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Berry Pomeroy Castle

The castle, now a romantic ruin, is reputed to be one of the most haunted in the British Isles. It has numerous legends associated with it, and although now only a shell of its former glory, it retains an air of its troubled history.

Berry Pomeroy Castle Gatehouse: by Ian DennisBerry Pomeroy Castle Gatehouse: by Ian DennisThe lands around the present castle were originally bestowed upon Ralph de Pomeroy by William the Conqueror, as reward for his loyalty and support during the Norman invasion, and the subsequent battle of Hastings. The Norman structure, still seen in the gatehouse of the present ruin, dates from the end of the 13th Century, when Henry de Pomeroy (the 9th generation of Pomeroy's) started the construction of the castle. The structure had been completed by Henry's death in 1305.

The castle remained in Pomeroy hands until the late 1540's, when the castle was bought or acquired by other means by the influential Sir Edward Seymour. Edward was the Lord Protector, and the brother of Jane Seymour, third wife to Henry VIII. Edward commissioned the building of a mansion house within the confines of the Norman castle, creating the resultant mixture of architecture seen today.

Edward Seymour made a lot of enemies as Lord Protector, and he was ousted by the Earl of Warwick and imprisoned in the Tower of London in October 1549. With 29 charges against him he was sentenced to death and executed on January 22nd 1552.

Somehow the castle remained in Seymour hands, and continued to be occupied by them up until 1688, when it was abandoned as an abode. There is some evidence that a proportion of the rooms remained inhabitable up until the reign of George the IV, and the castle has remained in guardianship of the Seymours, currently the 19th Earl of Somerset. In 1977 English Heritage took over the maintenance of the castle, and have continued to carry out restorations to the present day.

Ghosts and Legends
The castle has been the scene of numerous ghostly sightings and strange phenomena. The most enduring ghosts seem to be the terrifying apparitions of a White Lady and a Blue Lady. The White Lady haunts the dark dungeons, and rises from St Margaret's Tower to the castle ramparts, where she has been seen beckoning to witnesses (as recently as 1987). According to the legend she is the spirit of Margaret Pomeroy, who was imprisoned in the dungeons by her sister Eleanor. Eleanor was jealous of both her beauty and her affections for the man she had designs upon. Margaret slowly starved in the dungeons, a long drawn out and painful death. Whether she is the source of the feeling of unease and horror some people experience at the castle is unknown.

The Blue Lady is not confined to specific areas of the castle and is supposed to lure people into parts of the ruin. Traditionally she is seen as the ghost of the daughter of one of the Norman Lords of the castle. She was raped by her father, who then strangled the resulting child in one of the upper rooms.

In other tales it is she who strangles the child, haunting the castle in anguish. When seen, her face is said to portray this suffering. She is regarded as a death portent to members of the Seymour family.

Sir Walter Farquar (Dr Farquar) is said to have seen the spirit while he was attending to the wife of one of the Stewards in the 19th Century. She died soon afterwards although she seemed to be making a full recovery.

Another popular tradition relates to the heroic fate of two brothers (Pomeroys), who were besieged at the castle at some point in its history. To save face from a long drawn out defeat, they dressed in full armour, mounted their horses, and rode off the top of the castle ramparts and precipice below. The area was known thereafter as the Pomeroy's leap, and is associated with anomalous noises such as screams and dull thuds. This story may have origins in a real life event, although the occurrence does not appear in written history.

Berry Pomeroy Castle Gatehouse Illustration: by Daniel ParkinsonBerry Pomeroy Castle Gatehouse Illustration: by Daniel ParkinsonThe castle has been the scene of many other ghostly sightings and phenomena. Strange lights have been witnessed, voices have been heard, and there have been reported cold spots and freak winds, although the latter is always possible in an open ruin. Other apparitions reported include a lady in a grey dress, the ubiquitous Cavalier, and strange shadows with no earthly presence to cast them.

Whatever the nature of the occurrences I have no doubt that strange events will continue to be experienced at the castle, and it is well worth the effort of making a trip to see the romantic ruin.

Berry Pomeroy Castle: Click play to hear sample audio from ROADTOUR
Daniel Parkinson

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Ian Topham
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Re: Berry Pomeroy Castle

According to The Haunted Homes and Family Traditions of Great Britain
By John Ingram (1897).

Berry Pomeroy Castle is situated in the midst of some of the most beautiful scenery of Devonshire. Its remains are very extensive and imposing, and attract many visitors from Torquay and neighbourhood. Artists are ' especially drawn to the place by its well-deserved reputation for presenting eligible points of view for study. The ruin consists of a mass of late Tudor buildings, grouped around an inner court, and surrounded by an escarped bank of great height. There is but one approach ; a gateway with spaces for two port-cullises, and two flanking towers. The walls are clad with ivy ; and trees, almost as ancient as the castle itself, are scattered about the grounds. The picturesque beauty of the situation is heightened and completed by the river, which winds round the charming ruins. With this delightful spot a terrible tragedy is connected, the details of which have been given to us in some such words as these :

Somewhat more than a century ago, Dr. Walter Farquhar, who was created a baronet in 1796, made a temporary sojourn in Torquay. This physician was quite a young man at that time and had not acquired the reputation which, after his settlement in London, procured him the confidence and even friendship of royalty. One day, during his stay in Devon, he was summoned professionally to Berry Pomeroy Castle, a portion of which building was still occupied by a steward and his wife. The latter was seriously ill, and it was to see her that he had been called in. Previous to seeing his patient Dr. Farquhar was shown into an outer apartment and requested to remain there until she was prepared to see him. This apartment was large and ill-proportioned; around it ran richly-carved panels of oak that age had changed to the hue of ebony. The only light in the room was admitted through the chequered panes of a gorgeously-stained window, in which were emblazoned the arms of the former lords of Berry Pomeroy. In one corner, to the right of the wide fire-place, says the
narrative attributed to the doctor, was a flight of dark oaken steps, forming part of a staircase leading apparently to some chamber above ; and on these stairs the fading gleams of summer's twilight shone through.

While Dr. Farquhar wondered, and, if the truth be told, chafed at the delay which had been interposed between him and his patient, the door opened, and a female somewhat richly dressed entered the apartment.

He, supposing her to be one of the family, advanced to meet her. Unheeding him she crossed the room with a hurried step, wringing her hands, and exhibiting by her motions the deepest distress. When she reached the foot of the stairs, she paused for an instant, and then began to ascend them with the same hasty step and agitated demeanour. As she reached the highest stair the light fell strongly on her features, and displayed a countenance, youthful, indeed, and beautiful, but in which vice and despair strove for mastery. " If ever human face," to use the doctor's own words, " exhibited agony and remorse ; if ever eye, that index of the soul, portrayed anguish uncheered by hope, and suffering without interval ; if ever features betrayed that within the wearer's bosom there dwelt a hell, those features and that being were then present to me."

Before he could make up his mind on the nature of this strange occurrence, he was summoned to the bedside of his patient. He found the lady so ill as to require his undivided attention, and had no opportunity, and in fact no wish, to ask any questions which bore on a different subject to her illness.

But on the following morning, when he repeated his visit, and found the sufferer materially better, he communicated what he had witnessed to the husband, and expressed a wish for some explanation. The steward's countenance fell during the physician's narrative, and at its close he mournfully ejaculated: " My poor wife ! my poor wife!" " Why, how does this relation affect her?" "Much, much!" replied the steward, vehemently. " That it should have come to this! I cannot cannot lose her ! You know not," he continued in a milder tone, " the strange, sad history ; and his lordship is extremely averse to any allusion being ever made to the circumstance, or any importance attached to it; bat I must and will out with it ! The figure which you saw- is supposed to represent the daughter of a former baron of Berry Pomeroy, who bore a child to her own father. In that chamber above us the fruit of their incestuous intercourse was strangled by its guilty mother; and whenever death is about to visit the inmates of the castle she is seen wending her way to the scene of her crimes with the frenzied gestures you describe. The day my son was drowned she was observed; and now my wife ! "

"I assure you she is better. The most alarming symptoms have given way, and all immediate dancrer is at an end."

" I have lived in and near the castle thirty years/' was the steward's desponding reply, " and never knew the omen fail."

" Arguments on omens are absurd," said the doctor, rising to take his leave. " A few days, however, will,

I trust, verify my prognostics, and see Mrs. S recovered."

They parted mutually dissatisfied. The lady died at noon.

Many years intervened and brought with them many changes. The doctor rose rapidly and deservedly into repute; became the favourite physician and even personal friend of the Prince Kegent, was created a baronet, and ranked among the highest authorities in the medical world.

When he was at the zenith of his professional career, a lady called on him to consult him about her sister, whom she described as sinking, overcome, and heartbroken, by a supernatural appearance.

" I am aware of the apparent absurdity of the details which I am about to give," she began, " but the case will be unintelligible to you, Sir Walter, without them. While residing at Torquay last summer, we drove over one morning to visit the splendid remains of Berry Pomeroy Castle. The steward was very ill at the time (he died, in fact, while we were going over the ruins), and there was some difficulty in getting the keys. While my brother and I went in search of them, my sister was left alone for a few moments in a large room on the ground-floor ; and while there most absurd fancy ! she has persuaded herself she saw a female enter and pass her in a state of indescribable distress. This spectre, I suppose I must call her, horribly alarmed her. Its features and gestures have made an impression, she says, which no time can efface. I am well aware of what you will say, that nothing can possibly be more preposterous. We have tried to rally her out of it, but the more heartily we laugh at her folly, the more agitated and excited does she become. In fact, I fear we have aggravated her disorder by the scorn with which we have treated it. For my own part, I am satisfied her impressions are erroneous, and arise entirely from a depraved state of the bodily organs. We wish for your opinion ; and are most anxious you should visit her without delay/'

'Madam, I will make a point of seeing your sister immediately; but it is no delusion. This I think it proper to state most positively, and previous to any interview. I, myself, saw the same figure, under somewhat similar circumstances, and abut the same hour of the day ; and I should decidedly oppose any raillery or incredulity being expressed on the subject in your sister's presence."

Sir Walter saw the young lady next day, and after being for a short time under his care she recovered.

Our authority for the above account of how Berry Pomeroy Castle is haunted, derived it from Sir Walter Farquhar, who was a man even more noted for his probity and veracity than for his professional attainments, high as they were rated. The story has been told as nearly as possible in Sir Walter's own words.

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Re: Berry Pomeroy Castle

There is an excellent chapter about Berry Pomeroy Castle in Peter Underwood's 'Nights In Haunted Houses' detailing the events of a ghost watch that Underwood took part in on midsummer's eve 1983, and the events that followed.

One of the team, a clairvoyant woman saw and was terrified by the apparition of a little girl. After the event, the girl appeared again in the clairvoyant's own home and created mayhem for four frightening days and nights.

A seance was held and the girl revealed herself to be an illegitimate child of one of the Pomeroys who had been accidentally killed. For over 500 years she had wandered the castle 'bewildered and troubled' and had found that 'she could gain attention by frightening people'. According to the book, the three people at the seance helped the girl to move 'beyond Berry Pomeroy' and believe that she no longer haunts the castle, although there are other ghosts that still do.

This is just a very brief summary of the events. For the full story I highly recommend 'Nights In Haunted Houses' by Peter Underwood.



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