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Blenkinsopp Castle

In 2012 the village of Blenkinsop was put on the market for £1.75 million. A Daily Mail article said that ‘The hamlet has 70 park homes, a 14th century haunted castle, a public house with a ballroom and approved plans for a holiday park.’ The castle, according to tradition is thought to be haunted by a White Lady.

The following account of the haunting appeared in the 'Monthly Chronicle of North-Country Lore and Legend' (March 1888) and 'English Fairy and Other Folk Tales' by Edwin Sidney Hartland (1890). ‘LIKE almost all the old Northumbrian castles and peels, Blenkinsopp has the reputation of being haunted. A gloomy vault under the castle is said to have buried in it a large chest of gold, hidden in the troublous times: some say by a lady whose spirit cannot rest so long as it is there, and who used formerly to appear--though not, that we have heard, for the last four or five decades--clothed in white from head to foot, and so was known as "The White Lady."

About the beginning of this century several of the least ruinous apartments in the castle were still occupied by a hind on the estate and some cotters. Indeed, two or three of them continued to be so down to the year 1820 or thereabouts. The visits of the White Lady seem to have been unfrequent latterly, and for some considerable time they had ceased. One night, however, shortly after retiring to rest, the hind and his wife (so the story goes) were alarmed on hearing loud and reiterated screams coming from an adjoining room, in which one of the children, a boy of about eight years of age, had been laid to sleep. On hastily rushing in to see what was the matter, they found the boy sitting trembling on his pillow, terror-struck and bathed in perspiration. "The White Lady! the White Lady!" he screamed, as soon as he saw them. "What Lady?" cried the astonished parents, looking round the room; "there is no lady here." "She is gone," replied the boy, "and she looked so angry at me because I would not go with her. She was a fine lady, and she sat down on my bedside and wrung her hands and cried sore. Then she kissed me and asked me to go with her, and she would make me a rich man, as she had buried a large box of gold many hundred years since, down in the vault; and she would give it to me, as she could not rest so long as it was there. When I told her I durst not go, she said she would carry me, and she was lifting me up when I cried out and I frightened her away." The hind and his wife, both very sensible people, concluded that the child had been dreaming and at length succeeded in quieting him and getting him to sleep. But for three successive nights they were disturbed in the same manner, the boy repeating the same story with little variation, so that they were forced to let him sleep in the same apartment with themselves, when the apparition no longer visited him. The effect upon the boy's mind however, was such that nothing ever afterwards would induce him to enter into any part of the old castle alone even in daylight.

The legend of the White Lady is not one of those that unsophisticated country people willingly let die; and the belief that treasure lies hidden under the grim old ruin waiting to be disinterred, is probably still entertained by not a few. Indeed, there is hardly a place of the kind, either in this country or any other, regarding which some such impression does not exist. (See Layard on the subject.)

About fifty years since, we are told, a strange lady arrived at the village of Greenhead, and took up her quarters at the inn there. She told the landlady, in confidence, that she had had a wonderful dream, to the effect that a large chest of gold lay buried in the vault of Blenkinsopp Castle, and that she was to be the person to find it. She stayed several weeks, awaiting the return of the owner of the property to ask leave to search; but she either got tired of waiting, or could not obtain permission, and so she went away without accomplishing her purpose, and the hidden treasure, if there be such a thing there, remains for some more fortunate person to bring to the light of day.

Tradition accounts for the alleged hiding of the gold in the following way:--One of the castellans in the middle ages, named Bryan de Blenkinsopp, familiarly Bryan Blenship, was as avaricious as he was bold, daring, and lawless. He was once heard to say, when taunted with being a fusty old bachelor, that he would never marry until he met with a lady possessed of a chest of gold heavier than ten of his strongest men could carry into his castle; and fate, it seems, had ordained that he would keep his word. For, going to the wars abroad, whether to the Holy Land to fight against the Saracens, or to Hungary to oppose the Turks, we cannot tell, and staying away several years, he met with a lady in some far country, who came up to his expectations, courted her, married her, and brought her home, together with a chest of gold which it took twelve strong men to lift. Bryan Blenkinsopp was now the richest man in the North of England; but it soon transpired that his riches had not brought him happiness, but the reverse. He and his lady quarrelled continually--a fact which could not long be concealed; and one day when the unhappy couple had had a more serious difference than usual, Sir Bryan was heard to utter threats, in reply to his wife's bitter reproaches, which seemed to indicate that he meant to get rid of her as soon as he could without any more formality or fuss than if they had merely been "handfasted," that is, pledged to each other for a year and a day. The lady muttered something in return, which could not be distinctly heard by the servants, and so the affair, for the nonce, seemed to end. But a very short time afterwards--possibly the next night--the indignant, ill-used lady got the foreign men-servants who had accompanied her to the castle to take up the precious chest and bury it deep in some secret place out of her miserly husband's reach, where it lies to this day. Accounts differ as to what followed. Some say Sir Bryan disappeared shortly after be discovered his loss; others say the lady disappeared first; but it is affirmed that they both disappeared in a mysterious manner, and that neither of them was ever afterwards seen. It was, moreover, sagely hinted that the lady was "something uncanny,"--in plain terms, an imp of darkness, sent with her wealth to ensnare Sir Bryan's greedy soul. At any rate folks were sure that she was an infidel, for she never went to church, and used on Sundays to sing hymns to Mahoun, or some other false god, in an unknown tongue in her own room.’

Today Blenkinsop Castle is a Grade I listed partial ruin following a fire in 1954 when it was hotel.

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Ian Topham
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Re: Blenkinsopp Castle

John Ingram gives the following account in his ‘The Haunted Homes and Family Traditions of Great Britain’ (1897).

Grim, gaunt, and hoary, the fragmentary ruins of the ancient fortress of Blenkinsopp, stand as a shadowy semblance of the majestic strength which the castle wore in former ages. Upwards of five centuries have elapsed since this border stronghold was erected upon a commanding knoll on the western frontier of Northumberland, and naturally so antique a building has gathered about it a garment of tradition. The most noteworthy legend attached to Blenkinsopp, and one most devoutly believed in by the neighbouring peasantry, is that of "The White Lady," whose apparition has haunted the castle for centuries and even now appears from time to time.

The legend which accounts for this long-existent phantom, this rival to "The White Lady of Skipsea” is related with more or less minuteness by various historians; but in the following version, derived from Richardson's Table Book of Traditions, the more salient points of the story will be found.

Bryan de Blenkinsopp, or “Blenship" as the name is provincially contracted into, was gallant and brave; in a private feud, a border raid, or on the battle-field, he was ever first. The mighty and brave ranked him rvs one of their number ; the harps of the minstrels sang his praises in numerous lays, whilst divers bright eyes looked fondly and favourably on the form of the dark and handsome warrior. But with all his good qualities, and they were many, Bryan de Blenkinsopp had a failing which ultimately wrecked his fortune. This failing was an inordinate love of wealth; this vice he cherished in secret, and as earnestly though vainly sought to discard ; it grew with his growth and strengthened with his strength, and gnawed into his very soul.

At the marriage of a brother warrior with a lady of high rank and fortune, amongst other health-drinkings was given that of Bryan de Blenkinsopp and his " ladye love." "Never/' said Bryan, "never shall that be until I meet with a lady possessed of a chest of gold heavier than ten of my strongest men can carry into my castle." This extraordinary announcement was received by the company in silence, but the many looks of surprise which were exchanged did not escape his jealous observation. Ashamed of having betrayed his secret thoughts, he quitted the place, and his country.

After an absence of many years Sir Bryan returned, bringing with him not only a wife, but also a box of gold that took twelve of his strongest men to carry into the Castle. There was great feasting and rejoicing for many days for the lord's return, amongst friends and followers, and the fame of his wealth was spread far and wide. After a length of time it began to be whispered that the life of the rich baron was anything but a happy for he and his lady quarrelled continually; she, ETri the assistance of the followers who accompanied her, having secreted the chest of gold in some part of the castle, and refused to give it up to her lawful husband and master. Whom she was or whence she came was unknown; her followers spoke a foreign tongue, so nothing could be gleaned from them. Some folks even hinted that she was not a human being, but an imp of darkness sent with her wealth to ensnare Sir Bryan's soul.

One day the young lord suddenly left the Castle, and went no one knew whither. His lady was inconsolable for her loss, and filled the whole castle with her lamentation. The vassals were despatched to all parts in order to discover whither he had fled, but without success. After searching in vain, and waiting for more than a year, she and her attendants started forth in search of the missing man.

The fate of Bryan de Blenkinsopp and his wife is enveloped in mystery, and there is no hand to draw aside the impenetrable veil and show us if ever they met again, through what climes they wandered, or on what field he fell ! Certain it is that neither ever returned to Blenkinsopp. Tradition asserts that the lady, filled with remorse for her undutiful conduct towards her lord, cannot rest in her grave, but must needs wander back to the old castle and mourn over the chest of wealth the cursed cause of all their woe so uselesslv buried beneath the crumbling ruins. Here she must continue to wander until someone possessed of sufficient courage to follow her to the vault shall discover and remove the hidden treasure, and so give her perturbed spirit rest.

The knowledge of this tradition naturally inclined the surrounding peasantry to regard the old castle with superstitious awe, and certain comparatively recent events have contributed, in no slight degree, to heighten the impression. The following curious circumstance was communicated to Richardson by Mr. W. Pattison, of Bishopwearmouth.

More than thirty years ago, said this correspondent in an account written nearly forty years ago, there lived, in two of the more habitable apartments of the weatherbeaten walls of the massive structure raised by Thomas de Blenkinsopp, a labourer of the estate, and his family. Both rooms appear to have been used as sleeping chambers, because, as we are informed, one night, after retiring to rest, the parents were alarmed by loud, reiterated screams, issuing from the adjoining apartment. Rushing in, they found one of their children, a boy, sitting up in bed, trembling, bathed in perspiration, and evidently in extreme terror.

"The White Lady! the White Lady I" screamed the lad, holding his hands before his eyes as if to shut out some frightful object.

"What lady ? n cried the astonished parents, looting around the room, which, to all appearance, was entirely untenanted; " there is no lady here."

"She is gone/' replied the boy, " and she looked so angry at me because I would not go with her. She was a fine lady and she sat down on my bedside, and wrung her hands and cried sore ; then she kissed me and asked me to go with her, and she would make me a rich man, as she had buried a large box of gold, many hundred years since, down in the vault, and she would give it me, as she could not rest as long as it was there. When I told her I durst not go, she said she would carry me, and was lifting me up when I cried out and frightened her away."

A tale so singular, and yet, to all appearance, narrated with fidelity, filled the old people with fear and astonishment. It was currently reported that the Castle was haunted by a white lady, although since their entrance into the dreary abode they had hitherto been undisturbed. Persuading themselves that the child had been dreaming, they succeeded in quieting and getting him to sleep. The three following nights they were disturbed in the same manner the child repeating the same story, with little variation, when, after a little consideration, they removed him, and were no longer troubled with the spectre; yet, such was the terror with which it inspired him, that he dared not enter into any part of the old castle alone, even in daylight.

When the boy grew to manhood, although a sensible person, adds Mr. Pattison, he invariably persisted in the truth of his statement, and said that at forty years of age he could recall the scene so vividly as to make him shudder, as if still he felt her cold lips press his checks, and the death-like embrace of her wan arms. He was alive in 1805, and had become a settler in Canada.

The belief that treasure lies buried in Blenkinsopp Castle was not a little strengthened, some years ago, by the arrival of a strange lady at the neighbouring village. She, it would appear, had dreamt that a large chest of gold lay buried in the castle vaults, and, although she had never seen it before, she instantly recognised the castle as the same she had seen in her dream. She stayed several weeks, awaiting the return of the owner of the property to ask leave to search. She had, meanwhile, made the hostess of the inn her confidant, with strict injunctions not to divulge it to anyone. The landlady, unable to preserve so interesting a secret, appears to have told it to every person in the village, but always accompanied with a caution similar to that she had received herself: "Dinna ye be speaking on 't." Whether from the circumstances having acquired such publicity, or from reasons unknown to our informant, cannot be said, but, at any rate, the unknown lady suddenly departed, without, of course, having accomplished the purpose of her pilgrimage to Blenkinsopp.

Up till 1820 some poor families continued to occupy a few of the more habitable rooms of the old castle, but even these are now ruinous and deserted. A few years ago, the occupier of the neighbouring farm gave orders for the vaults underneath the keep to be cleared out, for the purpose of wintering cattle therein. On removing the rubbish, a small doorway, level with the bottom of the keep, was discovered. On clearing out the entrance, the workmen were surprised by the appearance of a large swarm of meat-flies, and the place itself smelt damp and noisome. The news soon spread abroad that the entrance to the " Lady's Vault" had been discovered, and people flocked in great numbers to see it. Of the whole number assembled, however, but one man was found willing to enter. He described the passage as narrow, and not sufficiently high to admit of a man walking upright. He walked in a straightforward direction for a few yards, then descended a flight of steps, after which he again proceeded in a straightforward course until he came to a doorway; the door itself had fallen to pieces, the bolt was rusting in its fastening, and the hinges clung to the post with shaky hold. At this juncture the passage took a sudden turn, and a lengthened flight of precipitous steps presented themselves. Opening his lantern, and turning the light, he peered down the stairs into the thick darkness, but, encountering thick noxious vapours, his candle was extinguished, and he was obliged to grope his way back to his companions. He made another attempt, but never descended the second flight of stairs; and so little curiosity had their employer about the matter, that he ordered it to be closed up, and the contents of the vault remain undiscovered to this day, "When I saw the place” records Mr. Pattison, u some time after this adventure, the hole had been partially opened by some boys, who were amusing themselves with tossing stones therein, and listening to the hollow echoes as they rolled in the depths of the mysterious cavern."



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