The house of the spirits
Lanhydrock House seen from its gateway, Cornwall
Some background information:
Lanhydrock House is a great mansion, which stands in extensive grounds above the River Fowey, south of the town of Bodmin. It’s a Grade I listed building owned and managed by the National Trust since 1953.
Much of the present house dates back to Victorian times but some sections even date from the 1620s. Lanhydrock estate once belonged to the Augustinian priory of St Petroc at Bodmin but the Dissolution of the Monasteries during the 1530s saw it pass into private hands. In 1620 wealthy merchant Sir Richard Robartes acquired the estate and began building Lanhydrock House, designed to a four-sided layout around a central courtyard and constructed of grey granite. Robartes died in 1624 but work on the building was continued by his son John Robartes, 1st Earl of Radnor, a notable public figure who served as Lord Privy Seal and Lord President of the Council. After John Robartes’ death in 1685 his heirs Charles Bodville Robartes (1660 to 1723), 2. Earl of Radnor, and Henry Robartes (1695 to 1741), 3. Earl of Radnor, chose different places of residence over Lanhydrock House and therefore the building and the estate subsequently almost went to rack.
The next heir Mary Vere Robartes, the great-granddaughter of John Robartes, even considered to completely tear down Lanhydrock House. But in 1788 her oldest son George Hunt began to restore the building. He bequeathed the estate to his niece Anna Maria Hunt, who used to stay there quite often. At the suggestion of his mother her son Thomas James Agar took over the Robartes’ coat of arms in 1822 and became 1st Lord Robartes. He also accepted responsibility for Lanhydrock and its further renovation.
On 4th April 1881 all efforts seemed to be destroyed, when a large fire fully devastated the southern wing and partially also the western wing. But in the following years Thomas Charles Agar-Robartes, the 3rd Lord Robartes and then head of the household, let everything rebuild once again. Already in 1885 the family Agar-Robartes was able to permanently move into the house. In 1899 Thomas Charles Agar-Robartes also inherited the title 6th Viscount Clifdon from his kinsman Leopold Agar-Ellis, 5th Viscount Clifdon, who died without issues.
All nine children of Thomas Charles Agar-Robartes grew up at Lanhydrock. After the oldest son Tommy died in 1915 on Flanders fields due to a gunshot wound, the second oldest son Francis Gerald inherited both titles as well as Lanhydrock estate. In 1953 the house and approximately 160 hectares (400 acres) of parkland were given to the National Trust by Francis Gerald, 3rd Lord Robartes and 7th Viscount Clifden. The public tour is one of the longest of any National Trust house and takes in the service rooms, nurseries and some servants' bedrooms, as well as the main reception rooms and family bedrooms. In 2004 Lanhydrock House and Gardens was one of the Trust's ten most visited paid-entry properties, with over 200,000 visitors.
In 1996 Lanhydrock was the main setting for a version of “Twelfth Night” directed by Trevor Nunn with Helena Bonham Carter playing the leading role.
Lanhydrock House and its hauntings:
Lanhydrock has several resident ghosts. Amongst them is a little old lady dressed in grey, who is often seen in the Long Gallery and in the Drawing Room. But she’s not really a ghostly figure. In fact she looks as if she is a living human in period costume, but until one is almost next to her, she vanishes and one realises that she was no person from flesh and blood.
Rumour has it the old lady is the ghost of Lady Juliana Robartes, who survived the fire of 1881, being rescued from an upstairs window, but died of the shock just a few days later. In the Smoking Room fresh cigar smoke can still be smelled every day and it is said, that the room is haunted by Lady Juliana’s husband Thomas James Robartes, 2nd Lord Robartes, who was a heavy cigar smoker and died just one year after his wife of a broken heart.
Other rooms in the home are also said to be haunted by various ghosts. These rooms include the Nursery Suite, the Servants' Quarters, the Prayer Room Corridor and the Prayer Room itself.
In July 2004 the Paranormal Society was invited to spend a night at Lanhydrock House, along with all its ghost monitoring equipment. The purpose of the invitation was to find out if the House was haunted and if yes, by whom.
When the ghostbusters compiled their notes, they had identified the following ghosts: In the Nursery Room there was the ghost of a young girl giggling, in the Long Gallery the sound of a heavy table or chair being dragged across the floor could be heard and on the grounds the figure of a male ghost was observed. The group also made contact with several ghosts, including a maidservant called Elizabeth Hargreaves, who said that she had fallen down the stairs in 1823.
By the way, it’s not that I believe in ghosts. But I enjoy reading every kind of ghost stories. ;-)