Sir Walter and Lady Bromley-Davenport - The Haunted MP – Phantoms at Capesthorne Hall
Type of Spiritual Experience
A description of the experience
Science and the Spook – George Owen and Victor Sims
ON 15 August 1966 we made our way past the peaks above Dovedale and over the great moor by Buxton to Capesthorne Hall, the seat of Sir Walter and Lady Bromley-Davenport.
As we drove into the vast courtyard fronting the tremendous brick facade larger than that of Buckingham Palace we were mildly surprised to recognize a figure in white stepping out of the main entrance. However it was no spectre but Sir Hamilton Kerr who had recently retired as M.P. for Cambridge, and was just setting off to the tennis court. ………………
Capesthorne, which is a place of pleasant aspect, is agreeably free of legendary ghosts and this is the only instance of anything uncanny being alleged there until recent years. We were a little late in arriving, so Sir Walter and Lady Bromley-Davenport took us from the tea-table on the terrace to the various places in the house where residents had experienced unusual sights and sounds. We went first to the foot of the staircase in the west wing.
Here one evening Sir Walter was on his way to join his family and guests in the dining-room just before dinner. He was surprised to see, from the corner of his eye, a lady dressed entirely in grey glide along the corridor to the dining-room. Her head was bowed, and despite her long voluminous skirts, she moved briskly out of sight. But when Sir Walter reached the dining-room, no additional person was present, and no one had come in.
Not long after, while staying for a long week-end, Sir Charles Taylor, M.P. for Eastbourne had a similar vision. It was about 10.30 p.m. and he was climbing the staircase to one of the guest rooms. We talked to Sir Charles by telephone. He recalled:
Half way up I heard a sound like the swish of skirts from the foot of the stairs. I paused, looked down and saw a lady floating along the corridor.
Sir Charles did not see her long enough to be able to describe exactly how she was dressed, but the overall impression he received was that of a lady in a grey dress or cloak. Interestingly enough, Sir Charles did not doubt that it was an apparition, and he did not mistake it for a person of this day and age.
A number of children were staying in the house [he told us] and I didn't wish to frighten them. So I decided to say nothing about it that night.
Next morning he took Sir Walter quietly aside and told him of the apparition. Sir Walter then confided that he too had once seen her, but had no notion who she might be.
Sir Walter then took us to the beautiful private chapel. A few years ago on the night of 3 September he went there to see that all was well for the memorial service due to be held next day. He thought himself alone until he received the impression that a line of shadowy figures was descending the steps which led to the side of the family vault. Dark and indistinct, these shapes seemed to disappear into the solid vertical slab which constitutes the wall of the vault. Taken aback, Sir Walter went out to call his wife who was sitting in the Library. They hurried back to the Chapel but by then no figures were to be seen.
Sir Walter's description of this occurrence was very matter of fact, quite unvarnished in style, and untinged by any hint of emotionalism. He had himself looked into the possibility of optical illusion. But there was no concourse of people at Capesthorne who, passing by, might have caused a succession of passing shadows. And, even had there been, it is hard to see how they could, in fact, have produced this effect, such being the positioning and arrangement of the Chapel's windows.
Sir Walter next showed us one of the guest bedrooms where another M.P. spent a sleepless night occasioned by a perpetually banging door. In desperation, the M.P. tried to jam it by wedging a number of political pamphlets underneath. But this time even the products of the Conservative Central Office proved inadequate as an antidote for chaos, for the door persisted in opening itself.
The Member of Parliament in question confirmed the fact when we talked to him by telephone.
We then went to the East or "Nursery Wing", one of the original "Queen Anne" buildings like the Chapel, where we visited the bedroom occupied before his marriage by Sir Walter's son William now thirty-two years of age. Some eight years previously he had been abruptly wakened by the rattling of the window. The disturbance was puzzling. It was a still night, with-out a breath of wind, and the window was securely fastened. In William's own words:
I woke up and saw an arm-with nothing attached to it reach out, as if from nowhere to rattle the window near my bed.
He inferred that the hand and arm were outside the window. Leaping out of bed, he rushed to investigate and threw open the window. But there was nothing to be seen. Indeed nothing human could have been outside; there is a sheer thirty foot drop to the courtyard below; the roof is too high for someone to dangle from it and wave an arm. No one could have placed a ladder to the window and removed it in time.
Since that time the family have known the bedroom as The Room with the Severed Arm….
In seeing -the Grey lady, it could be argued, Sir Walter has shown himself to be in some degree a "sensitive", and, his experience in the chapel might conceivably result from some rapport between his mind and the spirits of his ancestors, but this would draw us into waters deeper than parapsychology has yet sounded.