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England's Haunted Houses: Raynham Hall

By Edited Jul 22, 2015 0 0

This Norfolk stately home has been the ancestral home of the Townshend family for three hundred years. It is said to be haunted by the Brown Lady, a woman in a brown brocade dress who has often terrified witnesses with her hollow eyes and tragic appearance. She is reputed to be Dorothy Townshend (1686 – 1726), sister of Sir Robert Walpole, the first ever British Prime Minister, who in 1713 married the owner of Raynham Hall, Lord Charles Townshend (1674 – 1738). Charles was a famous politician, later nicknamed 'Turnip' Townshend for his interest in farming.

Raynham Hall, Norfolk

An independent-minded woman, Dorothy enjoyed a vivid and often scandalous social life before her marriage. Her relationship with Charles Townshend became unhappy; it was said that he had a violent temper, and did not appreciate the gossip about his wife's colourful past. When she died of smallpox in 1726, aged forty, there were rumours that she had in fact been locked up in her rooms and starved to death, or pushed down Raynham's oak staircase. Within weeks of the funeral servants began to report sightings of Dorothy's ghost, often at twilight and on the staircase.

Dorothy Townshend

Over the years and centuries, the Brown Lady continued to appear: the future George IV, Prince Regent, left Raynham in the middle of the night when he found her standing at his bedside during an overnight stay at the Hall in the early 1800s, and writer Captain Frederick Marryat fired his pistol at her when she appeared to him in 1836. The bullet passed straight through the Brown Lady and damaged the opposite wall, as she faded quietly away.

Photograph said to show the Brown Lady, Raynham Hall

In 1936, Hubert Provand and Indra Shira, two photographers from Country Life magazine, believed they had captured the ghost on camera, when she appeared before them as they photographed the staircase at Raynham Hall. Their photograph looks both vivid and convincing, but more recently it has been argued that the 'ghost' on the stairs could be the result of an accidental double exposure. Undeniably, since the photograph was taken, the purported image of the Brown Lady has travelled far beyond Raynham Hall - where few sightings of her have been reported since.

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