A Cotswolds Ghost Story
Ghosts and Hauntings at the Manor House
It is perhaps inevitable that an eccentric collector living in a lonely manor house in the Cotswolds will inspire ghostly stories of strange goings on. In the best traditions of local folklore there are indeed eerie tales told of Snowshill Manor. When Wade acquired the Manor he engaged twenty-eight workmen who stayed in the attic during the week. After the first night, one workman refused to stay another night in the place saying that it was haunted. Wade later learned that there was a belief in the village concerning the ghost of one of the Benedictine Monks of Winchcombe Abbey. Some people who visit Snowshill Manor have noticed that the entrance to the house has a certain uncanny ambiance and occasionally refuse to enter.
When Charles Wade began his restoration of the first floor rooms he sent a small piece of the timber to a well known lady psychic in Brighton, without telling her where it originated. The psychic replied:
‘Two houses upon a steep slope – the larger, lofty and mysterious. In the lofty house in an upper room, late at night there is a girl in a green dress of the seventeenth century – she is greatly agitated – she paces anxiously up and down the room – she doesn’t live here and will not stay the night’.
It was only later that Charles Wade came across a story that may have inspired tales of hauntings at the manor. It involved a clandestine marriage that took place in an upper room of the house on St Valentine’s Eve, 1604. Ann Parsons, a sixteen-year-old orphan heiress related by marriage to John Warne, owner of Snowshill at the time, was forcibly removed from the home of her guardian by Anthony Palmer, a handsome twenty-year-old servant, and some friends. She was then taken to Snowshill Manor and married to Palmer at midnight in the room above the Great Hall, by the vicar of Broadway (another Cotswolds village nearby).
She afterwards refused to stay at Snowshill and the dejected wedding party was forced to travel by night to the village of Chipping Campden. The marriage was subsequently declared invalid by the court of the Star Chamber. The room is now known as Ann’s room, and is haunted by her unhappy ghost. Another incident which some think has contributed to the ghostly atmosphere of the house is the duel which is supposed to have occurred in the room known as Zenith, in which one of the participants was killed.
Another story relates to Charles Marshall, who occupied the house in the first half of the 19th century and held leases over a thousand acres of land. After he died his widow still lived at the Manor and farmed the adjacent land. Some time before 1858 (the year Mrs. Marshall died) a labourer named Richard Carter was working at a remote place called Hill Barn Farm. Returning home one winter’s evening by a little used track, he met an apparition of his former master, Charles Marshall, who rode alongside him on a fine black pony.
This happened several times and finally Carter, on the advise of the rector, asked the ghost what it wanted. The reply was that Carter should meet him at midnight in the chaff-house. At the meeting that night Carter was given a secret message for Mrs. Marshall, the contents of which were never made known. However, there were rumours that the message was connected with the location of hidden money as soon after the incident the widow managed to start new buildings to the north of the Manor.
This story, which sounds like a piece of Cotswold folklore, was told to Charles Wade in 1919 by Richard Dark, son-in-law of the labourer Richard Carter.
A Haunted Cotswolds Village
The village of Snowshill itself also has its folkloric tales of ghosts and hauntings. Alistair Biles, landlord of the Snowshill Arms from 1969 to 1979, frequently saw ‘a ghoslty figure’ in the ancient upstairs part of the inn. Apparently, this apparition could open doors and would disturb his dog so much that it would run downstairs to the modern part of the building. The strange figure often took the form of a hooded monk, but at other times seemed to have very little form at all, being no more than a misty shape that would disappear through walls or closed doors. Neither Mr. Bile nor his family ever felt threatened by the figure.
There are also claims of a ‘strange presence’ that lurks in the lane that runs past the Manor, and there is a particular spot there that some of the older villagers refuse to pass after dark. One or two local people think the ghost, like the one in the Snowshill Arms, and perhaps the Manor, is that of an unhappy monk probably connected with Winchcombe Abbey. The pub is one of the oldest buildings in the village and in medieval times it is thought that the older part was used as a hostel for visiting clergy and lay-people.
Charles Wade, though rarely seen about the village, was well liked by the locals, though his 18th century appearance, with outlandish bobbed hair and breeches, stockings and buckled shoes, was thought eccentric to say the least. In 1946 he married and spent many of his last years in the West Indies. He maintained a keen interest in Snowshill Manor and continued to add to his collection.
In 1951, when he gave over the Manor to the National Trust, Wade was the same unique figure, ‘still mischievous, waxy complexioned, a medieval face seen through the woodsmoke’. While on a visit to England in July 1956, Wade was taken ill in the Cotswold village of Broadway, and shortly after died in Evesham Hospital. He is buried with his mother and sisters in Snowshill churchyard. He once wrote of his beloved Snowshill Manor: ‘Old am I, so very old, Here centuries have been. Mysteries my walls enfold, None know deeds I have seen.’
Brooks, J.A. Ghosts and Witches of the Cotswolds. Norwich, Jarrold, 1986, pp22-26.
Mason, Carolyn. Snowshill. A Gloucestershire Village. Cheltenham, Thornhill Press, 1987.
The National Trust, Snowshill Manor, London,1995. Turner, Mark. Folklore & Mysteries of the Cotswolds. London, Robert Hale. 1993, pp161-4.
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