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Got Ghosts! – A Halloween haunted manor #history #ghosts

I’m delighted to welcome fellow Westmorland Writer and pal, Fiona Glass to tell us about her new book, ‘Got Ghosts?’

Live in Cumbria? You can find the Westmorland Writers here on Facebook. Over to Fiona!

got ghosts frontIt’s history, Jim, but not as we know it

You may wonder what I’m doing here on Deborah’s blog. Fair enough, I have a new book out, but it’s a paranormal romp set firmly in the present, and there’s nothing very historical about a TV production crew being chased round a haunted manor house by a bunch of ghosts.  More hysterical than historical, or so you might think.

However, there’s quite a bit of history in ‘Got Ghosts?’ if you peer through the cracks in the floorboards.

First, there’s that haunted manor house. Greystones Hall (loosely based on various old houses I’ve visited over the years including Snowshill Manor, Chillingham Castle and Harvington Hall) is described as “…a typical English country house, with bits surviving from almost every century since 1066 – and the foundations of a Saxon chapel to boot.” It’s long, low, rambling, and in parts incredibly ancient – just like many old houses scattered the length and breadth of the country, some of which have been inhabited by the same family since the year dot. Sizergh Castle in Cumbria, for instance, has been in the hands of the Strickland family for over 750 years, and there are plenty more just like that.

Most of those old houses are chock full of family possessions gathered over not just decades but literally centuries. Those possessions, like the homes themselves, have their own stories to tell, of how and why they were cherished or created, and what happened to them over the years. Some remained at the heart of a home; others were lost or destroyed. In ‘Got Ghosts?’ it’s very much a case of the latter, but you’ll have to read the book to find out what, and why!

64_Interior_dusty wikiMany old country homes are also riddled with secret passages and ‘priest holes’ – small spaces built into the fabric of the house for Catholic priests to hide or escape at a time (mostly in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I) when they were persecuted. Sometimes these are tiny and would only have housed the vestments and vessels for Mass. Sometimes they were much larger and provided space for one or several priests to hide up for hours or even days. The priest hole at Greystones Hall isn’t unusual; some houses had two or three, and the best, Harvington Hall in Worcestershire, has about ten.

Then, of course, there are the ghosts. And wherever you have ghosts, you have history, because those ghosts were people once with their own stories, families, and fates. In ‘Got Ghosts?’ they range from a medieval knight right through to the present day and heroine Emily’s grandfather, who still watches over her. There’s also the mad, bad Alfred, a Byronesque artist from the early nineteenth century, whose story weaves together with that of Greystones Hall and is central to the book.

History is all around us really. Scratch the surface of the most modern thing you can think of and history bleeds from its very pores. I just hope you’ll agree that it’s history bleeding from the pages of  ‘Got Ghosts?’, and not something else!   READ MORE

Fiona Glass Website

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The Ghosts of Markyate Manor – a hermit, an heiress, a highwayman

Common_seal_of_the_Priory_of_MarkyateThe name Markyate is derived from the Old English words mearc and geat and means ‘the gate at the boundary’, presumably between Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire. In the 12th century, with the consent of his abbot, a monk went out from st Alban’s and into the woods to seek a place to make a hermitage. God guided him to Caddington, not far from Watling Street. There he lived a solitary life, until a woman came to him, Christina of Markyate, in the firm belief that she too was called to a silent life of contemplation. He duly fastened her into an adjoining cell, where she was walled in for for four years!  She saw nobody in all that timeonly coming out to walk at dusk when she would see not a soul, supporting herself through her exquisite needlework. She was (unsurprisingly) taken over by heavenly visions, and when the original monk died she had gathered quite a following and was allowed to set up  a priory under Benedictine rule. The seal of the Priory can be seen right, and more about Christina’s extraordinary life can be found here.

The Priory did not fare well during the dissolution because it had become run down, and there were charges of corruption and lack of chastity brought against the nuns. The Priory was eventually demolished in 1537, and Markyate Manor was built on its footprint, although it is still sometimes known as Markyate Cell –  George Ferrers retained the name when he bought the land in 1548. The Ferrers family controlled this land when Markyate Cell was the home of Katherine Ferrers, also sometimes known as The Wicked Lady, a title I am hoping to overturn!

Markyate Manor BBC

The Manor was left to Katherine by her mother, but it was soon in the control of her uncle, Simon Fanshawe, and she was forced into an arranged marriage with his nephew, Thomas Fanshawe.  After that, the story gets even more interesting as the legend credits her with being a notorious highwaywoman. She lived in the house through the years of the turbulent English Civil War, much of it alone as her menfolk were away fighting. She finally died there, having been mortally wounded trying to rob a coach on Nomansland.

markyate-cell-gen-mag-1846-large_sm

Her ghost has been seen dressed in highwayman clothes riding her horse at full gallop, and in 1840 part of Markyate Cell was destroyed by fire, and the blaze was blamed on Lady Katherine.  Whilst helping to put out the fire several locals said that they felt a ghostly presence and that they were being watched, by the ghost of Katherine. But Katherine is not the only ghost that haunts this building – in the late 1850s workmen repairing a wall saw the figure of a nun. Perhaps this was the anchorite Christina. The nun has been seen several times since, walking in an avenue near St John’s Church.

In 1957 the bypass around Markyate was being built. A night watchman was sitting by his brazier one night when he looked up and saw someone warming their hands by the fire. The figure was that of a young man who promptly vanished as the night watchman was looking at him. Was this an appearance of Markyate’s legendary Phantom who may also haunt Hicks Road and the High Street?  Luton Paranormal Society

So it Spirit of the highway final ebook coverwas not just Lady Katherine Fanshawe that haunted Markyate Manor. There was also a young man.

There has always been  a mysterious man, Ralph Chaplin, associated with the legend, although I can find no trace of him in historical records. That gave me fuel for thought, and led to the story-line for ‘Spirit of the Highway’.

Like to know more? check out this article in the Daily Mail for a summary of the life and legend of Lady Katherine Ferrers (Fanshawe).

Spirit of the Highway is out today, published by Endeavour Press. It is suitable for teens 14+ (and adults too!).