Chaddesley Corbett

Harvington Hall, about a mile (1.6 km) north-west of the village, is a late Elizabethan mansion, much remodelled in the seventeenth century; it is notable for its many priest holes and secret passages, one of which had a pulley whereby one could descend from an upper floor to ground level, and then exit from the house by a hidden door near the moat.

According to local tradition, as reported by the folklorist Roy Palmer in 1992, the surrounding district is haunted by a ghostly huntsman and a pack of demonic hounds. The hunter is said to be a medieval nobleman, Sir Peter Corbet, who died in about 1300, and whose home was on the site where the present Hall stands; he had been granted the unusual privilege of a permission to hunt in the royal forests, in order to keep down the number of wolves in the district. The place where he is said to have kept his pack of wolfhounds can still be seen as a stone-lined pit called the Kennels, which was said to be linked to the Hall itself by an underground tunnel passing under the moat – an imaginary extension, presumably, of the real passage described above.

Sir Peter had a daughter, and she was in love with a young man from Wolverley whom she used to meet secretly, for fear of her father’s anger, in the tunnel. One night the hounds were baying so persistently that the kennelman sent for Sir Peter, and together they discovered the cause: the girl and her lover were keeping a rendezvous in the tunnel, where Sir Peter overheard them arranging to meet there again next night. He did nothing for the moment, but when the next night came he locked his daughter in her room and let the hounds loose in the tunnel. In due course, fierce baying and agonized screams were heard, and in the morning all that was left of the lover was his hands and his feet; his feet were encased in stout boots, and as for the hands, it was believed that dogs would never eat human hands – an idea based on the Bible story of Jezebel’s death (2 Kings 9:10, 35). Sir Peter’s daughter, mad with grief, drowned herself in the moat. Sir Peter, suddenly smitten with remorse, hanged every one of his precious hounds and flung their bodies into a nearby pond, now called Gallows Pool. However, this was not enough to expiate his cruelty, and when he died his ghost was doomed to hunt night after night, accompanied by a pack of spectral hounds.

The theme of a spectral Wild Hunt is found in many places (see PETERBOROUGH, Huntingdonshire and Peterborough), but the usual explanation given is that someone had been so sinfully fond of hunting that he is doomed to hunt for ever after death.



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