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Ewshott House

The following account was published in 'The Haunted Homes and Family Traditions of Great Britain' by John Ingram (1897).  Major Edward Moor, the author, among other works, of the Hindu Pantheon, in its day a valued authority upon Indian antiquities, in 1841 published a brochure on the " Bealing Bells." This little hook not only furnished a full account of the disturbances ascribed to supernatural agency at Bealing, but also gave particulars, derived from various correspondents, of similar manifestations that had occurred in different parts of the country. There is no need of referring to the acrimonious controversy between the believers and sceptics which the publication of Major Moor's little book aroused, our present purpose being merely to cite from the Appendix to it the following account of the hauntinffs at Ewshott House. 

In "Bealing Bells," it may be mentioned, the names of the persons and places hereafter referred to, are left blank ; but by means of a copy annotated, probably, by Major Moor, and assisted by private inquiry, they are now, for the first time, filled in. The local topographical and historical data, it should be mentioned, are the result of independent research, and are not derived from Major Moor's suggestive little work.

Ewshott House, or Itchell, as it was formerly called, is in the parish of Crondall, in Hampshire. It is a respectable old manor-house, and in very early times was the principal residence of the Giffords, one of the most ancient and eminent families in Hampshire; some of them filled the office of sheriff of the county in a period ranging from the reign of Henry VI to that of Elizabeth. It was afterwards a seat of the Bathursts, and was in their possession for several generations. About the year 1680 the chief part of the ancient mansion seems to have been pulled down, and the present house erected in its place. The remaining portion of the old house was allowed to stand, separated only by a party wall, and was let as a farm-house to the tenant of the adjoining property.

The estate came into the possession of Mr. Lefroy* in the year 1818; by which time Ewshott had already acquired the reputation of being "haunted". The writer of the account which Major Moor gives, and

whom he describes as a gentleman of unimpeachable veracity, and as deservedly held in high estimation, says: "Many tales were told among the neighbouring villagers of uncouth sights and sounds, from which it gained that ill repute. It was not until 1823 that Mr. Lefroy's family resided constantly at Ewshott. During their occasional visits there the peculiar noises of which I am about to speak were often heard; but from the circumstances above related of the old house, which joined the back part of the new, being occupied by a farm establishment, they were thought nothing of; being attributed by the family in the mansion to their neighbours in the farm, and by the inhabitants of the farm to their neighbours in the mansion; each party wondering exceedingly what the other could be doing at so late an hour as that at which the sounds were heard.

"About fifteen years ago," said this correspondent, "the old farm-house was taken down, to be rebuilt at a greater distance from the mansion. During the progress of this work a man was constantly employed in watching round the premises, to guard the timber. This man has often solemnly declared that as he went his rounds he saw . . . . ! But this may have been fancy, and I believe it was; the poor man's ears having inspired his eyes with an unnatural susceptibility of vision. But what he heard was not to be mistaken. It was the same the family had heard for years; and have heard, almost nightly, ever since. He described it, 'as a great thumping noise, as if someone was beating heavy blows with a great mallet in the hall. The hall is exactly in the centre of the house, over against the spot where the old farm-house stood, and therefore very near to the place where he watched. This is as good a description as can be given of the peculiar sound, which is known familiarly as the ghost. In the dead of night, when every member of the family has gone to bed, and there is no imaginable cause to be assigned for them, a succession of distinct and heavy blows are heard, as of some massive instrument upon a hollow wall or floor. These sounds are seldom heard more that once in the night; and generally between the hours of twelve and two. They are sometimes so loud as to awaken one from sleep, and startle even those who are the most familiar with them ; at other times almost inaudible ; sometimes struck with great rapidity, at other times more slowly and leisurely; varying in duration also in about the same degree. But whether in his noisier or more gentle movements, the ghost is so peculiar in his sound, as not to be easUy mistaken bv those who have once heard him. No one has been able to determine from what part the sound proceeds; nor, indeed, to say with certainty that it is within the house at all. But in whatever part you may be listening, it seems to come from some remoter corner. Thus, if you hear it, being in the drawing-room, at one extremity of the house, the ghost appears to come from the library at the other end ; if you are in the library, it sounds as if proceeding from the drawing-room. At another time, it seems to come from underneath the stable-yard, or lawn, or in the cellar.

"Considerable pains have been taken, at different times, to ascertain whence the sounds proceed, with a hope of finding some sufficient cause of them; but entirely without success; and, after about twenty years, we are as entirely in the dark as ever. The length of time it has been heard, the fact of everv domestic of the family having been often changed during the time, and the pains that have been taken to investigate the matter, while every member of the family, except the watcher, has been in bed, have put the possibility of any trick out of the question ; and have no less convinced the inmates that it cannot be accounted for, on any of the usual suppositions, of horses in the stable kicking' or 'dogs rapping with their tails,' or ‘rats jumping in the tanks and drains beneath the house.' Horses stamp, and dogs rap, and rats gallop; but they do not make such sounds as that one startling and peculiar noise with which our ears are so familiar.

"To convey a notion of the nature of the ghost, and of the force and violence with which it sometimes bursts out, I will describe the way it has repeatedly been heard, by different members of the family. On one occasion it burst forth with so much violence that the writer of this, accustomed as he was to hear and disregard it, sprang out of bed and ran to the landing at the head of the stairs, under a conviction that the outer door of the house had been burst in with violence. After a few moments the sounds ceased, and he retired to bed again ; it was the ghost. On another occasion, when he was going up to bed, the ghost began to thump violently, in the direction of the brew-house; and continued so long that he had time to go to the back door of the house and sally forth in quest. On his arrival, nothing was to be heard or seen.

"On another occasion, the sound having for a considerable time appeared to come from a direction that suggested it to spring from some loose vessels in the brew-house, or from the cellar, which was close adjoining; the writer, with two of his brothers, sat up, one in the cellar, and the others in the brew-house. He in the cellar did not hear it. The two who had watched exactly where it had appeared to be for a good while before, heard it, loudly and distinctly as ever; but it sounded underneath the lawn, fifty yards away from where they were.

"About a month ago," says this correspondent of Major Moor, "the owner of the house, and a friend who happened to be staying on a visit, occupied adjoining apartments. One morning, at the breakfast table, each demanded of the other an explanation of his movements on the previous night; each having been astonished at hearing, as he thought, his neighbour moving about and making a great noise among his books or the furniture of his apartment. ' I expected/ said one, 'to see you open my door and walk in.' ‘I thought you must have been ill, and had almost gone in to see,' said the other. Each had been quiet in bed; and the sound was nothing but the ghost.

"The usual sound is that described as a succession of deep thumps; but other sounds, almost more curious and unaccountable, are often heard, of which I will relate a few particulars.

"Some time ago a gentleman, a relation of the family, was on a visit to Ewshott House. One morning, at the breakfast table, he related the following curious and unaccountable circumstance: He had been awakened in the night by hearing, as he thought, a cart drawn along on the gravel road, immediately under his windows; it appeared to be heavy-laden, and rattled as if with a load of iron rods. Wondering what could be about at that hour of the night, he got up and opened his window to investigate ; there was neither sight nor sound of anything to cause the noise. He got into bed again, and thought it possible he had been dreaming ; but half an hour after, as he lay awake, he heard the very same again the rattling of a loaded cart upon the drive beneath his windows. 'Now thought our Mend,

'I'll find the cause.' So up he got again, opened his windows, and looked out ; but all was still. He went to bed again, and heard no more. He told the story in the morning, and inquired if anything had taken place to cause the sound he had heard; but nothing could be thought of to account for it, and he tells the story to this day.

"To this it may be well to add two other anecdotes of our nocturnal friend. Four or five years ago, the writer of this ghost story was in the habit of sitting up at night to a very late hour, reading in the library; and though the family are all much too familiar with our ghost to be disturbed by any of his gambols, the sounds that used to strike his ears were often most remarkable and startling. On one occasion, in particular, it seemed as if a flock of sheep from the adjoining paddock had rushed by the windows on the gravel drive. It was not a windy night; and so convinced was he, after attentive listening, that it was the rapid rushing of a flock he heard, that he considered with himself the propriety of going out to drive them back again. But idleness prevailed: it was cold ; he was busy; so he voted it the ghost, and sat still at his books. But when he came down in the morning, fully expecting to find marks of sheep and damage done, to his surprise there was no sign at all of any such invasion. The lawn was smooth, and the gravel was untrodden; and it was indeed the ghost.

"At another time it happened, that when the whole family were in one room, at prayers not one member of the family absent but a young child in the nursery a noise was heard, as of someone walking across the hall, next to the room in which they were assembled The lady who was reading prayers rose from her knees directly, and went into the hall with the servants at her heels, before it was possible a person could have got away ; but there was no one to be seen, nor anything to lead to the supposal of a visitor of any more substantial kind than our old friend the ghost.

"It should be mentioned here that there is, running underneath the house, a very large old drain, which has been thought to be connected with the sounds above described. A few years ago this drain was thoroughly examined, with a view to ascertaining whether some loose brick or timber might be lying on it, which might create such sounds on being trod upon by rats, etc. A man was sent up through it, from one end to the other; but nothing of the kind appeared. The whole was thoroughly and carefully cleared out, but the noise proceeded as ever. How long the ghost had been observed before the present family resided is not known, but the popular belief attaches all the unblest circumstances here related to the unquiet spirit of one Squire, a man of but indifferent repute, as it would seem, and one whose grave might not be found an easy resting-place. The old Squire has been dead three hundred years. He appears to have been the person who pulled down the old house and built up the present one in its stead."

Thus far Major Moor gave the words of his principal informant; but being anxious to obtain further testimony, he applied to several visitors at Ewshott House, and published the letters of three of them, all testifying to their personal experience of the phenomena. He published, also, a letter from his own nephew, Captain A. H. Frazer, R.A., which is as follows:

"Carlisle, 19th July 1841.

"With regard to the Haunted House affair at Ewshott House, I will give as full and minute an account as I can. I wrote an account at the time, which has been unfortunately destroyed ; but as the facts are well impressed on my memory, the loss of it is of less consequence.

"Soon after my intimacy with Lefroy began, he invited me to stay a few days at his mother's house in Hampshire. 'You must know,' he laughingly added, 'that ours is a haunted house, and has been so for many years. The inconvenience of this reputation has been very great, as, at times, we have had difficulty in getting servants to stay with us, especially maid-servants ; and we have by common consent dropped all allusion to the subject, and I now mention it to you that you may not, during your visit, transgress this rule.'

" 'About twenty years ago' (I think he said twenty), 'when we first came to Ewshott House, there was an old house adjoining it, in which a bailiff, who had charge of the estate, lived with his family. Very strange noises used to be heard after eleven o'clock almost every night, which we attributed at first to the people in the other house, and did not, in consequence, pay so much attention to them as we afterwards did. But when the bailiff left this house (which we intended pulling down) we asked him why he had every night made such a noise? To our great surprise, he informed us that he was not the occasion of it; and we found, both from him and from other inquiries we set on foot, that the house had enjoyed the reputation of being haunted for many years. It appeared from some of the oldest inhabitants of the village in the parish, that Ewshott House had formerly been occupied by an eccentric and dubious character yclept Squire .

This gentleman had, in his younger days, travelled much on the Continent, and had, amongst other countries, visited Italy, and brought home with him, on his return to England, an Italian valet also a character. The two lived in seclusion at Ewshott House; and in process of time many reports and suspicions got abroad respecting them and the doings at the Hall; though nothing definite could be brought against Squire , except his being a great miser. At last he died, or disappeared' (I forget which Lefroy said), 'and shortly

afterwards noises began to be heard in the house; and the common legend was, that he had been bricked up by his Italian servant, between the walls in some room or vault, and so left to perish ; and that the noise was occasioned by his rapping the walls with the butt end of his hunting-whip in trying to get out.'

"Such was Lefroy's account. He added other particulars, which, as you have probably had them from some of the family in a more authentic form than I could give, I omit. Now for ray own part in the mys- tery. As I had never before been in a haunted house my curiosity was greatly excited ; and I persuaded Lefroy to come up and sit up with me in my bed-room. He did so. The noise began much later than usual that evening at least, we did not hear it till about half past twelve p.m. or a quarter before one a.m. It was as if someone was striking the walls with a hammer, or mallet, muffled in flannel. It began at first slowly, with a distinct interval between the blows, then became more rapid ; but afterwards followed no rule, but was slow or rapid as caprice dictated. The noise did not appear to come always from the same part of the house. Sometimes it was heard faintly, as if at a distance ; at others it became startlingly near, but seemed always heloiv the room we were in. It was much louder than I expected. I think if I had been outside the house I should have heard it. I passed three other days at Ewshott House, and heard the same noise two nights out of the three. When all was still and asleep, there was something uncomfortable not to say fearful in hearing this hollow muffled noise, moving about the house, and coming at times so near that I expected to see the door open and some person come in, though no footsteps were ever heard. It usually began about eleven and half-past eleven p.m. But one evening I heard it a quarter before ten p.m., before any of the family had gone upstairs. The noise generally continued, with intervals, for about two hours ; and I think there was a slight interval between every blows, but am not quite sure on this point. I never heard it during the day, though when every member of the family was out, and all was quiet, I would listen; nor did I ever hear it, except in one instance above named, before ten p.m.

"A slight interval between every five blows has been mentioned, but it is not mentioned that you should infer from this that there was any regularity in the striking of those five blows; on the contrary, the time was very uncertain and irregular. It was when the blows followed each other most rapidly that the noise was loudest. It was only at first that there was any regularity in the interval between the blows. I tried in vain to form a probable conjecture as to the cause of the noise" after suggesting possible causes Capt. Frazer proceeds "but the want of regularity in the sound, and its locomotive powers, render it improbable that any of these should be the real cause. And besides which they would all be heard in the daytime, if listened for ; but the mysterious sound never has been, I believe.

"Although always much interested in anything partaking of the marvellous, I have no faith in superhuman agency in these matters. Still, it was impossible at night to hear this unaccountable sound without a slight feeling of depression, and I think it would have an (ill) effect upon a person of weak nerves or mind.

" Such is all I can recollect of what I heard myself, but the stories were numerous. One night, about twelve, the lady of the house was sitting in the drawing-room reading, all the family had retired to rest, when the noise was heard close to a glass door (leading to another room) so loudly that she got up and went to the spot that it seemed to proceed from ; but nothing, of course, was seen. There was a strange story connected with the room I slept in; it was told me by my friend Lefroy.

"Many years ago he came home for the holidays from school, and slept the first night there. About the middle of the night, he was awaked by a very loud noise, as if a cart, heavily laden with iron bars, was passing slowly along the path under the windows, which were in the front of the house, and looked towards the park. He threw open the shutters and window; it was a bright moonlight night ; but he could see nothing, though the noise continued for a short time after. When he mentioned all this next morning he was laughed at for his pains. Some years after this, however (I think Lefroy said eleven), an uncle of his slept the first night of his arrival in this very room. When he came to breakfast next morning, in reply to hopes that he had slept well, &c, he said, c It is a curious thing, but I was awaked by a cart, laden as if with iron, rattling under my windows; but it was so pitch dark I could not see anything.'

"One more observation about the mysterious sounds: there are some noises which, though very loud, the ear, from a long habit of judging of and weighing them, knows to be at a great distance; but this noise seemed to me (as a general rule) to become loud or faint, not so much from any change in the intensity of the blows as from a change of distance and position. And I am borne out in this remark by Lefroy, who mentioned that when several members of the family were stationed at different parts of the house, their accounts as to the loudness of the sound and its distance from them generally "I have now told you, in a somewhat lengthy style, all I can call to mind on the subject. I thought it better to put down facts as they occurred to me, and leave you, should you deem them suited to your purpose, to condense and arrange them as you pleased."

Thus ends Captain Frazer's account of this mysterious affair. Ewshott House, we are given to understood, is still inhabited; but whether still troubled by these unaccountable noises we are unable to learn.

*Rev John Henry George Lefroy inherited Ewshott House in 1818. Though I think he may have died in 1823.

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Re: Ewshott House

The first recorded mention of the manor of ITCHEL (Ticelle, xi cent.; Ichehulle, Ichull xii cent.; Ichill, Dichull, Ichull, xiv cent.) occurs in the Domesday Survey, where it is stated that Itchel and Cove, which had been held as separate estates by Lewin and Ulward in the time of Edward the Confessor, were then in the possession of German, who was holding them of the Bishop of Winchester as of his manor of Crondall.

From this time Itchel and Cove descended together as one manor for nearly five centuries. The next holder of the manor whose name has come down to us was Walkelin de Itchel, who was probably a son of German. He was dead before 1166, in which year his son Robert de Itchel was returned as holding two knights' fees of the Bishop of Winchester. The next recorded mention of Itchel is in 1230, when it was in the possession of William de Coleville. He died in 1236, and was succeeded by his son William, who was stated to be holding two knights' fees in Itchel and Cove in 1243. A few years later the property was acquired by Walter Giffard, who was elected Bishop of Bath and Wells on 22 May 1264, and two years later was translated to the archiepiscopal see of York. Giffard died in 1279, and was succeeded by his brother Godfrey Giffard, Bishop of Worcester. These prelates seem to have made Itchel a place of occasional residence, as several of the transactions recorded in their registers are dated from Itchel.

Giffard of Itchel. Argent ten roundels gules.

On the death of Godfrey in 1302 the manor passed to his nephew and heir John Giffard, who died seised in 1319, leaving a son John. This John Giffard joined the Earl of Hereford and other barons in their league against the Despensers, and his lands were consequently forfeited, being committed by the king to the custody of Robert Lewer. Robert Lewer rebelled against the king in 1322, placed himself at the head of an armed force and entered the manor of Itchel and carried away the king's goods. He was thereupon taken prisoner and put to death, and in 1324 Edward II granted the custody of the manor to John de Alton the bailiff of Odiham. John Giffard seems, however, to have regained possession of his estates before his death, for he died seised of the manor of Itchel in 1327, his heir being his infant son John. The custody of the manor was entrusted to Thomas de Bradestan, who in 1331 was ordered to repair the palings of the bishop's park of Farnham out of the issues of the manor of Itchel, the Bishop of Winchester having proved his right to this service from the tenant of the manor. John Giffard granted a lease of the manor to Sir John de Wyngsfeld in 1349, but apparently died soon afterwards, although the exact date of his death is uncertain.

The estate then passed to his widow Eleanor, who died in 1360. The custody of Elizabeth, the daughter and heir of John and Eleanor, was then granted to William de Edendon, but she died without issue less than a year afterwards.

The next heir to the estates was John Giffard, the son of William, a younger brother of John Giffard, Elizabeth's grandfather. In 1379 John obtained permission from the Bishop of Winchester to enlarge the park at Itchel, undertaking for himself and his heirs and assigns to pay to the bishop and his successors at their castle of Farnham yearly, on the feast of St. Peter ad Vincula, a good bow with a suitable string, and six barbed arrows, well winged with peacock feathers, and in like manner between 1 December and 1 February in each year a fallow deer from the park. It is uncertain in what year this John died, but in 1418 Mary, probably his widow, who afterwards married John Southworth, held the manor. In 1428 another John Giffard held Itchel, and died on 10 June 1444, leaving a son and heir Robert. Two years later Robert Giffard died without issue, and land in Cove was held in dower by his widow Joan, who survived him, until 1478. The manor of Itchel, however, passed to his brother John, who was returned as the owner in 1461. This John Giffard was succeeded by a son William Giffard, who held the manor in 1509, in which year he and his son John received from the Prior and convent of St. Swithun a grant of woodland for the enlargement of Itchel Park. William Giffard died in 1549, and was succeeded by his grandson John, the son of his son John, who had predeceased him. John died seised of the manor in 1563, leaving a son George, then aged 10 years. A third part of the manor passed to his widow —who married William Hodges of Weston Subedge—as dower. In 1579, shortly after George Giffard came of age, Henry Wriothesley, second Earl of Southampton, desiring to add Itchel Manor to his neighbouring estate of Dogmersfield, purchased the estate. At this period Cove became separated from Itchel Manor (see Cove, in Yateley parish). Henry Wriothesley died in Itchel Manor-house on 4 October 1581, and was succeeded by his son Henry, third earl, who died in 1624. In 1629 his son Thomas, fourth Earl of Southampton, sold Itchel Manor to Robert Mason, LL.D., of Lincoln's Inn, who was steward of the borough of Basingstoke, M.P. first for Christchurch and then for Winchester, vicargeneral to the bishop and chancellor of the diocese, and the official of the archdeacons of Winchester and Surrey. He died in 1635 and was succeeded by members of the family until about 1670. It was then purchased by John Bathurst, in the possession of whose descendants it was in 1736. The next owner is stated to have been Martha Dearing of Odiham, widow, who held the manor about the middle of the 18th century; and by 1764 it had come into the possession of Nicholas Linwood, of Spring Gardens, Charing Cross, who was one of the directors of the East India Company (1749–51). He died on 7 May 1773, and in the same year his widow sold the estate to Henry Maxwell of Ramsbury (co. Wilts). Henry Maxwell died in 1818, and bequeathed Itchel Manor to his wife's nephew, the Rev. John Henry George Lefroy, from whom it descended to his grandson, Mr. Charles James Maxwell Lefroy, who died in November 1908.

['Parishes: Crondall', A History of the County of Hampshire: Volume 4 (1911)]



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