Coasting in Dorset – Part Two

St Andrew's Church © Ellie Stevenson imagesA while ago (far too long) I promised a blog about Monkton Wyld Court. Here it is. Equidistant between Charmouth and Axminster (Dorset), the Court started out as the local vicarage. But with its Victorian gothic pedigree (built in 1848) it looks more like a stately home.

St Andrew’s Church, which is just down the road, was built about the same time, its first stone being laid in 1848, and the building being consecrated in March 1850. Elizabeth Hodson partly funded the church – she was riding past, possibly by carriage, and thought it might make a good location.

The church itself is of some interest, and worth a visit, with its lovely woodwork and attractive stained glass.The spire of the church is 120 feet high and the clock was added in 1911. It has since been reguilded.St Andrew's Church © Ellie Stevenson images

Various vicars lived at what is now the Court, one of whom was the Reverend Camm (1871-1896). It is said he lived there mostly alone as his wife wasn’t overly fond of the country. Reverend Camm was a music enthusiast and had more than 4,000 scores. He would frequently go up to London for concerts but only ever saw the rehearsals because the concerts themselves were held on Saturdays and he couldn’t get back in time for church.

In 1896 the then current vicar, the Rev. Salmon, moved the vicarage to another location, and in the 1930s Monkton Wyld Court became a hotel.

At some point during WW2 there was boarding for children who were separated from their families because of the war.

St Andrew's Church stained glass © Ellie Stevenson imagesWhen the hotel closed in 1940, the buildings and land were bought for £4,000, and a school was set up by a small group of graduates including Carl and Eleanor Urban. Urban admired the  philosophy of a man called Alexander Sutherland Wells who founded the Summerhill School in Suffolk (1921).

The Monkton Wyld School focused on a more cooperative way of living and working, and although it closed in 1982, the charitable trust (with the buildings and land) was transferred to some of the school staff. The Monkton Wyld sustainable community was born and now offers volunteering opportunities and holistic education for the general public. It’s also open to visitors for bed and breakfast and offers delicious vegetarian food.

Impressive now (if run down in parts), the building must have been stunning once. It had a gravelled drive, flankedSt Andrew's Church, stained glass © Ellie Stevenson images by trees and flowering shrubs in ten acres of land. The building was designed by Richard Cromwell Carpenter, a Victorian architect who admired the gothic and also designed St Andrew’s church. The Court was described as being of ‘the domestic style of architecture with rubble wallings…clad in a variety of choice flowering and evergreen creepers.’ (early sales material). It was certainly striking and even now has some special features including a reed bed sewage system.

Looking around, at its spacious rooms and enormous windows it’s easy to imagine the Court as an ideal place for a ghost to lurk. However, I could find no trace of either legends or ghosts. The community staff are focused and  practical, the house is in need of considerable upkeep, there are few shadows for ghosts to hide in.

There are however, ghosts in abundance in the local area: several stories are shared below.

St Andrew's Church, stained glass © Ellie Stevenson imagesIn 2005, a photo was taken of an alleged ghost in the Lyme Regis Boys Club. A girl of two was seen talking to herself, when asked who to, the girl said ‘Sam’. There was no Sam among the group of children and nobody else around at the time. Later, one of the adults took photos with his digital camera. A ‘ghostly’ image appeared on the photo. Was it a ghost or a trick of the light? Incidentally, the building had once the local church hall and was used by the U.S. Army in WW2.

One evening in 2004, a woman driver and her passenger, on the road between Charmouth and Bridport, saw a woman dressed in white sweep across the road. They both reported that the car became cold at the time of the sighting.

The 16th century facade is all that is left of the original building, now the Bridport Museum. ‘The Old Castle’ was bought by a Captain Codd in 1931 for £1,800, originally to house his own art collection. He donated the building to the Council on condition that they would pay for it to be turned into a museum and art gallery.

A man in a yellow smoking jacket, seen in the museum, is said to be the ghost of Codd and staff have also mentioned a woman called Gladys, thought to be associated with a Victorian dress on display upstairs.

Monkton Wyld Court © Ellie Stevenson images

Sources

Further Information

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

Charmouth

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

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

Axminster

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.

Sources

  • 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]

Where there’s a Ghost

Samlesbury Hall, near Preston (UK)Great Britain is rich in its ghostly history. And wherever you go, north or south, there’s nearly always a white lady, or maybe a grey one. This mysterious ghost,  white or grey,  is often associated with a tragic event of a romantic nature: here are just three of the very many sad stories. But are they true?

York’s Theatre Royal

A grey lady is said to haunt the room behind the dress circle of York’s Theatre Royal (see image below), which is of Georgian origin. In mediaeval times, however, the building was part of St Leonard’s hospital, and run by nuns. Predictably, one of these nuns had an affair with a nobleman. As punishment for her dalliance, she was apparently bricked up in a windowless room (lovely behaviour!) and has haunted the theatre ever since. Somewhat surprisingly, seeing this woman is said to be a good omen for the evening’s production!

York Theatre Royal (UK)

Winster Hall, Derbyshire (privately owned)

Winster Hall, a grade II listed building, was constructed in the early 17th century. In the late nineteenth century it became the home of Llewellynn Jewitt,  a noted engraver and prolific writer. In between these periods, legend suggests, a daughter of the house jumped from the roof, along with her lover: her lover was said to be one of the servants. The ghost of the woman, a white lady, is said to haunt the spot where she fell. The hall later became a pub for a while.

Winster village is noted for the extent of its preservation and is an official conservation area. There is a local history of lead mining and the hall’s first owner was himself a mine owner.

Samlesbury Hall, near Preston

Samlesbury Hall (see top image) has a history of tragedy. Its Priest’s Room was named after a Catholic priest who was murdered there, during the Reformation. Despite the best efforts, his blood couldn’t be removed from the tiny floor. The room was then bricked up for 200 years. Even then, when the boards were removed, the stain came back every so often…

The white lady, named Dorothea Southworth, came from a Catholic family but fell in love with a Protestant soldier, by the name of de Houghton. They defied their families and met in secret, but, planning to elope, they were caught that night and her lover was murdered in front of her eyes, with two of his friends. Dorothea was sent to a convent abroad but she never recovered, and sadly died.

Her ghost has been said to haunt the hall, and has been seen on the drive, or in the nearby grounds. She was often seen in the two world wars, by soldiers stationed at the hall, presumably looking for her lost lover.

In the late 1800s, three bodies were discovered, when road works led to an excavation: could these be her lover and his friends?

Sources

Britannia: America’s Gateway to the British Isles – York Theatre Royal

Environmental Graffiti – Samlesbury Hall

Stately Ghosts: haunting tales from Britain’s historic houses, London: VisitBritain Publishing, 2007.

Winster Hall in Main Street, Winster

Image sources

Samlesbury Hall, near Preston

Theatre Royal, York