Bishop’s Palace, Darlington
Built in 1970, the Town Hall now stands on the site of the old Bishop’s Palace in Darlington and there is a story associated with this older building concerning the English Civil War, the murder of a local Lady and her subsequent ghost.
The following account of the haunting appeared in the Shields Gazette on Wednesday 20 May 2009 in an article by Mike Hallowell entitled ‘Has the Grey Lady found a new haunt?’
THE Old Bishop’s Palace in Darlington was a beautiful building. Alas, it was demolished by the local council in 1938, and with it went a slice of sinister history.
Many moons ago, when our nation was suffering from the turbulence of the Civil War, a certain Lady Jarrett was left alone at the palace for reasons which are obscure.
What happened subsequently has been the subject of much debate, but one story is that she was murdered by her footman.
However, the general consensus is that she was spotted walking in the grounds by a roaming band of Cromwellian Roundheads, whose moral standards were even lower than the self-righteous, but utterly despicable, Cromwell himself.
According to legend, the men chased (or dragged) Lady Jarrett into the palace and robbed her.
They were especially interested in a valuable ring on her finger, but were unable to remove it.
So they did the obvious; they simply removed her entire hand at the wrist with one slash of a sword.
The men gathered up whatever else they could find of value and
fled. Lady Jarrett left the lounge awash with blood, including a bloodied handprint on one of the stone flags.
She staggered outside and managed to reach an archway before collapsing.
It wasn’t long before Lady Jarrett’s ghost was seen in the palace, colloquially known as the Grey Lady.
Historian RA Luck testified that attempts to remove her bloody handprint and the bloodstains were unsuccessful.
Luck himself heard the dead woman’s eerie footfalls on numerous occasions, he also detected the sound of rustling silk dress and even felt her breath on his face.
On one occasion, Luck visited the haunted room with his family.
At 2am he crept out of bed and returned, counted to 200 and waited – but Jarrett’s ghost did not reappear.
Despite possessing a good reputation during her life, after death Lady Jarrett’s ghost became malevolent.
In 1854, she was described by the historian W Hylton Dyer Longstaffe as “a Robin Goodfellow”.
Robin Goodfellow is a mischievous sprite who is renowned in folklore for playing tricks on unwary passers-by. Other witnesses speak more kindly of her.
On a number of occasions, her spirit was said to have turned up at a local workhouse and made coffee for the residents.
Lady Jarrett’s ghost was seen wandering among crowds of shoppers in the town centre, her last recorded appearance being, to my knowledge, in 1938.
The arch in which the dying Lady Jarrett was found has since been moved to the Grotto Garden, at South Park, where it can still be seen to this day.
The site of the palace, commonly known as the Leadyard, now plays host to the town hall.
It is rumoured that an underground tunnel exists at the site which leads to St Cuthbert’s Church.
Here, allegedly, the spectre of Lady Jarrett has taken up residence since the demolition of the palace.
Other witnesses claim to have seen the ghost of the Grey Lady staggering through the tunnel which now stands in the Grotto Garden.
Several have also reported seeing her apparition glide across the River Skerne, her face bearing an incredibly sad countenance as if lamenting her fate.
What really happened to Lady Jarrett that fateful night will probably never be known; however, there have been many witnesses over the centuries who have testified sincerely that her violent death did not remove her spirit from the old Bishop’s Palace.