Sunday, 3 October 2010

Occult October

Warwickshire is the place to be on October 23rd for the re-enactment of the sights and sounds of the Battle of Edgehill, The battle in 1642 was the first of the Civil War and apart from clearing the way to London for Charles I the battle was indecisive. About a 1000 lives were lost and 2- 3000 wounded.

A month after the battle shepherds witnessed what they believed to be another battle - cavalry, gun smoke, beating drums and screams of the wounded.

The battle was re-enacted again on Christmas Eve. When reports of this event reached the King, he sent six army officers to investigate. They spoke to witnesses who were said to have seen the event twice, including one who had fought at Edgehill and recognised some of the spectres. A pamphlet from the time described what happened as, “A great wonder in heaven showing the late apparitions and the prodigious noyse of war and battles, seen at Edgehill, near Keinton…” Over time the spectral battle ceased to be reported although in the 1940s a local schoolmaster reported that the ghostly phenomenon was a common occurrence in the area around the field.

However as a result of King Charles’ Royal Commission, the Public Records Office officially recognises the Edgehill ghosts. No other British phantoms have this distinction.

The Mermaid Inn in Rye, Sussex is reputed to be Britain’s most haunted pub. One of the many haunting experiences there is a ghostly duel with swords said to be re-enacted on 29th October. The fight ends with one swordsman plunging his rapier into the chest of the other. He drags the body into the corner of the room, opens a trap door and disposes of the body under the floorboards, before disappearing.

In Lydiard Milicent, Nr Swindon, Wiltshire the ghost of Lady Blunt returns to the garden of the manor house on 30th October – the anniversary of the date on which she witnessed the murder of her betrothed over two centuries ago.

For Halloween you have many ghosts to choose from - a huntsman and hounds at Civiger Gorge near Burnley; a phantom dog and the pealing of bells at Armboth Fell in The lake District; a ghostly monk walking in the chapel ruins at Minsden, Hertfordshire. But it’s Netley Abbey, next to Southampton Water that warrants a special mention.

[By Daphne Grant ]

Thomas Gray once described the Abbey as: 'Pregnant with poetry ... one need not have a very fantastic imagination to see spirits at noon-day' but was it all imagination'

At Halloween it’s the ghost of, Blind Peter, a Cistercian monk that takes centre stage. The curse of Netley Abbey is dates from the time of the dissolution of the monasteries and when Blind Peter became the guardian of the Abbey’s treasure. A man named Mr Slown attempted to find the treasure and started to dig a hole. Moments later he ran out screaming and collapsed from a heart attack, his dying words, “For God’s sake block it up.” He had been frightened to death.

The influence of Netley Abbey on Robert Walpole, Thomas Gray, the artist Turner and Constable is described along with history, ghosts and all, can be seen at:

It has even been argued that the Abbey inspired Jane Austen to write her spoof Gothic novel, Northanger Abbey, whilst on a picnic with her niece Fanny Knight and other family members.

In Northanger Abbey Catharine Morland observes, “As they drew near the end of their journey, her impatience for the sight of the Abbey....returned in full force, and every bend in the road was expected with solemn awe, to afford a glimpse of its mossy walls of grey stone, rising amidst a grove of ancient oaks, with the last beams of the sun playing in beautiful splendour on its high Gothic windows.”

1 comment:

Paul S said...

Thats a very atmospheric post Bob !
Civiger Gorge and Armboth Fell are not far from my part of the world,so maybe I'll pay them a visit.
I look forward to reading your work in the future.