26 May 2014
Haunted manor house to shut its doors to the public
View of the south front
WOODCHESTER Park, alleged rendezvous for hundreds of ghosts, has been acquired by Barnwood House, registered hospital for nervous and mental disorders.
This news will come as a great disappointment to the many people who took advantage of every opportunity to revel in the sheer loveliness of this peerless Cotswold beauty spot. The Park has a long and chequered history stretching back to very early times.
The fame of Woodchester Park has spread far and, in recent years through the generosity of the Misses Leigh, the Park has been freely thrown open to the public at holiday times.
In earlier times, Woodchester Park was the scene of much violence. Owners followed each other in rapid succession and Thomas Arundel, who lived there at the time of the Reformation, was executed because he would not renounce his Catholic faith.
According to author Evelyn Waugh, the present estate is part of a much larger one acquired in various ways by Sir George Huntley, a 17th-century lord of the manor, who was killed when he was thrown by his horse as he was opening the gates of the park on his return home one evening. Unfortunately for his family, Sir George had been an extravagant man and he left his family in a state of financial distress, and with their return to their original family seat at Frocester, the Park became the property of Sir Richard Ducie, an ancestor of the Earls of Ducie.
The Ducie family held the seat until 1850 and their tenure may well be described as the crowning days in the history of the estate.
Woodchester Park has an atmosphere all of its own. One cannot go there without sensing it. The explanation may be the tomb-like effect engendered by the high wall of trees, or it may be laid at the door of the ghosts who are alleged to haunt the Park in large numbers.
One night, it is written, a poacher was carrying out his nefarious trade when he saw a ghostly coach and horses round the bend by the third lake. Evidence goes to show that the poacher let out a yell and ran home at top speed. There are still people alive in Woodchester today who can testify to his consternation. A headless horseman has also been seen riding round the fifth lake and there appears to be evidence to support the appearance of a dwarf who turns somersaults along the driveway.
And now this fine Park which, when spring and summer flowers enliven the woods and water lilies crown the lakes, is to change hands. No longer will lovers of the Cotswolds be able to revel in its beauties. No family has ever owned the Park for more than three generations and it is to be hoped that the day is not far off when once again the gates of the Park will be thrown open to visitors.
(Standard, January 27, 1940)