GUESTS WOULD WAKE IN A COLD SWEAT
Today may be Hallowe’en but for the owners of Britain’s haunted mansions, every day is shared with ghosts and ghouls. There are white ladies who take on such a lifelike form that those who see them have no idea they’ve come across a ghost – until the lady
CCAROLINE LOWSLEY-WILLIAMS, 46, grew up at Chavenage House, near Tetbury, Gloucestershire. She is an events organiser and lives in a cottage on the 1,500-acre estate. She says: HAVENAGE is mostly Elizabethan and was inherited by my parents, David and Rona Lowsley-Williams, from my uncle John. My brother George, sister Joanna and I were brought up here.
George is the oldest son and he used to sleep in the room my father now uses as a dressing room. He suffered from bad dreams and was often found in the morning with a pillow over his head. He said it was the only way he could sleep.
It wasn’t until he was grown up, however, that he told us he could sense something unpleasant in the room and felt safer completely covered by bedding.
That coincided with reports from guests who’d slept there when my uncle owned Chavenage. They would say they’d had an awful dream where a man was leaning over their bed. In every case, the description they gave of their nocturnal visitor was uncannily similar: long, greasy black hair, a Mexican moustache and heavy gold epaulettes on his shoulders.
In fact, this house did undergo an exorcism at the request of my great-grandmother in the late Forties. She did this room and the Tapestry Room, which was where Oliver Cromwell used to stay when he visited Chavenage soon after the end of the Civil War.
Over the years guests would awake during the night in a cold sweat, terrified but not knowing why. They’d also say the birds in the tapestries seemed to come alive at night.
My great-grandmother covered all the options by asking in both Church of England and Roman Catholic priests, so we had both the bells and the smells, but the exorcism didn’t work.
My job is to arrange events at Chavenage, such as weddings and filming. Lark Rise To Candleford was filmed here and the sex scene between Angel and Tess in the recent TV adaptation of Tess Of The D’Urbervilles took place in Cromwell’s room.
A few years ago, there was a television drama going on and the actor suddenly went white as a sheet, threw back the bedclothes and said: “I’m sorry. I must get out and have a cup of coffee. I feel terrible and can’t remember any of my lines.” Then a friend of mine slept there and he found the doors were locked and he couldn’t get out in the night, then suddenly they were open again.
Mind you, as kids, my sister Joanna and I used to hide behind the bed and when our father showed guests around and told them stories of the ghosts we’d bang away at the right moment!
Personally, I’ve never seen a ghost and I put down the door slamming and sudden blowing out of candles to the movement of this house – it has a very big footprint as it is only two storeys high. But George is now 49 and he and a friend still remember when they camped in the garden aged seven and saw all these horses and cavalry. They were very scared.
www.chavenagehouse.com/ 01666 502329.