Ghosts and Shadows at Hawkesbury Upton: 23 April 2015

Iford Manor Cloisters, Bradford-on-AvonI’m thrilled to be reading at the Hawkesbury Upton Literary Festival,  on World Book Night, 23 April. I’ll be joining romantic novelist Katie Fforde, novelist and poet Orna Ross, author Debbie Young and many other ALLi friends for a night of readings, discussions and fun. And it’s all free!

See the full speaker line up here

There will be talks, readings and an exhibition, and a chance to meet speakers and view a display by children’s reading charity Readathon, sharing the benefits of books.

Do come along, if you can. Doors open at 6pm.

And in the meantime, here are some ghostly and mysterious stories, from places not far from Hawkesbury Upton (well, relatively speaking).

Owlpen Manor, near Uley in the Cotswolds

One of the most haunted houses in Gloucestershire, with at least four resident ghosts, guests Owlpen Manor, Uleyhave traditionally avoided parts of Owlpen, preferring to stay in ‘safe’ but cramped rooms. One of the ghosts who haunts the building is a little girl, who likes to run up and down the stairs, and was once photographed in the ‘empty’ house.

Some living children, evacuated there during WW2, told the owner, Barbara Bray, they’d seen a ‘visitor; a beautiful lady in a long-sleeved dress and a funny peaked hat with a long veil draped behind her. The woman is thought to be Queen Margaret of Anjou, who reputedly stayed there on her way to the tragic Battle of Tewkesbury (May 1471). In the aftermath of the above battle, Queen Margaret lost both her husband and son, and was exiled to France for the rest of her life.

Chavenage House, TetburyChavenage House, near Tetbury, Gloucestershire

 This house was rebuilt in the 16th century, but parts of it date from the early medieval period, when a community of monks was established in the area. A monk has been seen several times since then; at least twice in the chapel: once in 1945 and again more recently when a party of spiritualists explored the house. They made contact with a monk, Brother Charles, who told the group he was happy at Chavenage, presumably true as he’d been there since 1945! Or perhaps even longer…

Iford ManorIford Manor cloisters, Bradford-on-Avon, Bradford-on-Avon

Chavenage doesn’t have a monopoly on monks. When Elisabeth Cartwright-Hignett first visited Iford in the 1960s, she became aware of a strong smell of incense. The then owner, clearly embarrassed, passed the smell off as one of the plants, but the scent has been noticed frequently since, both inside and out, and often in the garden. There’s a possible connection with Roman Catholicism as, in the 1300s, Iford, or part of it, was owned by a Carthusian monastry, situated less than a mile away. The figure of a monk has been seen several times, including once in the 1970s, by one of Mrs Cartwright-Hignett’s guests. He only told her ten years later that he’d seen the monk at the top of the stairs in Iford Mill; the man was dressed in a white habit and had an expression of great joy. The guest felt the vision was benevolent and associated him with a smell of incense.

For great stories and a night of entertainment, and not a little fun, remember to visit Hawkesbury Upton. It’s free to all.

Source: British Tourist Authority (2007) Stately Ghosts: haunting tales from Britain’s historic houses, VisitBritain Publishing

Sources – Images

Article written by Ellie Stevenson, author.Ellie Stevenson, author

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Ghosts & : on 23 April

Was Borley Haunted? It wasn’t just the house

Borley Rectory in an earlier timeYou’ll know I’ve talked about Borley before, probably the most famous haunting of all. I thought I’d covered most of the story.

But it seems there’s always a little bit more and I wanted to share this snippet with you. For those who don’t know much about Borley Rectory, you can read the earlier posts here:

Borley Rectory: the house and its ghosts – part one

Borley Rectory: the house and its ghosts – part two

Now for the postscript.

A London journalist, Montague Eleman, who’d heard of the case while a serving soldier, hoped to sell his story to the dailies, and once demobbed, set off for Borley to see it for himself. He was a little bit late. By the time he got there it was 1946, and the house by then had been demolished. After walking around the rubble for a while and chatting to any people he could find, he left for London, carrying a piece of wood with him – the wood was charred (because of the fire) and possibly from the roof or the floor. The next nine years were something of a nightmare.

Arriving back in London that evening, he left the wood on the mantelpiece, in the room he used at his sister’s house and then went down to supper, alone. He heard a noise and when he looked up his sister was there, claiming she’d seen a nun in his bedroom. It didn’t stop there.

In the nights that followed, Eleman and his family heard quite a few noises, ranging from screams to a clock chiming, all quite close to where the wood was. But eventually, the noise settled down.

When several weeks later, Eleman moved and took up lodgings in a seaside town, there were several more incidents, the doorbell rang when no-one was there, and a dark-clad person crossed the landing. Needless to say, he’d brought the wood with him.

Eleman finally sussed that whenever he moved to a new location and took the wood, the disturbance increased, but then eased off, as if whatever it was that had been disturbed had now settled down. In 1955, after nine long years he gave the piece of timber away. Nobody knows where that wood is now.

Or maybe they do…Borley Rectory after the fire

Borley’s story is quite exceptional, it transcends time, people and the place, as we’ve just seen. But this wasn’t the first time the haunting had extended beyond the house.

In 1928, (Guy) Eric Smith and his wife Mabel moved into Borley after being abroad. They didn’t know that other vicars had refused the living, because of the house’s reputation. Like other residents before and since, the Smiths experienced some strange incidents. A mirror on Mrs Smith’s dressing table began tapping whenever she came near it, and this continued after they left Borley.

Some years later, in 1937, the Smiths were living in a village in Kent, when they were visited by Sidney Glanville. Glanville was one of Price’s researchers. He held the mirror in his hands. A week after he’d visited the Smiths and held the mirror he received a letter asking if he’d brought a ghost with him because ‘the mirror has started tapping again.’ He never went back to the house to find out.

Ghosts aren’t always tied to a house.

Shadows of the Lost Child - a novel and ghost storyMy latest novel, a partly historical mystery, with a time travel element, also centres around a house: there are ghosts in the story, but are the ghosts connected to the house? You’ll have to read the book to find out…

Article written by Ellie Stevenson, author.

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Even more about #BorleyRectory: with #thehauntedhistorian. Can ghosts follow you?


Adams, P. & Brazil, E. Extreme Hauntings: Britain’s most terrifying ghosts, History Press, 2013

Glanville, S. The Strange Happenings at Borley Rectory (originally in American Fate magazine, 1951)

Images (Wikimedia Commons)

Borley Rectory before the fire

Borley Rectory as a ruin




More Shadows (of the Lost Child)

Those of you who read the previous post will know that the early chapters of my next novel, Shadows of the Lost Child, is available on Wattpad.

Although Curdizan, where the story is set, is a fictional city, for some of its elements, I researched and drew on historic York (UK).

York-1 EllieStevenson

If you walk around York, you can visit several places which provided inspiration. York is ideal for inspiration because of its history and fascinating stories. For example:

Pavement, one of the main streets, refers to when it was the only street in the whole town which had a floor of cobbles. Beneath York streets lie many bones that were thrown out of people’s houses, acting as a road surface. In front of each house was a dung hill, these were cleared two or three times a year, usually when a celebrity visited. Often such houses had a piece of wood outside, so neighbours could sit and talk to each other. (Source: James Raine, York, 2nd ed. 1893)

This period was, naturally, a long time ago, and well before when my novel is set – the present and early 20th century.


Modern, refurbished, beautiful Curdizan, complete with an abbey, contrasts strongly with the town of the past, a darker world of poverty, pawn shops and prostitution. In the past we meet Tom and Miranda, and when Thomas of the past meets Alice of the present, everything changes and much of the dark has to come to the light. Then, of course, there are the ghosts.

More about the characters (and ghosts) next time.

Chapter Three is now available here.

Ellie Stevenson, authorArticle written by Ellie Stevenson, author. This article is copyrighted material. Brief extracts including a link to this site can be quoted but the article must not be reproduced in full anywhere without the author’s written permission.

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Shadows of the Lost Child, Ellie Stevenson’s 2nd novel w be here soon. Read the 1st 3 chapts w

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Some images of York:

New Novel: Shadows of the Lost Child

Shadows of the Lost Child (by Ellie Stevenson) Available soon.

Shadows of the Lost Child (by Ellie Stevenson)
Available soon.

Last week, I mentioned some forthcoming news. Here it is!

My next novel, Shadows of the Lost Child, will be available on Amazon shortly, but before that happens, readers will have a chance to dip into the work.

You can read the first chapter NOW on Wattpad and more chapters will be coming soon.

Feel free to send me any comments and thoughts about the book.

There are ghosts, a supposedly haunted house and an element of time travel, so lots to enjoy!

You can read a short summary below.

In next week’s post, I’ll talk a little about some of the themes that inspired the novel.

In the meantime, enjoy the first chapter (and the good weather!).


The book is set in two time periods, the present and the past (early twentieth century).

The Present

Aleph Jones is running away but the house he ends up in turns out to be haunted. Or is it just him? For Aleph has a dark secret that’s changed his life.

Cressida Sewell needs Aleph’s help. Her daughter Alice refuses to speak and a team of specialists don’t know why. But Cressida has a hidden agenda and Alice knows more than she’s letting on. About Aleph.

Guinevere James is not what she seems. Disguised as Aleph’s business client, she really wants to solve a murder that happened over a century ago. But what about the children who vanished? Aleph and Alice can hear them scream.

The Past

Miranda and Thomas live in poverty. Miranda wants to protect her mother but when she seeks help from friends Ben and Thomas, they set on a path to even more trouble. Then Tom meets Alice and the past and the present begin to collide, with dangerous consequences.

Read the first chapter of Shadows of the Lost Child on Wattpad.

Article written by Ellie Stevenson, author. Ellie Stevenson, author
This article is copyrighted material. Brief extracts including a link to this site can be quoted but the article must not be reproduced in full anywhere without the author’s written permission.

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Shadows of the Lost Child, Ellie Stevenson’s second novel will be available soon. Read the very first chapter now with #thehauntedhistorian –

Coasting in Dorset – Part One

Part of the Jurassic CoastlineI recently went on a short visit to Dorset (UK). It’s not a place I know well, but the area is bristling with life and history (and a few ghosts). Here’s what I found.

Jurassic Coast

The Jurassic Coast is England’s only natural world heritage site. The Dorset and East Devon coastline’s geology represents 185 million years of earth history in just 95 miles. With striking scenery, views and walks, and a range of museums with fossil interest, there’s plenty to see. For ghosts, read on.

Jurassic Coast website


The village of Charmouth, with its 1,800 residents and 34 listed buildings has been around since the 9th century. In 1501, Catherine of Aragon is said to have stayed there on her way to marry Henry VIII’s brother, Arthur. And, after escaping from the Battle of Worcester in 1651, Charles II sheltered in the village.


Charmouth Lodge on the main road (The Street) is said to be haunted by two characters, the ghost of a monk and a white lady. The woman, apparently, was murdered and then put down a well, situated under the dining room. An interesting place to stay, perhaps?

Lost World: The name of a bus, named after a major headland off the Jurassic Coast

Lost World: The name of a bus, named after a major headland off the Jurassic Coast

The Pavey Group website

Lyme Regis

Lyme Regis with its sloping shopping street, landscaped grounds and the Cobb (harbour), where The French Lieutenant’s Woman was filmed, is well worth a visit. The shops are interesting (particularly if you like charity shops) and the sea is impressive, even (especially) in bad weather. The streets are narrow and buses come scarily close to the walls.

A number of writers are associated with the town, from Jane Austen (1803 and 1804), to John Fowles. And the local area is subject to landslips, with one of the worst occuring in 1839. A further slip, which took place as recently as 2008, was described as the ‘worst for 100 years’. When slips occur fossils can appear.

Found in Charmouth but definitely not a genuine fossil

Found in Charmouth but definitely not a genuine fossil

Speaking of fossils of the ghostly kind, one story tells of a hand waving from the window of a house. The hand belonged to an old woman, apparently once confined in the attic, who waved to let the locals know when the coach had arrived at Horn Bridge. The coach didn’t want to navigate the streets of the town centre, which were very narrow, so it stopped by the bridge and tooted its horn. The old lady would hear the horn, and wave to the people who’d hurry to meet it. Visitors to Lyme can indulge in such stories, of which there are several, by going on a ghost walk (summer months only). Tourist Information has further details.

Lyme Regis Tourist Information website


The original Axminster carpet factoryYes, this is the Axminster of carpet fame, and the town is small, and on the Axe, not on the coast, but it does have a few features of interest.

In 1755, Thomas Whitty wove his first carpet here, and the business developed a good reputation, with carpets being sold in the finest houses. The original factory was burnt down in 1826, and rebuilt, as shown here. Shortly afterwards, the factory went bankrupt, but in 1937, the town began making carpets again, on its present site in Woodmead Road.

In the old courthouse entrance, a coloured panel tells the story of an enterprising man, Robert Moulding, who, in earlier days (pre-first world war) used to poach salmon to feed his children (all 11 of them). When he was caught, the magistrate fined him 7/6d, which he couldn’t pay. So he went to the river, poached another salmon and took it along to the magistrate’s housekeeper who bought it from him for 7/6d! With this he was able to pay his fine. He later used his enterprising nature to set up a successful construction business.

Not far from Axminster is Shute Barton manor house, where the unfortunate Lady de la Pole was hanged during the Civil War, for being a Royalist. Rumour has it she continues to walk the grounds of the manor, while others say the woman is in fact Lady Jane Grey, whose family previously owned the building. In the 16th century they tried to put Lady Jane on the throne, fell from grace with the crown and lost their home. The manor was leased by the de la Pole family, who later bought it.

Lyme Regis and the Cobb

Lyme Regis and the Cobb

Monkton Wyld

Not far away, in the other direction, is Monkton Wyld, a local hamlet with an interesting house, a former rectory. But more about Monkton Wyld next time…

Article written by Ellie Stevenson, author.Ellie Stevenson, author
This article is copyrighted material. Brief extracts including a link to this site can be quoted but the article must not be reproduced in full anywhere without the author’s written permission.


  • Devon Ghosts
  • Jurassic Coast: Dorset & East Devon [leaflet]
  • Jurassic Coast World Heritage Team & M Simons. A Visitor’s Guide to Charmouth, Dorset [leaflet]
  • The Paranormal Database
  • Tourist Information. Discover Axminster. Axminster Printing Co. [leaflet]

Borley Rectory: the house and its ghosts – part two

Borley Rectory (probably in 1929)In part one we talked about the history of the house and some of the things that were found on site.  The excavations were the culmination of many reports of ghostly phenomena. But was Borley really haunted?

The history of the house can be summarised as follows:

  • 1863: the Reverend Henry Bull moved into the house he’d just had constructed. Reverend Bull had a large family and subsequently had the house extended
  • 1892: Henry Bull died, and his son, Harry Bull, also a vicar, took over the role
  • 1927: Harry Bull died and in 1928 Rev. (Guy) Eric Smith and his wife moved in. They moved out in 1929. Eric Smith’s sister was a medium
  • 1930-1935: the house was occupied by the Rev. Lionel Foyster, a cousin of the Bulls, and his wife Marianne; they left due to Lionel’s ill health
  • 1937-1938: the house was rented by Harry Price, a paranormal researcher, who secured various observers to report on phenomena
  • 1939: the house caught fire and was badly damaged.  By then the owner  was W. H. Gregson
  • 1944: the house was demolished

So what was reported

  • Henry Bull’s daughters and a number of others reported seeing the ghost of a nun
  • Various people at different times heard servants’ bells ringing; no-one wanted to admit ringing them
  • Stones were thrown, lights were seen or turned on, and a number of people heard unexplained footsteps
  • There were wall writings – these have been photographed
  • The planchette séance incident (a planchette is a device to facilitate automatic writing)

The truth and the fiction

With hindsight, we can see that much of the haunting wasn’t ghostly at all. The story of a nun being seen at the rectory was probably initially developed by the Bull daughters for their own amusement. The legend of a nun being walled up alive after an illicit romance is just that, a legend, or maybe taken from the plot of a novel. Borley was a rural community and Andrew Clarke (2003) suggests that at that time, a lot of people would be wandering around Borley on foot. A travelling farm worker dressed in black, with a scarf on her head, might look like a nun, particularly at dusk, and at a distance.

The sounds of bells are easily explained. The bell wires (the bells had previously been used to summon servants) were laid out in the attic and could have been triggered by mice or birds. One of the Foyster family, Ian, found a string tied to a wire in the rectory courtyard. This suggests the bells had been rung on purpose, for ‘fun’, at least once. Marianne Foyster also mentioned a broken wire hanging down from the ceiling. Such wires would be an excellent opportunity for causing mischief.

Reverend Harry (Henry) BullThere were a whole host of unexplained phenomena, which could be ghostly, but realistically, were more likely to be down to human interference. Frank Peerless (or Pearless), the Foyster’s lodger, is said to have admitted to being responsible for some of the phenomena.

Prior to that, when the Smiths were in place, Mabel Smith was cleaning out a cupboard when she found a skull wrapped in paper. While it’s tempting to think it might be the skull of a missing nun, or someone who had an illicit affair and was buried beneath the floor of the house, it’s possible the skull may have been recovered from the garden where bones of the dead used to reappear (see part one). The Smiths were bothered by a number of incidents such as unexpected lights in windows and the ringing of bells and they wanted to contact a psychical researcher. They got in touch with the Daily Mirror who as well as making their own report, arranged for Harry Price to visit.

Price, who was associated with the rectory for quite a few years, including after the building caught fire, expressed a belief that the happenings were real, but caused by people, rather than ghosts. But he clearly had doubts and couldn’t wait for the Foysters to leave, so he could get a team in and  investigate further.

The wall writings, from the 1930s, are almost certainly fake, but have attracted a continual stream of interest. They, and the earlier writings on scraps of paper, included Marianne Foyster’s name and requests for help. Was this the nun, asking for peace? There was also confusion over what exactly had happened with the writings as Marianne Foyster said she’d removed them, but later they were photographed. The style of the writing is similar to Foyster’s but she denied being involved. It remains another Borley puzzle.

The planchette séance is an interesting phenomenon, which happened after the Foysters had left. The house was being studied by several of Price’s volunteer researchers. One of the researchers, Sidney Glanville, recovered a planchette from a storage room, and it was used one night in the Borley library. Two ‘messages’ came out of the reading, one about a nun, Marie Lairre, said to have been murdered by one of the Waldegrave family in the 17th century. There appears to be no evidence that such a figure actually existed (although given that this was the 17th century, that’s hardly surprising). The other message involved ‘a clear prophecy that the Rectory would be burned and under the ruins would be found the bones of a murdered person’ (Sidney Glanville, source below). Eleven months later, on 27 February 1939, the house caught fire and fell into disrepair. At the time of the fire the house was owned by a W. H. Gregson.

There are numerous other strange incidents, such as lights, smells and various sounds. But old buildings creak, and Henry Bull’s extension may have added to the effects. When people were outside in the courtyard, for example, the sounds were magnified inside, and sounded as if they came from within.

It seems likely that environmental factors combined with a few mischievous people were responsible for most of the so-called hauntings. But even now, some questions remain. Were so many people really so gullible? The Smiths, for example, stayed a very short time, and unknown to them, the church had tried to fill the position unsuccessfully several times over before the Smiths took it. Smith himself had a very bad feeling about the place, and when the Foysters took over, the incidents increased, although perhaps because of their suggestible natures. Also, several people died in the Blue Room, but then, it was a bedroom.

BorleyChurchWe’ll probably never know what happened at Borley, but there’s a vast array of reading material to keep even the most enthusiastic ghost hunter going for decades. And some say the ghosts of Borley still lurk in the churchyard – but I don’t believe it…

Note: Borley Rectory no longer exists. Anyone visiting the local area should respect the peace and privacy of residents.

Ellie Stevenson, authorArticle written by Ellie Stevenson, author.

This article is copyrighted material. Brief extracts including a link to this site can be quoted but the article must not be reproduced in full anywhere without the author’s written permission.

Sources (websites)

Images – sources

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