The Ghost House That Never Lived: Woodchester Mansion, Gloucestershire
Woodchester Mansion, built with in a secluded valley deep in the Gloucestershire countryside, is a typical haunted house. Complete with menacing gargoyles and Gothic architecture, but although the dead are supposed to roam its forgotten rooms and corridors, the house actually never lived. The grand Victorian mansion was never completed.
The house is an amazing example of Gothic revival architecture, the dream of Liverpudlian, William Leigh, constructed on the site of a much earlier Georgian country house called Spring Park. Work on the mansion started in the 1850s and progress was slow, but by 1866 the clock tower was completed and the roof was in place.
Leigh's Victorian masterpiece didn't progress much further than this. The mansion was abandoned by the very builders who promised it life after Leigh's death in 1973. A local rumour persists that the workers abandoned the project after becoming unsettled by a murder and several mysterious deaths.
Following Leigh's death, his son Willie inherited the site. Willie didn't share his father's passion for the property and upon discovering that it would cost as much to demolish it as it would to complete it, he opted to leave it in its unfinished state.
Now, 150 years later, nothing has changed. From the outside Woodchester Mansion could fool you into thinking it's been lived in for generations, but inside all you'll find is unfinished rooms, missing floors and magnificent fireplaces that have never been lit.
Is Woodchester Mansion Haunted?
The mansion is said to be one of the most haunted places in the UK. There's said to be the ghost of a white lady who haunts the unused rooms and corridors, but most of the paranormal activity has been classified as poltergeist phenomenon, including loud unexplained bangs, stones being thrown in empty rooms and reports of people's hair being pulled by an unseen force.
The house is a popular location for film and television production, while one film crew were working in the house they reported hearing the sound of a stream train powering through the house, despite the fact there is no railway line anywhere near the house.
These hauntings could be a result of the many people who have lived and died on the land before it was purchased by Leigh. The site has been witness to bloody battles and was a base for American and Canadian troops during the Second World War. It's said that 20 troops were killed during a training exercise when a nearby bridge collapsed in 1944. Their bodies are said to be buried near the mansion.
The chapel is one of the finest parts of the mansion, it is especially high for its length, but the plans suggest that the original designs intended it to be longer. There are reports of the chapel being used for dark satanic rituals, black magic and Devil worship. The dark, shadowy figure of a tall man has been spotted here.
The cellar is said to be one of the most haunted parts of the building. Some who have been brave enough to venture deep into these dark, vaulted lower levels alone, are said to have observed some strange and terrifying occurrences, including the sensation of their hair being pulled, unexplained noises, and dark shadow-like mists. It's believed that this part of the property is haunted by non-human entities known as elemental spirits.
The upper levels of the mansion are also said to be haunted, the spirit of an old woman is said to grab female visitors an the ghost of a young girl has been seen running up and down the stairs on the first floor, not far from the ornate bathroom, which features a bath carved from a single block of stone, with two stone gargoyle faucets. It's in this room that visitors have seen the vision of a ghostly head floating through the air.
On the ground floor, the kitchen, which is one of the few spaces that has been updated since building stopped, is reported to be another paranormal hotspot. This area of the house plays host to disembodied footsteps, unexplained noises and strange goings on with a clock.
At one time a large clock mechanism, intended to go in the clock tower, was stored in the kitchen. And it said that during its time here, the mechanism would stop and start on its own.
The mansion's grounds are also allegedly haunted, the spooks include a Roman soldier, a figure resembling a monk and a ghostly horseman, which was seen by a vicar at the main gates. The horseman is believed to be the spirit of Sir Rupert de Lansigny, a former owner of the land who inherited it after killing his cousin. His ghost is seen riding a black horse along the mansion's drive.
A phantom coach and the ghost of a ragged dwarf has also been seen on several occasions on the driveway.
Yvette Fielding and her team broadcast from the house during a live episode of Most Haunted on the night of the summer solstice in 2003. They based themselves in the drawing room, the only room in the whole of the grand building to ever be completed. The show's spiritualist medium, Derek Acorah, picked up on many of the grim tales from the building's past, including the story of a servant girl who was strangled by a builder in around 1840.
Most Haunted returned to the house in 2005, but they're not the only television show to visit the property. Paranormal shows 'Hauntings', 'Scariest Places On Earth' and 'Ghost Hunters International' filmed episodes at Woodchester Mansion and a 2006 BBC production of 'Dracula' was shot in the house. Some of the doors in the cellar were props, which were installed by the BBC and have been left in situ ever since.
More recently, the mansion and the surrounding grounds have been used as a filming location for the second series of the Netflix show, 'The Crown'.
As well as its ghosts, the mansion is also home to a very important breeding colony of around 450 greater horseshoe bats, which feed in the insect-rich grassland surrounding the mansion.
If you want to explore this unique and haunted unfinished masterpiece, the mansion is usually open to the public every Friday, Saturday and Sunday from March until the end of October, as well as bank holiday Mondays. For more information on visiting, see the Woodchester Mansion Trust's official website
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