Althorpe Park

Althorpe Park was in the nineteenth century the subject of a fairly singular ghost story. As John Ingram, in Haunted Homes (1888), remarks:

That a residence of the antiquity and importance of Althorp should have a ghost is nothing unusual … The apparition which is connected with Earl Spencer’s palatial dwelling, however, is not of the character one generally finds connected with places of that rank …

The story Ingram tells is that Mr (later Archdeacon) Drury was invited by Lord and Lady Lyttleton to go with them to Althorpe on a visit to Earl Spencer, Lady Lyttleton’s father. After dinner, Mr Drury and Lord Lyttleton played billiards, going on with their game so late that finally one of the servants came and asked them, when they went to bed, to put out the lights themselves as Earl Spencer was always worried about fire. Looking at their watches, they were amazed to see that it was past two, and both of them went to bed.

Some time later, Mr Drury was woken by a light falling on his face. Opening his eyes, he saw at the foot of the bed a stable-man, in a striped shirt and flat cap, who was carrying a lantern with the bullseye turned full on him. ‘What do you want, my man? Is the house on fire?’ exclaimed Mr Drury, but received no reply. Further questions met with the same silence, and finally he told the man to take himself off ‘as an impudent scoundrel, whose conduct should be reported to his master’. The figure then slowly lowered the lantern and passed into the dressing room, from which there was no exit other than the door by which he had entered. ‘You won’t be able to get out that way,’ called Mr Drury, then dropped off to sleep again without waiting to see what followed.

Next morning, he remarked to Lady Lyttleton that it was a very odd thing but he had been disturbed by a stable-man walking into his room in the middle of the night. He said he supposed he was drunk, though he did not seem so. When he described the man’s dress and general appearance, Lady Lyttleton turned pale and said, ‘You have described my father’s favourite groom, who died a fortnight ago, and whose duty it was to go round the house after everyone had gone to bed, to see that the lights were extinguished, and with strict orders to enter any room where one was seen burning.’

Ingram did not know whether or not the groom was ever seen by Mr Drury or anyone else at Althorpe again. The folklorist Christina Hole connected this story of a ‘faithful servitor’ with others concerning the return of monks and priests to the abbeys or priories or churches they once served, saying, ‘So much of a man’s energy and devotion are expended in this life upon his work that it is not surprising to hear of those who returned after death to the scene of their labours.’



Haunted England : The Penguin Book of Ghosts – Written by Jennifer Westwood and Jacqueline Simpson
Copyright © Jennifer Westwood and Jacqueline Simpson 2005, 2008