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.