Earls Colne

Richard Baxter, in his Certainty of the Worlds of Spirits (1691), gives an account of a phantom bell at Colne priory, the foundation of which as a cell of Abingdon abbey in Berkshire was confirmed by royal charter in 1111. By Baxter’s time, following the Dissolution of the Monasteries, it had passed into private hands. The tale of the bell was one of four ‘Stories’ sent to Baxter accompanying a letter from Mr Thomas Woodcocke dated 17 July 1691:

Mr Harlakenden … lived at Coln-Priory in Essex, (where I often was, his only Son being my Pupil,) … Off from the House was a Tomb-House, with a Chamber over it; his Butler, Robert Crow, and William, his Coach-man, used to lie in that Room. At Two of the Clock in the Morning there was always the sound of a great Bell tolling: They affirming it so, Mr Harlakenden slept in the Evening, so as to be awaked at One of the Clock, and lay betwixt his two Servants to satisfie himself. At Two of the Clock comes the usual Sound of a great Bell tolling, which put him into a Fright and Sweat, so as he jogg’d his Servants; who awaking, said, Hark, Tom is at his Sport … Upon a particular Occasion, Mr Thomas Shepheard, (who after went to New England,) with some other Ministers, and good People, spent a Night in Prayer, and had some respect to the place, serving God, to cast out the Devil: And from that time, never was any such noise heard in the Chamber.

‘This’, says the narrator, ‘I had from Mr Harlakenden’s own Mouth, and his Servants, Earwitnesses, when I was upon the place.’



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