Raynham Hall

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One of the most famous buildings in England for it's reported haunting. Raynham Hall has a long history of sightings, reports and strange phenomena stretching back over 250 years which make it an ideal location to discuss as part of our ongoing series of articles investigating the paranormal. 
 
We've all seen the photograph of the 'Brown Lady', an image of a transparent 'entity' floating up the staircase which was taken in 1936 by photographer Indra Shira and his assistant who were visiting the Hall to take pictures of it's interior. 
 
Raynham Hall GhostAlthough convincing, the authenticity of the picture is by no means certain, but there have been a significant number of other reports of strange phenomena in Raynham Hall which when combined provide a timeline of occurrences stretching back hundreds of years. 
 
Many of these occurrences are not as well known as the infamous photo-graph, and some of them may surprise you. Here we recount a few of them. 
 
'The 7000 acre Raynham estate covers the first seven miles of the River Wensum and it has many stories to tell. One of the oldest halls in Norfolk, it was the first in England to be heavily influenced by European architecture.
 
The present Marquess Townshend of Raynham was born in 1916 and succeeded the title when he was only five years old. His son, Lord Charles Raynham, spoke of the curious character of former Raynham resident Turnip Townshend, the revolutionary agriculturalist.
 
"He was the most famous Townshend and a politician too," said Lord Raynham.
 
"He got bored of politics and re-turned to farming at Raynham where he was born in 1674," he added.
 
Lord Raynham says that Turnip Townshend wasn't just famous in these parts, but has become known as a pioneer throughout the agricultural world, as his nickname suggests. "He developed the Norfolk four course rotation of crops," said Lord Raynham. "His four crop rotation was the basis of agriculture all around the world. He introduced turnips and root crops, as well as the use of lime to improve the quality of soil. He taught people how to get more from their soil by rotating crops regularly," he added.
 
The Raynham estate is also famed for strange goings-on, with the ghost of Lady Dorothy, Turnip Townshend's wife and sister of our first Prime Minister Robert Walpole, making appearances in the hall.
Dorothy is rumoured to have been locked up in the house by her husband - this is why the ghost of "Dolly" Townshend is said to still haunt the staircase of Raynham Hall.
A 1930s photograph of the Lady is one of the most famous ever cap-
tured in Britain.
 
The 7000 acre Raynham estate covers the first seven miles of the Wensum
"People said that Dorothy was locked away and badly treated, but in the 1960s we uncovered paperwork and medical reports suggesting she has a happy life and was much loved," said Lord Raynham.
"She isn't there to haunt the house but she is still there, I know she's there and I'm glad she's around," he added.
But what about 'that' photo taken in the 1930s? Lord Raynham and many who are associated with the estate are ada-mant it isn't a fake.
 
"No one has proved the picture taken of her is a fake," said Lord Charles Raynham of Raynham Hall. The 17th Century hall, near Fakenham, has been home to the Townshend family for more than 300 years.
 
Raynham is located near the source of River Wensum, where the river then flows north-easterly towards Pensthorpe Nature Reserve, before dropping south to merge with the River Yare at Trowse, Norwich, approximately 56 miles (90km) later.
 
Raynham Hall was built by Sir Roger Townshend in 1620, more than 100 years before the foundations of Holkham Hall were laid. Raynham was built in an entirely new style following the Italian form with a more contemporary red brick design. Further additions were made to the hall in the 1730s when the second Viscount "Turnip" Townshend employed the skills of William Kent who went on to be one of the architects of Holkham. Kent was responsible for some fine work at Raynham, including the elaborate carved chimney-pieces, the mosaic paintings and deco-rated doorways.
 
One of the most famous of reports regarding the ghost of the 'Brown Lady' occurred in the early 1800's, when George IV stayed at the house. He spent the night in the state bedroom, but was awoken to see a woman dressed all in brown standing at his bedside. The woman was deathly pale, and scared him to such an ex-tent that he absolutely insisted there-after that he would not stay 'another hour in this accursed house'. Another visitor to the house, Colonel Loftus, recounted encountering the ghost twice at Christmas in 1835. On the first night, he witnessed the ghost standing in a corridor outside the room of Lady Townshend. 
 
As Major Loftus, a relative of Charles Townshend, went up to bed after he had stayed up late playing chess with
another guest,  he spotted a lady in a brown dress standing on the landing. He did not recognise her as one of the guests, but when he went to speak to her, she vanished. Sure of what he had seen, Major Loftus stayed up the following night, determined to see her again.  Once more he came face to face with the woman. He could see her clearly and de-scribed her wearing a `richly brocaded brown dress with a coif on her head`, but the most frightening aspect was that instead of eyes she had two dark, hollow sockets. He is believed to have made a sketch of what he had seen and showed it the following day to the other guests, which inspired some of them to do some ghost-hunting of their own, but the Brown Lady did not reappear.
 
Another sighting was reported in 1849 by Lucia Stone, a member of a large house party at Raynham. But who was she? Who was the identity of the woman who might still haunt Raynham Hall to this day? Although the answer to this is not certain, some believe that the ghost would be that of Lady Dorothy Townshend. 
 
The next encounter came shortly afterwards. Captain Frederick Marryat and two of Lord Charles Townshend's nephews came across the ghost again in a corridor and again she was carrying a lamp. Marryat claimed that the ghost had smiled at him in a 'diabolical manner'. He promptly raised his pistol and fired a shot at the ghost at point blank range. The bullet, he claimed, passed straight through the entity before him and was later found lodged in a door opposite where he had been standing. The consistency of these reports is interesting, all of them, including the picture, describe a woman dressed in brown. Often she was seen carrying a lamp, and was most commonly seen at night.


She married Lord Charles Townshend in 1712, but when he discovered that she had been a mistress to Lord Wharton, he was so angry that he imprisoned her, keeping her locked up in her room at the house. Stories of her death are varied, including starvation from imprisonment, or that she died falling down the stairs or of Small Pox. Whatever the cause of her death, one thing which is clear is that she did not rest in peace, as it was only a few weeks later that her ghost was first seen by servants working at the hall. 

It is most interesting to note how-ever, that had she indeed perished falling down the stairs; that the stairs in question would in most likelihood have been the very stairs on which the ghost of the Brown Lady was famously photographed by Indra Shira and his assistant in 1936.

But Indra Shira was positive he had seen a figure so transparent that the steps were visible through it, and later when they were developing the negatives the Captain could see that there was definitely something on the staircase. 

Indra Shira hurried downstairs to the chemist below their studio and brought Benjamin Lones back to be a witness that the negative had not been tampered with. Later a number of experts examined it and were satisfied that the picture had not been faked in any way. It remains one of the most talked about `ghost` photographs in the world today.

St. Mary’s ChurchThere's also another royal connection to Raynham Hall in the form of King Charles II. "King Charles II was a great friend of Sir Roger Townshend's son Horatio. Horatio helped the King come back to England and was very important in the restoration of the monarchy. Charles came to Raynham Hall to thank Horatio and made him a Baron," said Lord Raynham. Also on the estate is St Mary's Church. Laurie Mead is the tower captain of the church's bells and headed up a project for the church to have a full set of eight bells. "We discovered from the original bell makers that the bell frame was meant to have six or eight bells at the church, in-stead of the five that were already there," said Lord Raynham. Through fund raising across the world from people who claim an ancestral link with the Townshend family, Lord Raynham and Laurie Mead were able to install a complete set of eight bells at St Mary's Church in 2002, and even The Queen came for a private viewing.

"The bells are very well regarded as a modern ring of eight bells at Raynham," said Laurie Mead, church tower captain. Interestingly, the Brown Lady is not the only ghost said to reside in Raynham Hall. Other ghosts, including that of a dog, have also been seen. Nor does Dorothy Walpole exclusively haunt Raynham. She has also been known to appear, in a younger, happier guise, at Houghton Hall, and at Sandringham House.

Tracy Monger

 

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