A Ghost Story
by Craven and Valley Life
From the book ‘Times Past at Bolton Abbey’ by John M Sheard
Did you know that the 10th Duke of Devonshire had seen a ghost? He was Lord Hartington at the time and still at Eton. His accounts of his experience were sent at the time to the 2nd Viscount Halifax, who was compiling a Ghost Book, which was only published in 1936 after his death.
King George V and the 9th Duke of Devonshire. They were staying at Bolton Abbey for the shooting when the incident occurred on 18th August 1912. Lord Hartington was staying, not at the Hall, but at the Rectory close by.
His article was as follows:- “They saw the ghost standing in the doorway of my room looking not at, but past me at 11.15 p.m. on Sunday, 18th August. I was sleeping at the Rectory and saw him when I turned left handed from the stairs, which are in three flights, and looked down the passage some eleven yards long, at the end of which is the door of my room. While I was going up me last flight, which consisted of six steps, I thought someone was there but attached no importance to this as the Rector often met me on the stairs. I thought at once it was a ghost, but was not frightened of him until afterwards. He was below the middle height and seemed to be an old man of sixty five or so. His face was unusually round, or, broad in proportion to its length, and was very heavily lined and wrinkled. The eves were bright and the face might have been that of an old woman, but for the tact that there was about a week’s growth of greyish stubble on his chin.
There was a hood over the head and he was dressed in a long garment like a dressing gown. The hood and shoulders seemed to be grey, but lower down the colour was black and brown. The light was behind me and I had a candle in my hand, so that his head and shoulders were fairly brightly lighted, while lower down was in shadow. I looked at him for a second or two, and then went down to fetch the Rector from his study. He was however, not there, and taking the
lantern with which I had come across from the Hall, I went up stairs again, but the figure had gone.
I had heard of the ghost before but this was the account I gave of him before I heard any description whatever of him. I was not thinking of the ghost when I saw him, but he was being discussed in the Hall at that moment. There was no question of his being transparent, he was as solid as an actual man. The wall of my room is the old monastery wall and is seven feet thick. The habit of the Monastery was not brown but white so he was certainly not a monk of Bolton Abbey.”
It seems as though the 10th Duke was not the only person to experience this apparition. Duchess Evelyn wrote to Lady Halifax that the ghost appeared to be the same man whom the Rector had seen two or three times, unshaven and with a very round face. Has anyone else since 1912 seen the ghost?
My thanks to Pat Doxey and Terry Orwin for this account from Chatsworth.
I wish to add my own comment for I had always understood the Canons at Bolton Priory had worn dark brown or black cloaks and not white ones.
In the 1980s my mother was living in the Old Rectory, in rooms separated from the main house. She told me one morning that during the night she awoke because she had the feeling someone was in the room, and saw an elderly man clothed in dark vestments and hood standing beside her bed. I asked her if she was frightened. “No”, she said, “he had a friendly look on his face, smiled and then completely disappeared.”
I am left in no doubt this could have been the same Canon seen by the 10th Duke of Devonshire.