Powis Castle

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  1. Ian Topham says:

    Re: Powis Castle
    The Haunted Homes and Family Traditions of Great Britain by John Ingram (1897)

    According to Camden this ancient stronghold was formerly called "Kasteth Koch," or Ked Castle, on account of the colour of the stone with which it was built. It stands on a rocky elevation in the midst of a well-wooded park, and despite the restoration which it has undergone at the hands of Sir Eobert Smirke is not considered " a thing of beauty." If the outside be irregular in style the interior is heavy and gloomy, and thoroughly appropriate for the localisation of ghostly legends. It possesses, among other interesting relics, a state chamber, still maintained in the exact condition it was in when prepared for the reception of Charles I. Since the time of Queen Elizabeth, when the surrounding estate was purchased by the Heberts, Powis Castle has been the seat of the Earls Powis. There are naturally various legends connected with this time-honoured dwelling, one being that the lake in the Castle park, from which the adjacent town of Welshpool takes its name, " shall sometime overflow and deluge the town." But there is also a well-authenticated and most circumstantial ghost story of Powis Castle, for the record of which we are indebted to the Autobiography of Thomas Wright, of Birkenshaw.

    In 1780, it became known to the townsfolk of Welshpool, that there was living amongst them a certain poor unmarried woman who had conversed with the Castle ghost, and that it had confided a great secret to her. The woman thus selected for this alleged trust was a member of the Methodist Society, and "had become serious under their ministry." Mr. John Hampson, a well-known preacher amongst the Wesleyan Methodists, being desirous of probing this strange story to the core, sent for the woman, and earnestly besought her to tell him the whole truth about the affair. She promised to give him as exact an account as she possibly could, and then proceeded with the following narration, to the correctness of which many persons could bear witness. She described herself as a poor woman who obtained a livelihood by spinning hemp and line, and stated that it was customary for the farmers and gentlemen of the district to grow enough hemp or line in their fields for their own home-consumption, and as she was a good hand at spinning, she was accustomed to go from house to house to inquire for work. It was the custom at houses where she stayed, to provide her with meat and drink, and if necessary with lodging, whilst she was thus employed, and when she left to make her some little present.

    One day she chanced to call at Earl Powis’s country residence, Red Castle as it was called, to inquire for work, according to custom. The " quality," as she termed the family, were at this time in London, hut had, as usual, left the steward and his wife, with certain other servants, to take charge of the place during their absence. The steward’s wife set her to work, and in the evening told her that she must stay all night with them, as they had more work for her to do next day. When it was time to go to bed, three of the servants, each carrying a lighted candle in her hand, conducted her to the room she was to sleep in. It was an apartment on the ground floor, with a boarded floor and two sash windows, and was grandly furnished, with a hand- some bedstead in one corner of it. They had made up a good fire for her, and had placed a chair and table before it, with a large lighted candle upon the table. They informed her that that was to be her bed-room, and that she might go to bed whenever she pleased. They then wished her a good night, and all withdrew together, pulling the door quickly after them, so as to hasp the spring-sneck in the brass lock that was upon it.

    When the servants had thus hastily departed, the poor spinster gazed around at the grand furniture, and was in no slight astonishment that they should put such a person as she was in so fine a room and so comfortable a bed, with all the conveniences of fire, chair, table, and candle. After having made a survey of the place, she sat down, and took out of her pocket a small Welsh Bible which she always carried about with her, and in which she always read a chapter, chiefly in the New Testament, before she said her prayers and retired to rest.

    Whilst the woman was reading she heard the door opeu, and turning her head, was astonished to see a gentleman enter the room ; he wore a gold-laced hat and waistcoat, with coat and the rest of his attire to correspond. He walked down by the sash window to the corner of the room, and then returned. When he came, as he returned to the first window, the bottom of which was nearly breast high, he rested his elbow on the bottom of the window and the side of his face upon the palm of his hand, and stood in that leaning posture for some time, with his side partly towards her. She looked at him earnestly to see if she knew him, but although, from her frequent intercourse with them, she had a personal knowledge of all the family and its retainers, he appeared to be a perfect stranger to her. She supposed, afterwards, that he stood in this manner to encourage her to speak; but as she did not utter a word, after some little time he walked off, pulling the door to after him as the servants had done previously. She began now to be much alarmed, concluding it to be an apparition, and that they had put her in that grand room because it was haunted. And that was really the case.

    For some long time past the room had been so disturbed that nobody could sleep in it peaceably, and as she passed for a very serious woman, the servants conceived the fine project of putting the poor Methodist and the spirit together, in order to see what the result
    would be.

    Startled at the thought that it was an apparition she had seen, the woman rose from her chair, and kneeling down by the bedside, began saying her prayers. Whilst she was praying the apparition came in again, walked round the room, and came close behind her. She now endeavoured to speak, but when she attempted it she was so agitated that she could not utter a word. The apparition walked out of the room again, pulling the door after it as it had done before. She begged that God would strengthen her, and not suffer her to be tried bevond what she was able to bear ; she now recovered her spirits somewhat, and thought she felt more confidence and resolution, and determined if it came in again she would speak to it if possible. Presently it came in again, walked round the room, and came behind her as before. She turned her head and said, "Pray, Sir, who are you, and what do you want?" It lifted its finger, and said, "Take up the candle and follow me, and I will tell you."

    She got up, took up the candle, and followed it out of the room. It led her through a long boarded passage till they got to the door of another room, which it opened and went into. It was a very small room, or what might be called a large closet.

    "As the room was small, and I believed him to be a spirit," said she, in her recital of the affair, " I stopped at the door ; he turned and said, ‘Walk in; I will not hurt you’. So I walked in. Then he said, ‘Observe what I do.’ I said, ‘I will’.

    He stooped and tore up one of the boards of the floor, and there appeared under it a box with an iron handle in the lid. He said, ‘Do you see that box?’ I said, ‘Yes, I do.’

    "He then stepped to one side of the room, and showed me a crevice in the wall, where he said a key was hid that would open it. He said, ‘This box and key must be taken out and sent to the Earl in London;’ naming the Earl and his place of residence in the metropolis. He said, ‘Will you see it done?’ I said, ‘I will do my best to get it done.’ He said, ‘Do, and I will trouble the house no more.’

    It then walked out of the room and left her. As soon as the woman saw that the apparition had departed, she went to the room-door and set up a loud shout. The steward and his wife, together with all the other servants, ran to her immediately ; they were all clinging to one another and carrying lights. It seems that they had all been waiting to see the issue of the interview between the woman and the apparition. They asked her what was the matter. She then told them all that had taken place, and showed them the box. The steward dare not meddle with it, but his wife was of a more courageous temperament, and with the assistance of the other servants, tugged it out, and found the key in the place indicated by the apparition. The woman stated that, by the way in which they lifted it, it appeared to be pretty heavy, but that she did not see it opened, and, therefore, did not know what it contained ; whether money or writings of importance to the family, or both. The servants took it away with them, and the woman averred that she then went to bed and slept peaceably till the morning.

    It appeared, from what was subsequently learnt, that the box and its contents were sent to the Earl in London, together with an account of how it was discovered and by whom. The Earl immediately sent down orders to his steward to inform the poor woman, who had been the means of the discovery, that if she would come and reside in his family she should be comfortably provided for the remainder of her days ; or, if she did not care to reside constantly with them, if she would let him know when she wanted assistance, she should be liberally supplied at his lordship’s expense as long as she lived. And according to the account related by Mr. John Hampson, it was a fact well known in the neighbourhood that the woman had been supplied from the Earl’s family ever since the time when the affair was said to have happened.