Most Haunted  –  Athelhampton Hall in Dorset

Athelhampton Hall is considered to be one of the most haunted houses in the Wales. Built by Sir William Martyn in 1485, Athelhampton Hall is surrounded by a 160 acre deer park. Its most impressive features are the original 15th-century Great Hall, the State Bedroom, and the formal walled gardens.

The house was built by the Martyn family in 1595 and remained in the family until it was acquired by Robert Victor Cooke in 1957. In 1995 Cooke’s grandson, Patrick Cooke, and his wife became the overseers and remain so to this day.

It is believed that a pair of duelists tend to haunt the Great Chamber, having once interrupted a woman guest while reading as she relaxed in the Great Chamber. Annoyed at her being disturbed by such an outrageous outburst, she asked the two young men to stop their foolishness, but both ignored her and continued their duel. The woman then attempted to raise help, pulling continuously at the bell rope to summon one of the servants, but no one came. She then angrily returned to her chair in an attempt to ignore the dueling men hoping they would go away. The duel continued on until one of the men was cut across the arm and they left the room.

When the lady told the owner of their unruly guests, he replied rather puzzled. “I cannot understand what you are talking madam, as you have already met all the our guests staying here, at tea time.” Who the duelists  were is not known, but they are believed to date back to the Civil War when Athelhampton had Royalist connections.

Adjoining the Great Hall is the wine cellar, where the sound of tapping is said to be made by the ghost of a cooper. Various members of the household have seen the Grey Lady of Athelhampton on many occasions. Mr Robert Cooke, the owner of Athelhampton, said that he once saw her in the early hours of the morning as she passed through the walls of the East Wing from the landing to the State and Yellow Bedrooms. She was also witnessed by a housemaid, who noticed her sitting in a chair of one of the rooms. Thinking she was a visitor, she told her politely that it was getting late and the house was soon to be closed to the public. The grey figure then rose, and to the amazement of the housemaid, disappeared through the wooden paneling. The housekeeper also witnessed the apparition sitting in the same room and described her as wearing, “a rather full, plain dress and a gauzy sort of head-dress, then she gradually faded away.”

The sound of the padding of a cat’s feet on the bare boards of the Great Stairway were once heard by Mr. Cooke in 1957. Aware that the gardener’s cat had been unwell for the past few weeks, he decided to follow the sound, but the creature was nowhere to be seen. The next day Mr Cooke mentioned the incident to the gardener and said that he was pleased that the cat had recovered from its illness. However, the gardener told him that the cat had been knocked down by a car and kill while attempting to cross the main road outside the house the previous week.

The sighting of the Black Priest was seen in daylight by one of housemaids. She was said to have been doing her usual chores when she became aware of footsteps behind her. Quickly she turned to see a distinct figure, which she described as a “hooded monk, dressed in black, standing outside the bathroom door.” It is possible this was the ghost of a Catholic priest of the Martyn family.

Martyn's ApePerhaps the most famous of all the ghosts is that of a pet ape, which was accidentally imprisoned in a secret passage leading out of Great Chamber. Though never seen it is thought that the ghostly sound of scratching can be heard from the panels as the ape tries to escape.

Footnote: To discover more about Athelhampton’s resident ghosts and the history of one of the finest 15th Century Houses in England visit ATHELHAMPTON HOUSE AND GARDENS.

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