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The Walworth Castle Hotel

Walworth Castle, near Darlington, County Durham, is a Best Western Hotel, with an extensive and complicated history. The current building is Grade 1 listed, and its medieval style was commissioned by its one time owner Thomas Jenison (died 1586), and completed circa 1600. The site was however occupied long before the 16th Century; it stands on the grounds of a former manor house built in 1150 by the Hansard family, as part of their 1,100 acre estate. In 1367 the Neville family took ownership of the manor, but in 1391 a Robert Hansard claimed back his family seat. The Ayscough (variable spellings) family acquired the manor in 1539, through a marriage, and then Thomas Jenison bought the estate in 1579. Upon Thomas Jenison’s death the now ‘castle to be’ was left to his widow Elizabeth née Birch, who in turn died in 1605, leaving it to their son William Jenison. At this point in time the castle was left mostly unoccupied, and fell into disrepair, since William Jenison was in debt and then imprisoned for being a Roman Catholic. A Francis Jenison sold the estate in 1679 and emigrated, possibly because he was accused of involvement in the Popish plot to assassinate King Charles II (Born 29 May 1630 – Died 6 February 1685). In 1681 the castle was divided from the estate and awarded to a Robert Jenison by Chancery. Robert Jenison then bought back the entire estate in 1687 for a price of £6,205. In 1704, the ten year old Ralph Jenison inherited the castle, and he renovated it at great expense throughout his life time; he died in debt in 1759, so it was sold again. A wine merchant Matthew Stephenson bought the estate in 1759 for £16,000, and he, then sold it to the Newcastle merchant John Harrison in 1775. The estate then passed to Aylmer family through a marriage in 1831. The castle was under the Aylmer family crest for a century, until 1931. It was then sold to descendants of the Aylmer’s, Neville and Charles Eade. During World War 2 (1939-1945) the castle was used as a prisoner of war camp for 200 German and Italian captives. In 1950 Durham County Council bought the castle and used it as a girl’s school. The Walworth Castle has now been a privately owned hotel since 1981, though it has since changed hands a few times.

This Best Western Hotel, The Walworth Castle is supposed to be haunted.  There is a story associated with Walworth Castle that may explain the alleged haunting. It is said that at some point in the Castle’s history, a maid fell pregnant by one of the Lords of the house. The Lord apparently had the girl bricked up into the wall of a spiral staircase whilst some renovation work was underway, to conceal the damning evidence. It is popular belief that it is the spirit of this poor pregnant maid that haunts the Walworth Castle Hotel.

Apparent paranormal happenings that have been reported at the hotel include:
1) Guests have awoken in their rooms to find the tea cups rattling.
2) The ghost of a young woman has been seen walking along what was once a corridor to the honeymoon suite.
3) The ghost of a young woman has been sighted sitting in an armchair within the hotel.
4) Foot steps have been heard climbing the stairs which ascend to one of the castle turrets from the rear of the library.
5) Chambermaids have reported having their hair pulled.
6) Some guests have reported an invisible weight suddenly landing on their bed while they were using it.
7) Guests at the hotel have reported hearing cries from behind a wall in the staircase.
8) Guests have also reported seeing the ghost of a young woman appearing from a wall in the staircase.

Simon Topham

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