One of the family from whom Papillon Hall at Lubenham got its name was David Papillon (d. 1762), locally known as ‘Pamp’, ‘Old Pamp’, or ‘Lord Pamp’.

He was greatly feared in the neighbourhood as people believed that he had the ‘evil eye’ and, like many witches and rural wizards, could ‘set’ or ‘fix’ people who offended him. One story says that he so disapproved of the way some men were ploughing that he ‘set’ them so that they could move neither hand nor foot until he released them at the end of the day.

In 1985, Roy Palmer reported that some Lubenham people remembered stories of Old Pamp and a mysterious mistress, probably Spanish, that he kept at the Hall before his marriage. She was not allowed to go outside but took her exercise on the flat leads of the roof. Palmer gives the date of her death as 1715, but also says that there was no record of her death or place of burial. However, the skeleton of a woman was allegedly found walled-up in the Hall during alterations made there in 1903.

It is said that, when dying, the Spanish mistress pronounced a curse on any owner who permitted her shoes to be taken out of the Hall. Consequently, whenever the Hall was sold, the shoes (in fact a pair of silver and brocaded slippers and a pair of pattens) were handed over with the title deeds to the new owner, except in 1866, when they were removed to Leicester. The new occupants were woken at night by the crashing of furniture and the noise of shutters slamming until the shoes were returned.

Six years later, the house was sold again and this time the new owner lent them for a year-long exhibition in Paris. Life thereupon became so intolerable that he and his family had to move out until the shoes were returned. The next occupant, who took over in 1884, had a fireproof cupboard with a padlocked metal grille constructed so as to keep the shoes safe from interference.

However, Captain Frank Belville, who assumed ownership of the Hall in 1903, had the shoes taken to his solicitor’s office during alterations. Accidents immediately started happening to the building workers, and one was killed by a falling brick. The men downed tools, but only when Belville himself was in an accident with his pony trap and sustained a broken skull were the shoes brought back. Still he had not learned. In 1908 or 1909 he lent the shoes to Leicester Museum for an exhibition: while they were away, he fractured his skull (again) while out hunting. Then, during a tremendous storm, amid thunder and lightning, the Hall was set on fire, three horses were killed, and some people say that two men also died. Belville got the shoes back, locked them behind their grille, and threw the key in the pond.

Even now they were not safe. During the Second World War, the Hall was used for billeting American airmen. On two occasions, men who had taken the shoes away were killed in action, although somehow the shoes were returned except for one patten. In 1950, just before the Hall was about to be demolished, the remaining shoes passed into the care of Mrs Barbara Papillon and no more has been heard of the curse.

This chapter of accidents has some gaps and also coincidences that strain credulity (two exhibitions, and the same skull broken twice), and is evidently an accumulation of local rumours about the curse rather than a connected narrative.



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