Oxfordshire is an ancient and historic county is filled with murder, scandal and above all hauntings. MJ WAYLAND investigates Oxfordshire’s most haunted locations and the hauntings attached to them
Cumnor Place is haunted by the ghost of Amy Robsart, the wife of Robert Dudley who was having a passionate affair with Queen Elizabeth I. Amy died of mysterious circumstances at Cumnor Place in 1560. When Amy’s ghost was seen on the stairs where her neck was broken in a fall, the public took this as a sign that her death was not an accident. The ghost had to be exorcised by nine clergymen from Oxford who drowned it in a pond in the adjoining close; and the water never again froze over the spot.
The Bear Hotel, Woodstock
Reports of a poltergeist occurring at room 16 of the Bear Hotel, Woodstock have been noted for the last thirty years. Objects have been removed, lights switched on and drawers opened by unseen hands. Footsteps are often heard in the corridors of the inn.
It is believed the ghost is that of a workman who fell (or was pushed) from the roof of the Inn and died
A black cloud haunted a road in the village of Burford; if you drive into it you will experience the feeling of absolute terror! In the town of Burford is a priory housing Anglo-Catholic nuns, their chaplain lives in the nearby Old Rectory. Both houses have long established reputations for being very haunted. Unearthly screams and the sound of singing monks often shatter the night’s silence. Apparitions include an old-fashioned gamekeeper with a gun and a small brown monk. A ghost had to be exorcised at haunted Shipton Court. The room, which it haunted, was sealed up. No one knows which room it was.
The ghost of Sarah Fletcher haunts a house called “The Courtiers”, so attractive is the ghost that many have fallen in love with her. If you decide to ignore her, she will only become a nuisance and upset your stay. Her husband, a naval Captain left her and tried to marry a wealthy heiress. At his wedding, Sarah announced he was committing bigamy and stopped the marriage. The Captain went back to sea and was never seen again, while Sarah, heart-broken, hung herself from the curtain rail of her four-poster bed.
Stanton Harcourt Manor
At the Manor there is the “Legend of the Lady Pool”. Many centuries ago, Alice Harcourt was murdered in the Pope’s Tower by a chaplain while her family attended mass. Her ghost wanders to and fro between the chapel and Lady Pool. The ghost is said to escape and haunt the ruins if the pool dries out sometimes in a coach and four.
The White Hart, Minster Lovell
The White Hart, originally built in the 15th century, is haunted by the ghost of a woman called Rosalind, who has been seen crying bitterly, close to the old spiral staircase. It is thought that the girl hanged herself from the staircase as a result of a broken love affair.
Among the phenomena said to be associated with the girl, a number of glasses mysteriously dropped from a shelf to the floor on one occasion and a hand-bell was thrown to the floor with great force, although there was nobody near it at the time. On another occasion a barrel of sherry was tipped over and it’s contents spilled.
The Ruins of Minster Lovell Hall
Haunted by the ghost of Lord Lovell, Minster Lovell Hall is the ruined home of the Lambert Simnel supporting family. After the battle of Stoke, Lovell went in to hiding, looked after by one faithful servant. When the servant died, his master starved to death. When the house was being repaired in 1718, a vault was uncovered in which a skeleton was found with a skeleton dog at its feet. The figure of Lord Lovell, described as being a tall man and often wore a cloak has been seen walking through the ruins, sometimes accompanied by the sound of rustling paper.
The Langstone Arms Hotel was built in the early 19th century, on the foundations of a much earlier building, which is thought to have been a religious establishment. This is probably the reason why the apparition of a woman wearing a headdress, is thought to be that of a nun, although it is not necessarily the case. The phantom, described as being a “white shape”, is always heralded by mysterious coughing noises and shuffling footsteps, and is that of an elderly woman. She has been seen gliding along the corridors of the hotel, and on one occasion passing the window of the bar. Peter Underwood reported that it would appear every ten days or so.
The enchanting Rycote Chapel is beautifully kept and full of history.
The ghost of a Tudor Lady haunts it. The custodian of the chapel in 1973, Mr Clifford saw her moving around the outside of the chapel and under the giant yew tree.
There are also ghosts of a brown-robed monk; the Earl of Leicester who supposedly murdered his wife, Amy Robsart; and Sir Thomas More, whose daughter Cicely married Giles Heron of Rycote. Giles and Thomas were executed together.
Stonor Park Hall
Stonor Park is an area of high strangeness. People have heard the sound of voices coming from empty rooms and a man’s footsteps walking across a floor and down the stairs in to a room where a cupboard is mysteriously opened. When you lie in bed at night, you can feel someone touching the side of your face. In the garden at the back of the house, dogs often sense something which sends their hair on end and they back away growling. Outside the chapel is the site of prehistoric stone circle.
The Bull Inn, Henley on Thames
A curious and unexplained smell of burnt candles has been reported over a long period of time in one particular part of the bar and it is thought that this particular section of the bar was once a separate room, before alterations were made in the 19th century.
On one occasion a visitor reported seeing a cowled figure bending over him whilst he was in bed. In the town, Kenton Theatre and the Town Hall have been the scene of poltergeist activity and the appearance of a ghostly young woman.
Thomas de Saunford gave Sandford Manor to the Knights Templar in 1240.
Nearby is Sandford Pool, a mysterious place where five undergraduates have been drowned – all from Christ Church College. There are more ghostly connections here – George Napier, a Jesuit in the time of Elizabeth I, was executed at Oxford and his head displayed on the college. It is rumoured that his ghost drives a coach from Temple Farm to Oxford every Christmas Eve seeking his lost head.
Rev Maurice Frost, who lived there for over forty years, supposedly haunts the vicarage. Mr Campbell Jarrett who came back from Italy to settle his cousin’s estate claimed a mysterious hand stopped him leaving the drawing room. The Servants of the house claimed that between eight thirty and nine o’clock in the morning the beds were pressed down with nobody touching them. Noises were heard in the study and coughs in the drawing room, when no one was in either room. Mr Jarrett believed that Maurice’s ghost had returned to the vicarage to wind his antique clocks and look after his favourite books.
The mansion just three miles North of Reading is haunted by the ghost of a servant killed by his master in a fit of temper. The murderer is also seen dragging the corpse across the floor.