OUR STATELY SPOOKS
THE GALLERY DOOR WAS RATTLED, AS IF BEING WRENCHED
ELIZABETH MACLEODMATTHEWS, 74, has lived at Chenies Manor House, near Amersham in Buckinghamshire, since the Fifties. Her son Charles, 50, a stockbroker and farmer, lives with his family on the estate. She says:
DURING the 16th century, Chenies played host to Henry VIII and Elizabeth I on many occasions. I know that Henry paid at least one visit during his brief and turbulent marriage to Catherine Howard, his flighty young wife who lost her head after being found guilty of sexual impropriety with her lover Thomas Culpepper.
When I was woken from a deep sleep one night to hear heavy footsteps in the corridor outside my bedroom, that’s what I thought of first. My husband Alastair was away at the time and I was very scared. My Siamese cat had been sleeping peacefully but she awoke with her hair standing on end. She sniffed under the door then fled underneath the bed and was violently sick.
I don’t know why I didn’t pick up the phone and ring the police but instead I dragged a chest of drawers up against one door and pushed chairs against the other and just sat there reading a copy of Country Life. It felt a terribly English thing to do but in fact I was very scared.
The atmosphere in the room seemed terribly thick that September night but after about an hour-and-a-half that feeling gradually disappeared, although it was still dark outside, and the noise faded away.
When Alastair came home we worked out the dates, comparing the calendar in Tudor times (which was different to today’s) with some old records, and found that Henry VIII had been at Chenies on that very day more than four centuries earlier. The chances of having heard the jealous old king ponderously exploring the house looking for his adulterous wife became more plausible then.
That was some 30 years ago now – I can’t remember exactly when – but this August I again woke up in the night and saw the handle of the door that opens on to the gallery being rattled hard, back and forth, as though somebody was wrenching it, trying to get in. I’d no idea it could make that noise but it was in exactly the same place where it had happened the last time.
I was absolutely terrified. This time I rushed out of the other door in my dressing gown, out of the front door and ran to my son’s cottage. He checked all around the house and most of the intervening doors were locked – something we do every night – and nobody was hiding anywhere. I went back to bed and went to sleep because I wasn’t going to make it a problem. If one was nervous, one would never sleep in the house again!
The odd thing is that this place outside the bedroom at the top of the stairs is where several visitors have commented on feeling something peculiar. My son, too, when he’d grown up, admitted he’d hated going to the bathroom at night when he was little because he felt there was something scary at the top of the stairs.
Apart from that, the atmosphere here is cheerful and welcoming. Everybody says what a friendly house it is. I suppose in an old house it’s just one of those things.
www.cheniesmanorhouse.co.uk/ 01494 762888.
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