The Foxearth and District Local History Society

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Saturday, September 20, 2008

The First Newspaper Account of the Borley Ghost.

The Borley “Ghost” July 18th 1929. Suffolk Free Press


Extraordinary Incidents at the Rectory Domestics Experience


Matter for Psychic Investigations



The district has been thrown into a state of considerable excitement by an announcement that a “ghost” has been seen at Borley Rectory and the peaceful little village has this week by the notoriety it has gained, become “the hub of the universe”.

It is a fact that both inside and outside the Rectory there have been certain strange happenings, strange enough for those engaged in psychical research to cause investigations to be made. What the eventual findings will be it remains to be seen, but from our enquiries the matter is worthy of the closest possible scrutiny.

Borley is certainly just the district where interesting legends should survive and it’s history has sufficient in it to make it the background for tales, not only of ghosts but all the chivalry of the middle ages and the Crusades. The name is compounded of the Saxon words “Bap” and “ley” and means Boars Pasture. In the reign of Edward the Confessor a freeman named Lewin held the lands of the parish, which at the time of the survey belonged to Adeliza, countess of Abermarle, half sister of William the Conqueror. Her daughter was Judith and her son was Stephen who attended Robert Curthose, Duke of Normandy,to the Holy Land and distinguished himself in a Great Battle at Antinoch. He had one son and four daughters and the son in turn was the father of two daughters, one of whom, Amica, married Easton, a family whose surname was derived from the manor of Easton in Walter Belchamp. The family practically died out in 1293 when the heiress to the estate was married by Henry 3rd to his second son in 1269. This lady gave up her estates and lands to Edward 1st who gave her 20,000 marks . The estates passed to Christ Church, Canterbury, and then in 1545 we find the manor of Borley was granted to Edward Waldegrave. Sir Edward died in the Tower of London in 1561 and is buried in Borley Church. His lady was also interred in the same grave having enjoyed the estate of Borley until 1599 when she died at the age of eighty, Nicholas Waldegrave, a second son succeeded to Borley and in 1621 his son Philip made Borley Hall his permanent residence.

The manor was held by the descendants of the Waldegraves until recent times. In Wright’s “History of Essex” there is no mention of a monastery or convent at Borley but there is a definite tradition that there was one somewhere near the site of the old rectory.

With the district ancient in tradition the family of Bull was connected for hundreds of years until the death in June 1927 of the Rev H.F.Bull, M.A. who had been 35 years the Rector. His father had been rector before him and there is a long line of ancestors resting in the little parish churchyard of Pentlow. T

he present rector, the Rev G.E.Smith, came to Borley in September 1929

Now for the ghostly part of the history of Borley. Tradition has it and it is generally accepted by the inhabitants, although there is a certain amount of scepticism that in the Middle Ages there was a great monastery or convent somewhere where the Rectory now stands. Once upon a time a nun became acquainted with a coachman. The acquaintance ripened into romance and they were wont to meet in secret amongst the trees near the convent. Eventually they decide to elope and the coachman called to his aid another who prepared a coach drawn by two horses. This intended elopement was, however, discovered, the coachmen was seized and the nun taken back to the convent from which she never again appeared. It was said she was walled up alive. As for the coachmen they were tried and beheaded. Since at long intervals it has been reported that the nun has been seen walking in the shade of trees and that two headless coachmen together with an old time coach drawn by two bay horses have been observed riding through the parish. It is an extraordinary fact that the Rev Bull often spoke of the remarkable experience he had one night when walking along the road outside the rectory, he heard the sound of horses hoofs. Upon looking round he saw the old time coach coming up the road driven by two headless men

The Rev and Mrs Smith upon taking up residence at the Rectory were told of the reputation of the place for ghostly visitations but like practical people they were more amused than otherwise at the story.

Nothing untoward occurred for a period then a maid who they had brought with them from London suddenly declined to stay in the house any longer. Asked for her reasons she was quite emphatic that she had seen a nun walking amidst the trees near the house. Nothing would persuade her otherwise.

The next incident was last month when the Rev G.E.Smith heard sounds of dragging footsteps in slippered feet across one of the rooms . He decided upon an investigation and armed with a hockey stick sat in the room at night and waited. Again the noise of someone shuffling across the room on the bare boards, he struck at it with the stick but nothing happened and the noise continued.

Miss Mary Pearson who is at present a maid at the Rectory told our representative on Tuesday quite confidently that she had seen a ghost. There was at dusk what appeared to be an old fashioned coach on the lawn “drawn by brown horses”. Miss Pearson is certain that she has seen the figure as of a nun apparently leaning over a gate close to the house.

In addition to this the Rector states that on two or three occasions a curious light has been seen by himself in a disused wing of the building, and this light at the moment is quite inexplicable. He has investigated this wing and it has been ascertained that there is no light inside although the watchers outside could still see it shining through a window. It was suggested that somebody should go into the empty wing and place a light in another window for comparison. This the Rector did and sure enough another light appeared and was visible next to the other, although on approaching close to the building this disappeared while the while the Rector’s lamp still burned.

The Rector who is not the least disturbed at the mysteries, in conversation with our representative at the Rectory on Tuesday, said he could not believe in ghosts. They had been warned against the evil reputation of the house before moving in, but being townspeople they took no notice of the country rumours.

This is their first summer the Rev Smith had been in Borley and he understands that the Rectory is “haunted by the ghosts”. Having seen for himself the apparitions, Mr Smith is causing investigations to be made by psychic experts.

The gardener at the Rectory was inclined to smile at the idea of ghosts, telling our representative that he had never seen anything and although there was a great deal of talk about ghosts many years ago he believed that it was only really “ couples sweethearting”.

The Rector believes that some of the folk in the village are frightened to pass the spot at night. Other residents however told our representative that they ridiculed the whole affair. What has been seen recently is nothing additional to what was seen by previous residents of the Rectory. Other people who have had close association with the Rectory in past years agree that there has been periodically strange happenings there which however they do not consider it desirable to talk about.

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