Raby Castle

In a letter to Sir Cuthbert Sharp, the county historian Robert Surtees told him that Christopher, first Lord Barnard, was persuaded by his wife into such an irrational jealousy and hatred of his eldest son that he determined to pull down Raby Castle (which the younger man would otherwise have inherited). He had got as far as stripping the lead off the roof when his son stopped him by an injunction in Chancery. As for the unnatural mother:

This old jade after her death used to drive about in the air, in a black coach and six; sometimes she takes the ground and drives slowly up the town to Alice’s well, and still more frequently walks the battlements of Raby, with a pair of brass knitting needles, and is called Old Hell Cat.

Why she carries brass knitting needles, and why she hated her son so, is unexplained. Loose ends are a hallmark of authentic popular traditions, unprocessed by rationalizing writers – these things would have been understood by local people at the time.



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

Related Articles


The headless revenant who carries his head under his arm is a cliché of literary ghost stories, but is less common than one might expect…

Lyme Park

According to a tradition of the mid nineteenth century, Lyme Park (near Disley) is said to be haunted by a phantom funeral which slowly approaches…


‘Okehampton Park is the scene of the nightly penance of Lady Howard,’ says Murray’s Handbook (1879). Elsewhere Murray tells us that the former mansion of…