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Ramhurst Manor House

Ramhurst Manor House is a Grade II listed private residence on Powder Mill Lane dating from the 16th century or earlier. In the middle of the 19th century some strange experiences in the house resulted in it gaining a reputation for being haunted by members of the Children family who had resided there during the 18th century.

In 'The Haunted Homes and Family Traditions of Great Britain' (1897), John Ingram gives the following account of the case. 'When the complicated developments of the tale connected with this Kentish Manor-house are known, it must be acknowledged that the affair is one of the most mysterious on record. Robert Dale Owen, from whose singular work, Footfalls on the Boundary of Another World, this strange story is extracted, does not furnish the actual names of the ladies from whom he derived his information about the haunting of Ramhurst, but veils their identity under initials; and as we have no other authority for the account than his, it will be necessary, in this instance to follow his example.

Ramhurst Manor-house, it must be premised, is an ancient residence near Leigh, in Kent. In October 1857, and for several subsequent months, it was occupied by Mrs. R , the wife of an English officer of high rank, and her servants. From the time this ladv first occupied the place she, and every inmate, were disturbed by knockings, unaccountable voices, and the sounds of mysterious footsteps. The strange voices were generally, but not invariably, heard proceeding from an unoccupied room, and were sometimes as of someone talking in a loud tone, sometimes as if some person were reading aloud, and occasionally as if screaming. The servants were, as may be imagined, in a great state of terror, and although they did not see anything, the cook one day informed Mrs. R that in broad day she heard the rustle of a silk- dress close behind her, and which seemed to touch her; but on turning suddenly round, thinking it was her mistress, she could not see anyone, much to her surprise and horror. Mrs. R 's brother, a young officer addicted to field sports, and quite incredulous on the subject of ghostly visitations, was much disturbed and annoyed by these strange voices, which he asserted must be those of his sister and a lady friend of hers sitting up chatting at night. Twice, when a voice which he considered to resemble his sister's rose to a scream, he rushed into her bedroom, between two and three o'clock in the morning, with a gun in his hand, but only to find her sleeping quietly.

"On the second Saturday in the above month of October," says our authority, "Mrs. R drove over to the railway station at Tunbridge, to meet her friend Miss S, whom she had invited to spend some weeks with her. This young lady had been in the habit of seeing apparitions, at times, from early childhood.

"When, on their return, at about four o'clock in the afternoon, they drove up to the entrance of the Manor-house, Miss S perceived on the threshold the appearance of two figures, apparently an elderly couple, habited in the costume of a former age. They appeared as if standing on the ground. She did not hear any voice, and not wishing to render her friend uneasy, she made at that time no remark to her in connection with this apparition.

"She saw the appearance of the same figures, in the same dress, several times within the next ten days, sometimes in one of the rooms of the house, sometimes in one of the passages always by daylight. They appeared to her surrounded by an atmosphere nearly of the colour usually called 'neutral tint.' On the third occasion they spoke to her, and stated that they had been husband and wife, that in the former days they had possessed and occupied that Manor-house, and that their name was Children. They appeared sad and downcast, and, when Miss S inquired the cause of their melancholy, they replied that they had idolized this property of theirs; that their pride and pleasure had centred in its possession; that its improvement had engrossed their thoughts; and it troubled them to know that it had passed away from their family, and to see it now in the hands of careless strangers."

To Miss S, the ghost-seer, the voices of the apparitions were not only perfectly audible, but also intelligible; but it does not appear certain, so far as our record goes, that others who heard the conversing were enabled to comprehend what was said by the spirits. Meanwhile, Mrs. R, thinking that something unusual had occurred to her friend in connection with the household disturbances, questioned her on the subject, and was then informed by Miss S of what she had seen and heard from the apparitions. Hitherto Mrs. R, though her rest had been disturbed by the frequent noises, had not seen anything, nor, indeed, had anyone save Miss S; but about a month after the latter lady had had the interview with the spectres styling themselves Mr. and Mrs. Children, they made another optical manifestation.

One day, Mrs. R, who had ceased to expect the appearance of the apparitions to herself, was hurriedly dressing for dinner, "her brother," to cite from Owen, "who had just returned from a day's shooting, having called to her in impatient tones that dinner was served and that he was quite famished. At the moment of completing her toilet, and as she hastily turned to leave her bedchamber, not dreaming of anything spiritual, there in the doorway stood the same female figure Miss S had described, identical in appearance and in costume, even to the old point-lace on her brocaded silk dress, while beside her on the left, but less distinctly visible, was the figure of her husband. They uttered no sound; but above the figure of the lady, as if written in phosphoric light in the dusk atmosphere that surrounded her, were the words 'Dame Children' together with some other words, intimating that, having never aspired beyond the joys and sorrows of this world, she had remained 'earth-bound.'

"These last words Mrs. E scarcely paused to decipher; for a renewed appeal from her brother, as to whether they were to have any dinner that day, urged her forward. The figure, filling up the doorway, remained stationary. There was no time for hesitation, she closed her eyes, rushed through the apparition and into the dining-room, throwing up her hands and exclaiming to Miss S, Oh! my dear, I've walked through Mrs. Children!"

This was the only time Mrs. R saw anything of the apparitions during her residence in the old Manor house, nor do they seem to have appeared again to anyone there, save Miss S. Mrs. R had her bedroom not only lit up by a blazing fire, but also by candles, whilst a lighted lamp was kept burning in the corridor. Miss S, however, appears to have been honoured with subsequent interviews by the apparitions, and from her conversations with them learnt that the husband's name was Richard, and that he had died in 1753. She remarked that the costumes in which they appeared "were of the period of Queen Anne or one of the early Georges, she could not be sure which, as the fashions in both were similar."

Deeply impressed with the mystery that appertained to the old Manor-house, Mr. R endeavoured to elucidate it by making inquiries among the servants and in the neighbourhood, but without success. No one knew that the house had ever been owned or inhabited by persons of the name of "Children," although a nurse in the family, Sophy, had spent all her life in the vicinity. About four months afterwards, and when her mistress had given up all hopes of unravelling the mystery, Sophy went home for a holiday to her father's at Riverhead, near Sevenoaks. During her visit she called on a sister-in-law, an old woman of seventy, who fifty years previous had been housemaid in a family residing in Ramhurst Manor-house. Sophy asked her old sister-in-law if she had ever heard of a family named Children living at the Manor, and was informed that there was no such familv there in her time, but she recollected having been informed by an old man, that in his boyhood he had assisted to keep the hounds of the Childrens who were then residing at Ramhurst. On her return Sophy communicated this information to Mrs. R, who thus learnt that a family named Children had once really occupied the Manor-house, but beyond that she was unable to learn anything about them.

In December 1858, Robert Dale Owen, being in the company of the two ladies referred to, Mrs. R and Miss S , learnt all the particulars of the haunting and the apparitions already given. Having accepted an invitation to spend Christmas week with some friends living near Sevenoaks, he determined to prosecute further inquiries about the haunted Manor, and its former inhabitants in the neighbourhood. He sought out Sophy and questioned her closely about the disturbances at the Manor-house during Mrs. R's residence, but was enabled to elicit little more than confirmatory evidence of what the reader knows already. Nor did his inspection of the churches and graveyards of Leigh and Tunbridge afford him any fresh information about the Children family, save that a certain George Children left, in the year 1718, a weekly gift of bread to the poor, and that another George Children, his descendant, who had died about forty years previous, and who had not resided at Ramhurst, had a marble tablet in Tunbridge Church erected to his memory.

Thus far Mr. Owen had not obtained any further particulars of much value, but having been referred to a neighbouring clergyman, by him he was lent a document that contained the following extract from the Hasted Papers, which are preserved in the British Museum, and may be consulted there:

"George Children . . . who was High Sheriff of Kent in 1698, died without issue in 1718, and by will devised the bulk of his estate to Richard Children, eldest son of his late uncle, William Children, of Hedcorn, and his heirs. This Richard Children, who settled himself at Ramhurst, in the Parish of Leigh, married Anne, daughter of John Saxby, in the parish of Leeds, by whom he had issue four sons and two daughters. Thus Mr. Owen had ascertained that the first of the Children family who had occupied Ramhurst as a residence was named Richard, and that he settled there in the early part of George I.'s reign, but he was still ignorant of the date of his death, which, it will have been noted, was given by the apparition as 1753. Being referred by an antiquarian friend to Hasted's History of Kent, published in 1778, he fo md the following paragraph :

"In the eastern part of the parish of Lyghe (now Leigh), near the river Medway, stands an ancient mansion, called Ramhurst, once reputed a manor, and held of the honour of Gloucester. ... It continued in the Culpepper family for several generations. ... It passed by sale into that of Saxby, and Mr. William Saxby conveyed it by sale to Children. Richard Children, Esq., resided here, and died possessed of it in 1753, aged eighty-three years. He was succeeded in it by his eldest son, John Children, of Tunbridge, Esq.,".

"Thus I verified," remarks Eobert Dale Owen, "the last remaining particular, the date of Richard Children s death. It appears from the above, also, that Richard Children was the only representative of the family who lived and died at Ramhurst; his son John being designated not as of Ramhurst, but as of Tunbridge. From the private memoir above referred to, I had previously ascertained that the family seat after Richard's time was Ferox Hall, near Tunbridge.

"It remains to be added that in 1816, in consequence of events reflecting no discredit on the family, they lost all their property, and were compelled to sell Ramhurst, which has since been occupied, though a somewhat spacious mansion, not as a family residence, but as a farm-house. I visited it, and the occupants assured me that nothing worse than rats or mice disturb it now."

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