Green Lady of Thorpe Hall
Historically, Thorpe Hall was owned by the Bolle family, one of the most colourful of whom was Sir John Bolle (born 1560 – died 3 November 1606). A swashbuckling Elizabethan adventurer, gentleman and patriot, Bolle took part in Sir Walter Raleigh’s 1596 attack and capture of Cadiz. Following the capture of the town, Bolle was allotted responsibility for the protection of a prisoner- a beautiful and wealthy Spanish lady, Donna Leonora Oviedo.
Ever the gentleman, Bolle treated Donna Leonora with kindness and courtesy, and she began to fall in love with him. When the English fleet was preparing to return home, the lady begged Bolle to take her back with him and marry her. Bolle was already married, but not wishing to embarass the lady, he protested that the sea journey would be too arduous for her. Still she pleaded with him and eventually he had to confess that he had a wife in England who was awaiting his return.
Donna Leonora then gave Bolle all her jewellery, insisting he take it as a present for his wife. She then presented him with a final gift, a portrait of herself in her favourite green dress. She asked that he hang it in his home and remember her always. Donna Leonora then retired to live out the rest of her lonely days in a convent. Bolle hung the portrait in Thorpe Hall upon his return, and never forgot the Spanish lady who had loved him, even having the servants set a place for her at the dinner table each evening.
It is believed that the sad spectre of Donna Leonora can be seen on occasion, wandering around the gardens of Thorpe Hall in her green dress, forlornly hoping to be nearer the man she loved, but could never love her back.
Author: P A McHugh