TRUE GHOST STORIES FROM WILTSHIRE

Avebury Manor, Avebury, Wiltshire

A Mystical, Haunted Location

The mystery steeped stones of the megalithic monuments for which the village of Avebury is justifiably famed, make intriguing neighbours to this splendid Tudor Mansion, which has monastic origins, beautiful gardens and at least two resident ghosts.

The first phantom to come charging from its past is that of a ghostly Cavalier whose spectral meanderings are presaged by a sudden drop in temperature, followed by the strong smell of roses.

He is believed to be the ghost of Sir John Stawell, a staunch Royalist who was stripped of his possessions in the aftermath of the Civil War and whose devastation at losing his beloved Avebury Manor appears to have proved eternal.

The house’s second ghost belongs to that same conflict, although this one takes the form of a traditional White Lady who glides sadly around the house and grounds, much to the consternation of those chance upon her.

She is said to have been a girl of the household who flung herself from one of the building’s upper windows in despair when her Cavalier lover was killed in a battle during one of the conflict’s many skirmishes.

There can be no doubt that the village of Avebury is one of the most supernaturally charged locations in the whole of England, and to wander the gardens and corridors of its exquisite manor house is as rewarding as it is intriguing.

And should you, in a quiet moment be overwhelmed by the aroma of rose petals, or shiver at the eerie rustle of ancient skirts, comfort yourself in the knowledge that you have walked with ghosts at one of Britain’s most mystical places.

The Old Bell, Malmesbury, Wiltshire

ENGLAND'S OLDEST HOTEL?

The Old Bell was erected around 1220 and has been in continuous use as a place of hospitality ever since.

It is a lovely old building, with stone arches, cosy recesses, blazing log fires and a medieval hooded fireplace that was rediscovered as recently as 1986.

It was originally used to lodge important guests who came to visit Malmesbury Abbey, next to which the old hostelry stands.

The building was greatly expanded in 1908 by its then owner, Joseph Moore.

Tradition holds that he financed the project with a cache of gold that he found buried in the grounds of the abbey.

The building is the haunt of a ghostly grey lady, who is sometimes seen drifting around the upper floors in the early hours.

Nobody knows who she was, or what indignity or tragedy caused her to remain earthbound.

Nor is anyone ever likely to find out: she is a shy spectre who, in a neat reversal of custom, appears to take fright when she meets a living soul, and vanishes into thin air!

The Black Swan Hotel, Devizes, Wiltshire

THE REGION'S MOST HAUNTED HOTEL?

The Black Swan overlooks the Market Place in Devizes, and, although the existing building dates only from 1737, there has been a hostelry on the site for much longer.

Indeed, the hotel’s brick cellar may well date from the early 17th century.

This is, without doubt, one of the spookiest parts of the inn and, as such, has become something of a magnet to investigators of the paranormal in recent years.

The results of their researches seldom disappoint. Tape recorders pick up strange knocks and bangs. Thermometers display alarming drops in temperature.

Video footage shows orbs of light moving in the darkness, and one intrepid group of ghost hunters even managed to photograph the image of a face, peering at them from the cellar wall.

The thought of spending a night in a cold cellar might not be everyone’s idea of a restful break.

So for those who prefer their creature comforts and seek a decent night’s unrest in a haunted bedroom, room 4 is the place to lay your head.

Several guests have left this room in the middle of the night when the resident revenant has turned up to interrupt their slumbers.

She is said to be a young woman in a flowing dress who materializes from the wall, glides to the chair by the window and sits down, gazing out into the night. Having kept her weary vigil for a short time, she rises slowly into the air and floats across to melt into the wall behind the bed.

Two researchers who spent a night in the room hoping to make the acquaintance of the mysterious woman had what they thought was an incident-free ghost-watching session; until, that is, they watched the film from their video camera that had been trained on the chair all night.

At around 1.15am a misty form could be seen floating in the vicinity of the chair. It is debatable as to whether or not this was the ghostly resident playing to the gallery, but one thing is certain: her frequent visits, coupled with the other phenomena that have been experienced in other parts of the building, make a visit to The Black Swan a must for all who seek a much-researched and well-documented haunted hostelry.

Parsonage Wood
Above Castle Coombe, Wiltshire

If You Go Down To The Woods Tonight

Massive trees rise majestically above the sleepy village of Castle Coombe, cradling its honey-stone cottages in a protective embrace that keeps the contemporary world firmly at bay.

In summer, the twittering of the birds and the babbling waters of the Bybrook, lend the area an aura of timeless tranquillity and to stroll beneath the leafy boughs of Parsonage wood, on a warm August evening, is to feel centuries removed from the pressures of the modern age.

But, when the dark cloak of a winter’s night descends across the wood, only the extremely brave or exceedingly foolhardy are to be found upon its muddy paths.

Many people have been alarmed by the sudden sound of disembodied voices, chattering excitedly in the darkness around them.

As they reach a fevered crescendo, the voices are joined by the groans of someone apparently suffering intense pain.

Suddenly a loud scream rends the air and then all goes quiet.

No–one knows for sure what lies behind the strange phenomena, but few who experience it, ever venture into Parsonage Wood again.

Silbury Hill, Nr. Marlborough, Wiltshire

EUROPE'S LARGEST MAN-MADE MOUND

This awe-inspiring wonder is the largest man-made mound in Europe.

It dates from around 2700BC, is 130 foot high and covers five and a half acres.

It has been estimated that it would have taken seven hundred men ten years of continuous labour to fashion the twelve million cubic feet of earth, chalk and stone into the breathtaking monument that confronts us today.

Yet no-one knows why it was built or even what purpose it originally served.

With uncertainty surrounding its origins, numerous scientific and archaeological theories have been put forward to explain and understand it.

Local legend, meanwhile, maintains that the Devil was once on his way to dump a huge sack of earth onto the citizens of Marlborough, when the Druid Priests at nearby Avebury used their magic to stop him.

Unable to reach his goal, the Devil emptied the earth from his sack and thus created Silbury Hill.

Another tradition claims that the hill is the grave of a king whose name was Sil.

He sits at the centre of the mound, wearing a golden suit of armour and astride a gold clad horse.

With such potential riches possibly lying within, Silbury Hill has been subjected to numerous excavations, but nothing of note has ever been found and it remains a silent testimony to a forgotten people whose skills and beliefs we can only wonder at.