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Eastbury House


The remains of this once grand house has a reputation of being haunted and associated with a vampire legend. The property is private and you cannot gain access but the story of Eastbury House and its past owners is certainly interesting.

Eastbury House was built on the site of an old farm bought by George Doddington in 1709. Doddington who was Lord of the Admiralty commissioned Sir John Vanburgh (24 January 1664 – 26 March 1726) in 1718 to design his new mansion. It was to have five courts and be 570’ wide. Eastbury House was to be the third largest of the mansion houses designed by Vanbrugh, second only to Blenheim Palace and Castle Howard which are the two he is most famous for creating.

George Doddington never saw his house completed as he died in 1720. His nephew George Bubb inherited the whole estate and by 1738 Eastbury House was complete at a final cost £140,000. George Bubb who assumed the name of George Bubb Doddington was the son of an apothecary from Weymouth who spent his life trying to gain a social position suitable for the size of his new house, estates and wealth. He has been described as an overweight dandy decked in embroidery and brocade. Bubb was a member of the infamous Hell Fire Club and was known to court notable individuals including Frederick Prince of Wales (though this was so he could gain loans and clear his debts. Frederick even moved into one of Bubb’s properties in London after he was thrown out of St James Palace by George II ), the Earl of Bute and the Earl of Argyll.

Bubb Doddington (1691 – July 28, 1762) attempted to purchase the electorate of Bridgewater in 1754 for the sum of £3,400. He actually described the Bridgewater inhabitants with the following; ‘All this trouble and vexation and expense flows from a set of low, worthless fellows….Spent these three days in an infamous and disagreeable compliance with the low habits of venal wretches.’ He lost the election and it must have left a bitter taste in his mouth as he wrote in his diary ‘Left the town of Bridgwater…..forever!’

Thanks to his association with the Frederick, Prince of Wales, in 1761 George III gave Bubb a newly created peerage, making him Baron Melcombe of Melcombe Regis. Unfortunately for Bubb he died after receiving the honour. Prior to his peerage Baron Melcombe managed to obtain the following titles and posts; Member of Parliament for Bridgewater, Weymouth & Melcombe Regis, Appleby and Winchelsea. He was also British Ambassador to Spain 1715-1717, Lord Lieutenant of Somerset 1720-1744 and Treasurer of the Navy .

Richard, Earl Temple inherited Eastbury House when Lord Melcombe died in 1762. Earl Temple found the cost of running such a huge house difficult and attempted to sell the property or rent it out. At one point he tried to offer to pay £200 per year anyone willing to live at Eastbury. When he died the house passed to George, 2nd Earl Temple, who also struggled to maintain Eastbury.

Whilst based in his Italian retreat in 1795, 2nd Earl Temple sent an instruction to his steward named William Doggett to dismantle the wings of Eastbury House. Doggett thought that his master would not return from Italy and decided to take the opportunity to profit from Eastbury. He had the main house and the South wing dismantled, sold the materials and stole the money. The materials were used in the construction of several other buildings including the rectory at Tarrant Gunville, Ashmore Manor and Bryanstone House. Doggett committed suicide by shooting himself when he discovered the 2nd Earl Temple was returning and that his crime would be discovered as all that remained of the house was the north wing and the stables.

Thomas Wedgwood (14 May 1771 – 10 July 1805) of the famous pottery family, leased the remains of the house for five years between 1800 and his death. He is buried in St Mary’s Churchyard. His brother Josiah Wedgewood II lived close by in Gunville House. Eastbury House was then sold to a famous sportsman called James John Farquarson whose family still own the house to this day. As James’s sister Henrietta and Thomas Grove her husband lived in Gunville between 1807 and 1810 I assume they lived at Eastbury House.

The Haunting and Vampire
The stories surrounding the haunting of the remains of Eastbury House rest with William Doggett and his criminal act of dismantling the house and selling off the materials. After his suicide on 23 June 1786 it is said that a bloodstain was left on the marble floor which could not be cleaned. In his 1975 book "The Vampire's Bedside Companion" Peter Underwood says that doors would start to open by themselves and that an apparition was seen, "Doggett's ghost was seen, his face a mass of blood." He goes on to say "Then, in 1845, during the rebuilding of the church and reorganisation of the churchyard, Doggett's corpse was exhumed. When the coffin was opened the legs of the body were found tied together with yellow ribbon but, more frightening, the body was not in the least bit decomposed; in fact the face had a rosy complexion, although the course of the bullet that had killed him, from the jaw through the head, was clearly visible. Now the secret was out and after the 'vampire' was dealt with in the accepted way, there was no further trouble and there were no more reports of Doggett's bloodstained ghost."

According to "Haunted Houses - Tales of the supernatural with some accounts of hereditary curses and family legends", by Charles G. Harper, 1907. "It is the ghost of Doggett, the fraudulent steward of that Earl Temple, which haunts the road and the long drive up from the park gates to the house. The neighbourhood knows Doggett very well indeed, and can tell you how, emulating the vaster frauds of him who built the place, he robbed his employer and oppressed the tenantry, and at last shot himself. Generally at the stroke of midnight, a coach with headless coachman and headless horses drives out and picks up Doggett, down the road."

"If you see an old-world figure at such a time, stepping into that horrid conveyance, you will recognise him as Doggett by his knee-breeches, tied with yellow silk ribbon. The headless coachman asks (out of his neck ?), "Where to, sir ?" and the ghost says, "Home"; whereupon the horses are whipped up, and they drive back to the house. The shade of Doggett, entering, proceeds to the panelled room where he shot himself a century and a half ago - and shoots himself again !"

"Doggett was buried in the neighbouring church of Tarrant Gunville. That building was demolished and rebuilt in 1845, when the workmen, exhuming his body, found the legs to have been tied together with yellow silk ribbon. The material was as fresh and bright as the day it had been tied, and the body was not decayed. The credulous country folk averred that he was a vampire.”

However, in yet an earlier account of the tale John H Ingram’s "The Haunted Homes and family traditions of Great Britain" 1897, "They found the body in fair preservation, and the course of the bullet from the jaw through the head was distinctly visible. The old man described him as 'a short ginger-haired man.' His legs had been tied together with a broad yellow ribbon, which was fresh and brightly coloured as when it was buried."

Ingram does not describe Doggett as a vampire and I think that over time it is fair to assume that the story has been elaborated into a form of semi modern folklore. It is worth noting that Bram Stokers Dracula was published in the same year, 1897.

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Alison Topham

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Henry Richard Farquharson,

Henry Richard Farquharson, the MP from West Dorset was born in 1857 and was the son of Henry James Farquharson . He was married to Constance Farquharson, daughter of James John Farquharson and lived at Eastbury House before dying at sea 17 April 1895 whilst returning from his tea and cocoa plantations in Ceylon. He won the Eton Steeplechase in 1875 and famously made a claim that he solved the Jack the Ripper case. The Bristol Times and Mirror, 11 February 1891,’ I give a curious story for what it is worth. There is a West of England member who in private declares that he has solved the mystery of 'Jack the Ripper.' His theory - and he repeats it with so much emphasis that it might almost be called his doctrine - is that 'Jack the Ripper' committed suicide on the night of his last murder. I can't give details, for fear of a libel action; but the story is so circumstantial that a good many people believe it. He states that a man with blood-stained clothes committed suicide on the night of the last murder, and he asserts that the man was the son of a surgeon, who suffered from homicidal mania. I do not know what the police think of the story, but I believe that before long a clean breast will be made, and that the accusation will be sifted thoroughly.’ This pointed the finger at Montague Druitt, son of William Druitt, a prominent Dorset surgeon. He committed suicide on 1 December 1888.

Henry Richard Farquharson was also a fanatical breeder of Newfoundland dogs. He had a pack of one hundred and twenty five, 50 bitches and 75 dogs. This pack had taken twenty five years to create. Two kennel lads had the job of exercising the dogs. They knew that they had to keep the bitches and dogs separate whilst exercising them. One day both groups accidently met on Chettle Down and the two kennel lads could not stop a fight starting. Forty-five dogs were either killed outright or had to be put down. It is said that the two kennel lads were almost killed as well - not by the dogs but by Farquharson who had a remarkably quick temper.

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Re: Eastbury House

The Haunted Homes and Family Traditions of Great Britain by John Ingram (1897)

Eastbury House, Tarrant Gunville, near Blandford, owing to the galaxy of famous names surrounding its story, must take a prominent place among the haunted homes of the country. Its career as a residence was short but brilliant. It has been celebrated both in prose and verse by poets and prosateurs, and, for the space of three lustra or so, was the glory of Dorset. Thompson introduced it in his Seasons, in "Autumn." After alluding to its " green delightful walks," "where simple nature reigns," he alluded to its more artificial beauties, and apostrophizes them thus,

The grandeur of thy lofty dome, Far-splendid, seizes on the ravished eye, New beauties rise with each revolving day; New columns swell ; and still the fresh Spring finds New plants to quicken, and new groves to green. Full of thy genius all ! the Muses' seat: Where in the secret bower, and winding walk, For virtuous Young and thee they twine the bay.

George Bubb Dodington (afterwards Lord Melcombe) of Diary fame, whose seat it was, and in whose secret bowers and winding walks he and Night Thoughts Young were to be so pleasantly arrayed by the Muses, made Eastbury a meeting-place for the wit and literati of the day. Young, Thompson, and Fielding were among the crowd of notables, who enjoyed its pleasures. The last resided at Eastbury some time, and thence dated some of his works. In later days it was visited by Beck ford, and its ruins were celebrated in verse by Samuel Marsh Oram, a local writer, of some temporary if transient repute, who died at the early age of twenty-six.

Eastbury was begun by Bubb Dodington in 1718. The future Lord Melcombe had projected the house and grounds on a scale of great magnificence; but when little beyond some less important out-houses had been completed, the work was discontinued, and for six years everything remained at a standstill. Eventually the building was resumed and carried on at an enormous expenditure the total outlay up to 1738, when the house was completed, being stated as one hundred and forty thousand pounds, a far higher sum at that time than now-a-days. The park and grounds were laid out on the same magnificent scale as the house, no expense being spared; trees half a century old, and some tons in weight, were transported bodily from distant woods and replanted at Eastbury.

In 1763, a change came over the scene, and Eastbury House was destroyed even more rapidly than it had been created; all the rooms were dismantled, and the splendid furniture scattered to the winds. Twelve years later the ruin was consummated, the house being pulled down, and the beautiful and costly materials disposed of; one wing only was left in naked grandeur, and that still exists, but let in tenements to the day-labourers of the Farquharson estate.

It is little to be wondered at, says Miss Billington, to whom we are chiefly indebted for this account of Eastbury, that a place possessing so chequered a history should bear the reputation of being haunted. The ghostly legend attached to the house is said to be firmly believed in by the inhabitants of Grenville and its neighbourhood, and is to the following effect. Lord Melcombe advanced considerable sums of money, vaguely spoken of now, says Miss Billington, as " many thousands," to his steward William Doggett. The greater part of this loan Doggett is said to have parted with to a brother, who got into " difficulties/' and was utterly powerless to repay it. In course of time Lord Melcombe required repayments of his money, and Doggett, unable to comply with the demand, was reduced to great extremity.

"I am not aware of the exact date at which this took place," says Miss Billington," "but it must have been during the destruction of the house, as the only expedient Doggett could find to meet his liabilities was to appropriate some of the building materials and sell them on his own account. Shortly before Lord Melcombe came down to receive his money, Doggett's courage failed ; probably he had a much smaller sum with which to repay his master than he owed ; he could not pay him, and, therefore, shot himself.

"It was in a marble-floored room that Doggett committed suicide, and it is said the stains of his blood are still visible. I was told a propos of this," says our correspondent, "that the blood-stains of murder or suicide are ineffaceable.

"Since this tragedy, Doggett's ghost has lingered about Eastbury, and the tradition is that, headless, he drove about the park in a spectral coach and four driven by a coachman in livery. No doubt," is the lady's reflection, " the troubled spirit derived a bitter satisfaction from contemplation of the decayed grandeur of the once proud house, now reduced to scarcely a shadow of its former grandeur. But it is many years now since the apparition has made itself visible, though the taint of ghostly inhabitation still clings to the remaining wing of the house. On dark nights, when all else is still, mysterious movements are heard, the doors open and shut unaccountably, pointing to the inference that the troubled spirit has not yet served its term of earthly wanderings.

"It may not be inappropriate to add," remarks Miss Billington, "that about forty years ago, the old church at Grenville was pulled down, and a new one erected on the same spot : the contractors, wishing to fulfil their undertaking as cheaply as possible, caused the old vaults to be destroyed and their brickwork utilized. The old man who told me much of this story, said it ell to his share to pull Doggett's vault to pieces. They found the self-murdered man's body in fair preservation, and the course of the bullet from the jaw through the head was distinctly visible. The old man described him as ' a short ginger-haired man.' His legs had been tied together with a broad yellow ribbon, which was as fresh and brightly coloured as when it was buried. My informant added that he had abstracted a piece of the ribbon, and a lock of the hair, which he had kept as curiosities for many years, and much regretted that he had not got them still to show to me."

And thus Eastbury, with all its much-vaunted magnificence, the palatial home of the vivacious Bubb Dodington, and the erstwhile staying-place of Fielding and Thompson, of Young and his famous contemporaries, is known only now as having been the house where a fraudulent servant committed suicide!



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