Built in the 1430s, Minster Lovell Hall in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds now lies in ruins. The scattered stone walls and foundations are all that remain of this once-magnificent home. Well, almost. MATTHEW ROBINSON from Ghoul Britannia Podcast tells us what other relics of the past still linger here.
The ruins of Minster Lovell Hall are as striking as they are eerie. Tucked away in a quiet field, between a graveyard and a fast-flowing river, it’s easy to feel like you’re the only person in the world when you stand amongst these centuries-old stones. But you’re not alone here. At least, not if you believe the stories.
Minster Lovell Hall’s most famous resident is Francis Lovell. A supporter of Richard III during the long and bitter War of the Roses, he lost everything after the Battle of Stoke Field in 1487. Richard’s forces took a severe beating. Francis was last seen alive fleeing for his life, broken and demoralised, in the aftermath of that battle. He sat atop his horse as the beast struggled to swim across a deep, rushing river. The official story was that he escaped to Scotland, making sure to disappear along the way.
The locals tell it somewhat differently.
Visitors in the small hours have reported a chilling sight. Looking down upon the broken bones of Minster Lovell Hall, from the adjacent graveyard, you might see a figure melt out of thin air. In the meanest sense it is a man. The man is emaciated, barely more than a skeleton from which a few sad scraps of skin and a grubby, tattered cloak hang.
Sometimes a gaunt dog moves along beside it. I say moves because neither of these figures walk. They simply move. The man and his dog appear beside the crumbling South-West Tower, and glide smoothly across the meadow, along the bank of the passing river. When the man reaches the stony outline of the stables, he and his dog fade and disappear.
If that isn’t enough to scare you off, there’s more.
You might feel an icy breath by your ear. Visitors have heard a painful, drawn-out groan, creaking out of nowhere. Sometimes it is even accompanied by the rustling of paper, or the scratching of a quill. Those who come to Minster Lovell Hall on their own may find that the sound of shuffling feet follows them across the grass.
You see, according to local legend Francis Lovell never made it to Scotland. In the aftermath of that last, blood battle, the road was too dangerous. He knew that Henry Tudor’s forces would hunt down any of Richard’s followers. Lovell was a marked man. His strategy was not to run, but to hide. Lovell returned to his family home, Minster Lovell Hall.
Knowing that this would be the first place Henry’s men would search, he kept his return a secret. Lovell took refuge in a hidden room, down below ground, and trusted only one faithful servant to bring him food and drink. It worked. Time went by, and Lovell escaped capture.
The only problem was the room locked from the outside. When the servant suddenly and unexpectedly died, he took both his master’s secret and the only key to the grave with him. Lovell was trapped. Who knows how long he pounded on the door, until his hands were bloody and raw? Eventually, he was forced to admit defeat. Lovell faced a long and miserable death. Slowly he wasted away, a prisoner in his own home.
There is one final grim part to this tale.
In 1708, a secret vault was discovered at Minster Lovell Hall. Inside was a skeleton, sitting at a table with a pen in its bony fingers. The remains of a dog lay curled-up at its feet. The skeletons crumbled into dust the moment the air touched them.
It is said that these were the bones of Francis Lovell.
The ghost is still witnessed, wandering along the bank. His moans are still heard. There are some who say Lovell is simply enjoying the fresh air and space which was denied him in his final wretched months. Others say he is still trapped, locked in an endless purgatory.
Whatever the truth is, Francis Lovell’s shade certainly isn’t leaving his former home any time soon.
MATTHEW ROBINSON is the creator and host of the podcast Ghoul Britannia, a twisted tour of British lore. Based at Ghoul HQ, in rural Wiltshire, Matthew is an eager student of local history and folklore, with a particular love of ghost stories and comically-large mugs of tea.
Listen to Ghoul Britannia: The Haunted Ruins of Minster Lovell Podcast
Ghoul Britannia podcast explores the darker side of British lore and legends. Whether it’s a ghost, a curse, or something even more unusual, we’ll be taking a closer look at the spookiest, strangest corners of the UK and Ireland.