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The origins of Bisham Abbey began with the Knight Templars, who built a preceptory here in the 12th century. The preceptory became an Augustine Priory and then a Benedictine Abbey in 1537. This did not last for long as the same year saw the dissolution of many Abbeys under Henry VIII, and the destruction of Bisham Abbey was soon to follow. Sir Philip Holby built the current mansion house on the site of the abbey from 1557 to 1561.
Ghosts and Legends
The house is said to be haunted by a sad spectre of a lady forever trying to wash her hands in a basin of water. She has been identified as Dame Elizabeth Holby, wife of Sir Philip. She was a lady in waiting and a personal friend of Queen Elizabeth I. She appears in the East wing of the house constantly wringing her hands (or washing them in a bowl of water) in grief.
The story goes that she had a son called William who was often careless in his schoolwork. Elizabeth, who demanded high standards is said to have either locked him in a cupboard where he starved to death, or to have accidentally beaten him to death.
There is no real evidence for the existence of William although a school book bearing his name is said to have been found by workmen during the 19th century. Her apparition is said to closely resemble her portrait hanging in the hall.
According to another tradition the last Abbot is supposed to have cursed the place and said that no family would succeed the Abbey lands by birth.