The Ghosts of Berry Pomeroy Castle
Berry Pomeroy Castle
Hidden away in a wooded Devon valley, Berry Pomeroy could be the inspiration for a hundred fairy-tale castles. Now a romantic ruin, its walls echo with intrigue and mystery. Beloved by artists and writers alike, it is steeped in history. Within the original castle walls stands the abandoned Elizabethan home of the Pomeroy and Seymour families. Intended to be the most impressive mansion of its day, it was left to decay along with the dilapidated castle that embraces it. Today, thousands make the pilgrimage to visit this beautiful site. Some are drawn by its history, some are drawn by its architecture. But many are drawn for another reason. Berry Pomeroy has the bloodcurdling reputation of being the most haunted castle in England.
A Brief History of Berry Pomeroy Castle
Built by the influential Devon family, the Pomeroys, the castle and the later house were sold to the Seymour family in 1547. The house and land has stayed in the possession of this same family ever since, except for a brief period when it was forfeited to the crown. The Seymours were famed for their profound influence on the politics of Tudor England. Jane Seymour became the third wife of Henry VIII and the mother of his only surviving male heir. After supporting the Royalists during the English Civil War, the family’s coffers became depleted. When the castle was damaged by a lightning strike in the late 17thcentury the family abandoned the expensive castle and moved elsewhere. Berry Pomeroy lay crumbling for the next hundred years, abandoned and unloved. In the nineteenth century, it was rediscovered by romantic poets and artists. Keen to share the beauty of the buildings and the surrounding woods, their work inspired a revival of interest in the castle and its history.
It was perhaps inevitable that Berry Pomeroy Castle would attract tales of hauntings and ghostly residents. Approaching Berry Pomeroy during the day is stunning. The first glimpses come through a veil of trees which mask the path to the castle. Imagine then, seeing this stunning building as day slips into night. The castle outlined against a full moon or merging into a shadowy dusk must be spectacular. As more and more people have visited the castle over the years, tales of supernatural occurrences have multiplied. Some claim to have seen phantoms moving about the building, others have heard strange noises or have been overwhelmed by feelings of panic and nausea. Small wonder then that Berry Pomeroy now lays claim to the title of England’s most haunted castle. Who are these ghostly phantoms that stalk the castle walls after dark terrifying visitors and locals alike? Read on to discover more.
Just Some of the Ghostly Sightings Reported at Berry Pomeroy
The Child Isabella
The ghost of the child Isabella is thought to frequent the kitchens of Berry Pomeroy Castle. Estimated to be about nine years old she is rumoured to be the illegitimate daughter of a Pomeroy noble and a servant. On entering the kitchen one evening, she witnessed her mother being attacked by a group of visiting noblemen. In a desperate bid to save her mother the child intervened. The story goes that both her and her mother died in the attack. The child's presence has been felt about the kitchens ever since and is thought to inspire intense fear. Desperately seeking help for her mother, the little girl is rumoured to have followed friendly visitors home.
The White Lady
The White Lady is one of the most famous ghosts of Berry Pomeroy Castle. She is said to haunt the dungeons and St. Margaret’s Tower. Rumoured to be the ghost of Lady Margaret Pomeroy who was imprisoned by her older sister for being prettier, she spent many years languishing in the filthy dungeons below the castle. Eventually, the unfortunate Margaret starved to death. Those that encounter the ghost of the White Lady or feel her presence are gripped by a sense of evil and malevolence. Her presence is mostly felt on the narrow steps that lead down to her dungeon. Those that sense her, feel her brushing past as she makes her way past them and up the stairwell.
The Blue Lady
The Blue Lady is thought to be a daughter of the Pomeroy family. The poor girl was forced into an incestuous relationship with her father. When she gave birth, she killed the innocent child by strangling it. Perhaps she wanted to save the child from a fate like hers. Whatever the truth of the matter, she now wanders the castle of a night. The Blue Lady is mainly witnessed by men. Dressed in a long blue cape, she calls for help. Those that respond to her are lured to the most dangerous parts of the castle where she attempts to push them to their deaths. On one night of the year a blue light is seen glowing near St. Margaret’s Tower. Could it be the Blue Lady marking the passing of her dead child? The wailing of a baby has been heard around the tower. Interestingly the tower is dedicated to St. Margaret of Antioch, the patron saint of pregnancy. The Blue Lady was witnessed by an eminent doctor called to attend the wife of a castle steward. When the doctor asked who the lady in the blue cloak was, the steward paled. He knew immediately that the doctor had witnessed an apparition. Despite being assured that his wife should live, the steward insisted that the appearance of the Blue Lady was a harbinger of death. Later that night he was proven correct when his wife passed away.
Like many castles in England, Berry Pomeroy castle came under siege. Starving and facing defeat, two Pomeroy brothers are rumoured to have taken their own lives rather than fall into enemy hands. The two young brothers dressed in full suits of armour and rode their horses up to the top of the castle ramparts. Together with their horses, they leapt to their deaths. Since this time the area of the castle where they fell has been known as Pomeroy’s Leap. Visitors to this area claim to have heard screams and thuds as well as the pitiful whinnying of dying horses.
The Smiling Cavalier
The smiling Cavalier is seen on the roadway outside the castle walls. Dressed in cavalier style clothing. he has long black hair arranged in the curls of the day and sports a large bushy moustache. The cavalier is witnessed, not walking at ground level, but where the old path to the castle used to be. When encountered by an unsuspecting public, he has been known to smile and tell them he is on his way to the pub.
Other Ghostly Visitors
As if the list of spectres haunting Berry Pomeroy Castle wasn't long enough. Visitors and residents of the castle have reported seeing many more. This list includes;
- The Guardsman The guardsman has been seen standing on the ramparts of the castle. Dressed in the clothes of a medieval guardsman, he carries a lantern. Witnesses who have approached him intrigued by the light, claim that he has grinned at them menacingly before evaporating into thin air. Others claim to have heard his footsteps on the castle ramparts as he keeps his lonely watch.
- The Old Gardener The gardener has been seen by previous residents of the house working in the gardens. When one surprised resident saw him scything the grass in front of the house she sent out her child to ask how he had got in to the grounds. By the time the child had reached the spot where her mother had indicated, the gardener had disappeared.
- The Dogs A large dog has been seen on a number of occasions in the Great Hall of Berry Pomeroy. The dog does not look ghostly and on many occasions people have attempted to pet him, only to discover he has no substance. Another less friendly dog, stalks the grounds. When approached by strangers he snarls and growls before fading away.
- The Cane Bearer The Cane Bearer is a young woman dressed in rags. She is seen holding a bunch of canes used to make baskets. The young woman makes no noise but is known to poke people with her canes if she takes against them. Like the child Isabella, the Cane Bearer is known to follow unsuspecting members of the public home.
Whether you believe in ghosts or not, Berry Pomeroy Castle is well worth a visit if you are in Devon. Still owned by the Seymour family, it is managed now by English Heritage who welcome thousands of visitors every year. For those who do believe in ghosts prepare yourself for the experience of a lifetime as you walk in the footsteps of scores of people who have lived, died and possibly still haunt this beautiful old ruin.