sightings of other-worldly beings.
It is without dispute that the most haunted place in the Forest is Beaulieu, with its devastated monastery, ship building and palace house. However, I will offer alternatives to Beaulieu as the estate of Lord Montague deserves its own examination.
Rufus Stone and The Sir Walter Tyrell Inn, Brook
Roughly 500 yards from the busy A-31 road north of Lyndhurst is the memorial to the once King of England, William II or William Rufus. Son of William the Conquerer who in a bold move invaded England and took the crown from Harold II. Rufus was not on the throne for long before a stray arrow glanced from a tree and struck him in the chest, killing him. The arrow was reputedly fired by one Sir Walter Tyrell, who was soon accused of the kings murder.
It is reported that there is an apparition of King William’s carriage retracing the route conveying him to Winchester for burial. The sounds of hooves, the sound of the carriage have been heard. It is said that this happens on August 2nd, the date of his death. But if one is planning a vigil, and many do especially at the delightful Sir Walter Tyrell Inn that stands on the site of a former coaching inn, then please, don’t go on August 2nd, remember to adjust for the change in calendar from Julian to Gregorian.
Sitting at the end of a long shingle bank sprouting from the mainland like a tentacle into the Solent stands the fort, Hurst Castle. Built by Henry VIII to defend the seaway into Southampton from the west, it’s original fortifications were reused from the devastated Beaulieu Abbey. The reports of hauntings are old, the spectral entity of a monk is said to haunt the stones, unsettled by the reformation. But it is also a one time prison of Charles 1st before Cromwell had his head cut off and the unquiet king is also said to prowl the isolated castle.
Whatever the stories are, Hurst Castle is an eerie, yet must see attraction of the New Forest. It is accessible by foot along the mile long shingle bank. Alternatively a ferry can be caught from Keyhaven.
Breamore House, Downton
On the outskirts of the northern edge of the New Forest just north of Fordingbridge on the A-338 lies the magnificent Breamore House. Built by the Doddington family it has a grizzly history. It is reputed that the ghost of Lady Doddington haunts the Blue Bedroom where she was murdered by her own son. It is said that if the ghost is seen the present owner of the house is about to die. There is also a cursed portrait in the great hall, if it is moved or interfered with then disaster will befall those who have done so.
The Barrow, Beaulieu
On the outskirts of Beaulieu, laying on the road to Brockenhurst lies something unexpected. Situated in the centre of a campsite is a Barrow. A barrow, as I am sure you know, is an ancient burial. Pre dating Christianity by a good few hundred years it is unclear who is buried there. The site has never been excavated. During the quiet winter months, when the camp site is unoccupied it has been used as a gathering place for white witches. It is reputed that if the witches do not perform mass at the burial then an unquiet spirit will rise.
The campsite makes an ideal location in which to base oneself for the exploration of the New Forest. However, if one likes a more comfortable location might I suggest The Angel Inn, Lymington. One of the oldest coaching houses in the New Forest, it too has its stories of hauntings!
All Saints Church, Minstead
To my knowledge there are no stories regarding a ghostly encounter at the church. However, it is still worth a visit to the grave of one of histories biggest proponents of the supernatural, renowned spiritualist as well as creator of the inimitable Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
The re-internment in 1950 of Sir Arthur caused no small amount of controversy. It was the wish of the family that he be reunited with his wife who was buried in a Christian service at Minstead. However, because of his vociferous belief in the supernatural the rector reluctantly allowed the re-burial. There was a caveat which was that he be placed at the most southern end of the churchyard at the greatest distance from the church. Under a sprawling oak tree, at the southern wall, is his headstone. Definitely worth a visit!
PETER LEWIS is a historian and author living on the edge of the New Forest. As well as doing the day job, Peter writes a regular book review column as well as entering as many story competitions as he can, all the while attempting to obtain representation for his novels. Peter studied at the University of Southampton and specialised in representations of Angels and Demons within ancient Jewish texts. It was researching his dissertation that Peter got a fascination with the paranormal and began his quest to unravel the truth from fiction within historic sources.