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WEIRD SUFFOLK: The ghost of Thorington Hall who is scared of the living

PUBLISHED: 18:00 02 May 2020

Weird Suffolk : Thorington Hall Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Weird Suffolk : Thorington Hall Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Archant

Deep in the heart of Constable country is Thorington Hall, a jewel in Suffolk’s architectural crown available to rent complete with a private chef…and a ghost.

The timber-framed farmhouse, set in 1,000 acres of farmland close to Colchester, dates from the 16th century and boasts a host of wonderful features, including a six-flue chimney stack, a Priest Hole, a cellar and…witch repellents.

Thorington Hall is filled with magic: apotropaic marks of three interlocking circles have been scratched into woodwork to ward off evil spirits and, before the refurbishments of 1937, dark symbols thought to have been burned on to the plaster by candles were visible in photographs. Additionally, a shoe and a wooden recorder were buried in a wall behind one of the main chimneys to protect the hall from enchantment. While these traditional antidotes to evil may well have done their job, they most certainly have not repelled the Hall’s own ghost, who has appeared to families living at the building for many years.

In The Ghosthunters Almanac, written by Peter Underwood and first published in 1993, the section on Thorington noted that: “…footsteps are heard in an upstairs passage where the ghost has most frequently been seen by previous and present occupants, and by the occasional visitor. “Witnesses include Dr Peter Hilton-Rowe, Dr Christobel Nicholson and Lord Amwell.” Reports are all broadly similar: a young woman appears wearing a brown or yellow dress with a cord tied around her waist is spotted in one of the upstairs passages and on the landing in front of the stairs. When she was seen by one witness, at dusk, she raised her hand to her mouth in shock that she had been spotted before disappearing in front of his eyes.

In the Dedham Vale Society’s newsletter for Winter 2018/19, there is a fascinating article about the phantom resident of the 17th century farmhouse on the Suffolk and Essex border.

It reads: “Some have mentioned sightings of a woman or girl in a brown dress, others have recalled hearing the sound of running feet. A group of National Trust staff have even noticed the distinct smell of talcum powder at dusk in one of the main bedrooms.”

Guardian journalist Sam Wollaston moved into the house in 1976 explained to writer Georgie Russell that his father, the late Nicholas Wollaston, a traveller and writer, had stayed up all night to meet the ghost who they presumed was a Mrs Umfreville, whose portrait hung on the wall.

The article continues: “…by all accounts the caretaker, Fred Burton, came across her in a corridor and a Wollaston guest woke up to find her standing by his bed.” Elizabeth Umfreville lived at the hall in the 17th century having married Thomas May of Thorington Hall on December 21 1665.

The Wollastons left the Hall in 2007 and the National Trust struggled to find a new tenant – one family, the Scotts, only stayed for a year after moving in. “They had a string of supernatural experiences at the hall. First came the running footsteps. Tamsin and her husband would be watching television and hear a thud, thus, thud from above and quickly head upstairs to check their children.

“Each time their little ones would be fast asleep though and they were faced with no other option but to accept the haunting sound as part of life at Thorington. But like other ‘Thorington Hallers’ before her, Tamsin never felt fear. In fact she says she felt protected.”

Thorington Hall has been a holiday let for the National Trust since 2014 and has been fully-refurbished, giving holidaymakers the chance to stay in bedrooms steeped in history (and possibly meet Mrs Umfreville on the landing, at night).


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