Hinton Ampner is an elegant country house and estate in Hampshire with a long-forgotten history of psychic drama and ghostly goings-on, says RICK HALE
Located in Hampshire, England is the Grade II listed, Hinton Ampner House. It’s a beautiful example of Neo-Georgian architecture that was all the rage in the 20th century.
Although the house appears to be free of any supernatural activity, that wasn’t the case three centuries ago.
In the mid-18th century, Hinton Ampner House was the location of an outbreak of outrageous psychic phenomena, which threatened the very sanity of all involved.
History Of Hinton Ampner
Long before the house we see today, Hinton Ampner was a Tudor Manor house believed to have been built in the 1540s.
Although there are no historical records on who built it, we do know Thomas Stewkeley acquired the lease in 1597.
The house remained in the Stewkeley family until 1719, when it became the property of Stawells.
Around 1790, upkeep of the old Tudor house had become unmanageable and was torn down to make way for a Georgian style house.
However, the new house did maintain a few of its original features, the stables being one.
The Neo-Georgian we see today was built in the 1930s for Ralph Dutton by Trenwith Wills and Lord Gerald Wellesley.
Sadly, Dutton had no heirs, so upon his passing the house was gifted to the National Trust in 1985. It remains in their possession to this day.
The Haunting of Hinton Ampner House
In its earlier incarnation as a Tudor manor house, Hinton Ampner gained a reputation in the mid 18th century for being extraordinarily haunted by two apparitions and a troublesome poltergeist.
At the time the Ricketts family were the tenants and the historical record was documented by Mary.
The story she told is considered to be one of the most frightening hauntings in the history of psychical research.
The Trouble Begins
The frightening activity began in earnest in 1765, when the Ricketts rented the house from Lady Stawell.
Within days of moving in, the entire house was awakened in the middle of the night to the sounds of several doors slamming in unison throughout the house.
Mr Ricketts, ever a pragmatic man, believed the slamming doors were due to the unusual hours the household servants kept.
When he asked, the servants all denied slamming doors, or even being awake at those hours.
Mr Ricketts, then ordered that all the locks be replaced in case a prowler was afoot in the house.
The man of the house believed this would remedy the problem. He was sadly mistaken. Whatever was happening in the house was only getting started.
In 1769, Mr. Ricketts was forced to leave his family to see to the properties he owned on the island of Jamaica.
Before leaving, he told his wife that she and the kids would be just fine and assured her he would be home as soon as he could.
Whatever unknown force that inhabited the house must have considered this an invitation. Shortly after Mr Ricketts left, the true terror began.
That night Mrs. Ricketts, was awakened from her sleep by the sound of a heavy man lumbering towards her bed.
The undeniable feeling of fear gripped her as she peered into the darkness looking for an intruder.
Seeing no one, she jumped from her bed and grabbed the nursemaid who was asleep in an adjoining room.
The two women sat on the bed in silence listening for the sounds of footsteps.
What they did hear was a strange fluttering noise moving around the bed accompanied by a low groan from the middle of the room.
As the days passed, the disturbances in the house became almost impossible to bare.
During the day, the sounds of softly spoken disembodied voices could be heard throughout the house. Try as they might, no one could make out what was being said.
It was the nights, as everyone in the tried to sleep, the activity was at it’s most dreadful.
A bizarre noise that sounded like cannonballs rolling were heard in the halls.
When the rolling sound was gone, it was replaced by a deafening shriek that rang out four to five times a night.
Unable to take the terrifying activity in her house, Mrs. Ricketts, finally sought help.
Mrs Ricketts decided it would be unwise to tell her husband what was going on as he was a sceptical man who considered ghosts and ghouls to be nonsense.
Thankfully, she was able to convince her brother, Admiral Jervis and his friend, Captain Luttrell to come and spend the night.
She desperately needed someone to confirm that she wasn’t imagining things. The two men were not disappointed.
Mere moments after their vigil began, the two military men witnessed a host of psychic phenomena that was nothing short of frightening.
As they sat, they heard the doors slamming and the sounds of a large man stomping up and down the stairs.
For a short time the house appeared to quiet down, until everyone was disturbed when a gunshot rang out followed by the sound of a man groaning in anguish.
Then to top it off, the tumult of a great weight crashing through the ceiling was heard.
Convinced the house was infested by a force no man was equipped to comprehend, Captain Luttrell, stated Hinton Ampner House was unfit for human habitation.
The Ricketts agreed, and in 1772, they pulled up stakes and fled their house of horrors.
The Terror Continued
With the Ricketts long gone, the servants that remained reported encountering two apparitions.
One of the apparitions, a lady in white, was seen wandering the halls and corridors seemingly in a state of constant despair.
While the second was the sinister figure of a man in a long black cloak. The male apparition mostly stuck to the shadows but was occasionally seen walking up and down the stairs.
Of course the questions of, who were the apparitions and why did they cause so much trouble was asked. The answer would soon arrive in a most unexpected way.
When the Tudor house was torn down in 1793, workmen discovered a small box hidden behind a wall.
This is not an uncommon occurrence, however, it’s what was in the box that caused a stir in the house.
The box contained the tiny skull of what could only have belonged to an infant.
When the discovery of the skull was made public, it brought up memories of a salacious rumour that engulfed the house many years earlier.
According to the rumour, Lord Stawell and his brother’s wife, Honoria, carried on an affair that eventually produced a child.
The child, a girl, didn’t survive for too long after birth and was buried in a wall.
Researchers believe the two apparitions that caused the nightmarish activity in the house, were Lord Stawell and his mistress, Honoria.
The two could not rest due to the guilt their affair caused and the death of their child.
In his 1945 book, “Poltergeist Over England,” the great 20th century ghost hunter, Harry Price wrote about the case using Mary Ricketts’ journal. He believed something unexplained was indeed happening in the house.
Conversely, Trevor H. Hall, an avowed sceptic of psychic phenomena, believed underground water was the cause of the strange noises experienced by the Ricketts.
Water and seismic activity may cause noises in a structure. However, this doesn’t explain the presence of the two apparitions.
Either way, ghostly activity in Hinton Ampner House has been quiet since the construction of the Neo-Georgian house.
Did its ghosts merely fade away over time? That is likely. However, maybe they’re just biding their time.