Hatfield House

Hatfield House, home of the Cecils, used to be haunted by a family ghost, James, sixth Earl of Salisbury. It was his mother’s fault, as the Victorian raconteur Augustus Hare was told while staying at Hatfield. He recorded in his journal on 14 December 1872 that, in Lady Salisbury’s own room, the house-guests were shown among other portraits ‘a curious picture of a lady’.

‘She looks clever but bad,’ said I.

‘She was desperately wicked,’ said Lady Salisbury, ‘and therefore it is quite unnecessary to say that she was very religious. She endowed almshouses – ‘Lady Anne’s Almshouses,’ – they still exist, and she sent her son to Westminster with especial orders that he should be severely flogged, when he was seventeen, and so soured his temper for life and sent him to the bad entirely … The son lived afterwards at Quixwold, and led the most abominably wicked life there, and died a death as horrible as his life … His is the phantom coach which arrives and drives up the staircase and then disappears. Lord Salisbury heard it the other night when he was in his dressing-room, and dressed again, thinking it was visitors, and went down, but it was no one.’

Twenty years later, on 29 July 1902, Hare recorded in his journal remarks made by Eustace Cecil, great-grandson of the sixth Earl. Eustace Cecil spoke of the ghost, saying that his great-grandfather had run away from Westminster when he was eighteen. He added to Lady Salisbury’s account that, as well as the phantom coach, the sixth Earl himself was ‘often seen in the room which is now used as a smoking-room’.



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