David Hughson (Dr David Pugh) writes in his Walks through London … with the Surrounding Suburbs (1817):

Passing on to Cheshunt: here is a plain brick edifice, in which Cardinal Wolsey is said to have resided. It has been nearly rebuilt since his time; but is still surrounded by a deep moat. In the upper part of this house, called Cheshunt-House, is a room, the door of which is stained with blood; the tradition is – an unfortunate lady became a victim to the Cardinal’s jealousy, and that he dispatched her with his own hand. If so, it is unaccountable that the murderer should have suffered those marks of his violence to have remained.

It was not ‘unaccountable’ in terms of folklore, however, it being ‘common knowledge’ that blood shed by violence could never be removed, hence the many tales of supposedly indelible bloodstains.

Mrs Crowe in The Night-Side of Nature (1848) tells the story of another haunted house which has all the makings of a murder mystery. About six years before the time of writing, a Mr C— heard of an old house not far from London which was being let very cheaply. He moved his family in, joining them as his business allowed.

They had been in the house some time when Mrs C—, entering what was called the oak bedroom, saw a young woman with long dark hair, wearing a silk petticoat and short white robe, looking out of the window as if expecting someone. Mrs C— covered her eyes, ‘thinking she had seen something she ought not to have seen’, and when she looked again the woman had vanished.

Soon afterwards, a young nursery maid came to her in a fright having seen an ugly old woman looking in through a window. Then the family began to be disturbed by noises in the night, and both Mrs C— and one of the servants heard footsteps following them upstairs.

One night this same servant, sleeping in Mrs C—’s room, became very agitated, murmuring ‘Wake me! Wake me!’ When Mrs C— did so, the servant said she had dreamed she saw a young woman with long hair and an old-fashioned dress in the oak room, with an ugly old woman. The old one said, ‘What have you done with the child, Emily? What have you done with the child?’ To which the young woman replied, ‘Oh, I did not kill it. He … grew up and joined the — regiment, and went to India.’ Then she told the sleeping servant that her name was Miss Black, and the old woman was the family nurse. Here the old woman interrupted by laying her hand on the dreaming girl’s shoulder and saying something, she could not remember what, because the touch was so painful that she had begged to be waked.

Mrs C— now inquired in the village and was told that, seventy or eighty years before, a Miss Black had lived there with her aunt. Subsequently she saw Miss Black in the oak room again, wringing her hands, and staring mournfully into a corner, though when they took up the floorboards they found nothing.

Three years later, they were about to move when one morning Mrs C— awoke to see at the foot of her bed a dark-complexioned man wearing a fustian jacket and a red comforter. He suddenly disappeared, and this was the last apparition seen. But it was not the end of the story. Needing some coal, Mr C— said he would order it on his way to London. When next day Mrs C— told him it had arrived, he confessed he had forgotten to do so. On making an inquiry to the supplier, Mrs C— was told that it had been ordered by a man in a fustian jacket and red comforter.

Mrs Crowe heard this story from the actor Charles Kean and his wife. William Howitt, who had also heard it from the Keans, adds that the house was in Cheshunt, that Mr C— was Kean’s brother-in-law, Chapman, the publisher, and that the Chapmans later heard that several families had left because of similar disturbances. The Chapmans sold their lease to a clergyman who kept a school, but he had to give it up for the same reason. Finally, after standing empty for years, it was partly pulled down and rebuilt, and that seemed to put a stop to all ghostly activity, as Howitt reported in 1863 that it was inhabited again and free from haunting.



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