From the Dissolution of the Monasteries to the reign of King Charles II, the manor of Creslow was Crown property, used as grazing land for cattle for the royal household. Following the Restoration, it was granted to Thomas, Lord Clifford of Chudleigh (1630–73). So much is history.
Parts of Creslow manor house date from the fourteenth century, including the octagonal turret at the west corner, and the crypt beneath it. According to the Revd W. Hastings Kelke, writing in Records of Buckinghamshire in 1858, near this was a windowless vault known as ‘the dungeon’, which in his time contained several skulls and other human bones dug up around the manor house and church. Murray’s Handbook for … Bucks (1860) recorded the tradition then current that the bones were those of prisoners kept there.
The Handbook adds that, from the cellars, a subterranean passage led to the great pasture. Bones and secret passages both inspire romance, and Murray duly delivers: ‘One of the rooms has its ghost, in a silk dress, supposed to be that of Rosamond Clifford.’
This is ‘Fair Rosamund’, the mistress of King Henry II. She was probably drawn into the traditions of Creslow because she shared surnames with Thomas, Lord Clifford, from a collateral branch of her family. However, in the early nineteenth century, local tradition in Buckinghamshire maintained that as well as a bower at Woodstock, Oxfordshire, Henry had built her another retreat in or near Kingswood, not far from Creslow.
Not everyone explained Creslow’s ghost as Rosamund. In the 1860s, Chambers’s Book of Days identified the haunted room as one above the crypt, formerly reached by a staircase, and having a Gothic door decorated with human heads and grotesque faces. The ghost was seldom seen, but often heard by those who slept in this room or entered it after midnight. She seemed to come out of the crypt or dungeon, and always entered by the Gothic door. Then she would be heard walking about, her long train sweeping the floor. Sometimes her silk dress rustled violently as if she were engaged in a struggle.
Because of the haunt, the room was seldom used and was avoided by servants. However, in about 1850, a gentleman who was forced to stay the night was given the haunted room to sleep in. Next morning at breakfast, he told them he had locked and bolted both doors of his room, and satisfied himself there was no other entrance. He soon fell asleep, but was suddenly woken by a sound like a light footstep, accompanied by the rustling of a silk dress. He sprang out of bed, but there was nothing to be seen. Both doors were still fastened. Returning to bed, he once more fell asleep. Again he was woken by a noise like the rustling of a stiff silk dress. Darting to the spot it came from, he tried to grab the intruder but his arms closed on empty air. The noise passed through the Gothic
door, and there was silence.