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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.

To or­der Stately Ghosts – Haunt­ing Tales From Bri­tain’s His­toric Houses, pub­lished by VisitBri­tain price £9.99, call the Ex­press Book­shop on 0871 521 1301 (10p/min from BT land­lines) with credit/debit card de­tails or or­der on­line at www.ex­press­book­shop. com. UK de­liv­ery is free.

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