Author ANDREW HOMER tells us about his favourite spooky place, haunted Himley Hall and Park near Dudley in Staffordshire
Himley Hall near Dudley is a popular destination for Black Country families and dog walkers looking to enjoy a day out in the extensive parkland surrounding the Palladian mansion. But after dark, once the wrought iron gates are locked, the park takes on a far more sinister atmosphere. This may be due to the Civil War Royalist soldier who wanders the grounds at night seemingly unable to leave the place of his untimely death.
Such stories are common around the Black Country and Birmingham, both of which were heavily embroiled in the Civil War, albeit on opposing sides. Nearby Dudley Castle was a Royalist stronghold whilst Birmingham remained fiercely Parliamentarian. In this case, however, there is a contemporary record of how and why the soldier met his death. This record comes from a diary written by Richard Symonds who accompanied the Royalist army and was a fervent supporter of Charles I.
Symond’s diary records that on Friday 16 May, 1645, the Royalist army commanded by Charles I camped for one night in the grounds of Himley Hall en route to the ill-fated battle of Naseby. He goes on to further report that, ‘one soldjer was hanged for mutiny’ after trying to desert whilst they were camped at Himley. The unfortunate man was captured trying to get away and tried on the spot. Justice was swift in those days and the soldier was hanged from a suitable tree and buried in the grounds before the army departed.
His unquiet spirit, still in uniform, is said to wander the park at night and has been seen on a number of occasions both in the park and crossing the Himley Road which runs alongside. Drivers on the Himley Road at night have reported having to brake hard after seeing a figure dash across the road straight in front of them. Invariably this figure is described as wearing knee length boots. A small number of permits are available for all-night fishing in the grounds of the hall around the Great Pool. On occasions, solitary fishermen have realised they are not alone when suddenly startled by a figure described as an ‘old fashioned’ soldier moving silently through the trees.
Yet another apparition has been seen crossing the Himley Road immediately outside the hall. This ghost is also seen in the hall itself but very little is known about her. She appears to be a servant girl judging by her long, plain dress and is usually seen on the upper floors of the hall. However, she is also seen crossing the Himley Road in the direction of the hall. She is seemingly oblivious to any traffic and disappears through the high wooden fence which surrounds the park. Intriguingly, there used to be an old gate right at the point where she passes through the fence.