Monday, October 18, 2010
Loftus Hall. County Wexford.
In keeping with Halloween I have added another ghost story. I hope you enjoy it. It is a part of Irish folklore.
The Ghost Story:
The details that follow apparently occurred when Charles Tottenham and his family came to live in the mansion in the middle of the 18th century. Charles Tottenham's first wife had been the Honourable Anne Loftus (the second daughter of the 1st Viscount Loftus. Charles came for a long stay in the house with his second wife, (in 1770 he had married his cousin Jane) daughter of John Cliffe and widow of Rev. Joshua Trench of Bryanstown, co. Wexford), and his daughter Anne from his first marriage.
During a storm, a ship unexpectedly arrived at the Hook Peninsula, which was not far from the mansion. A young man was welcomed into the mansion. Anne and the young man became very close. Then, one night they were in the parlour; around this time it was not well-mannered for a girl to play cards, but Anne insisted and she played. When a card was dropped on the floor she went to pick it up, and she noticed that the young man had a hoof in place of a foot.
It is said that Anne screamed and the man went up through the roof in a puff of smoke, leaving behind a large hole in the ceiling. Anne was in shock and was put in her favourite room in the mansion, which was known as the Tapestry Room. She refused food and drink. She died in the Tapestry Room in 1775. A rumour states that the hole could never be properly repaired, and it is alleged that even to this day, there is still a certain part of the ceiling which is slightly different from the rest. This, of course, is a myth, since the present house was built more than a century after the events described above. Meanwhile it was believed that the stranger with the cloven hoof returned to the house and caused persistent poltergeist activity.
A number of Protestant clergymen apparently tried and failed to put a stop to this. The family, who were themselves Protestants, eventually called on Father Thomas Broaders (a Catholic priest, who was also a tenant on the Loftus Hall estate) to exorcise the house which he managed to do in spite of fierce opposition from at least one of the hostile spirits. The success of Broaders led to many concessions being made to local Catholics whose religion was still technically illegal. Fr. Broaders was parish priest of the surrounding area from 1724 to 1773.
Fr. Broaders later became parish priest of the united parishes of the Hook and Ramsgrange for almost fifty years.
Canon Broaders died in January, 1773, and on his tomb in Horetown Cemetery is the following epitaph;
"here lies the body of Thomas Broaders,
Who did good and prayed for all.
And banished the Devil from Loftus Hall".
The apparent success of Father Broaders' exorcism did not end the ghostly visitations at Loftus Hall. The ghost of a young woman, presumed to be Anne Tottenham, was reported to have made frequent appearances in the old Hall, especially in the Tapestry Room, until the building was finally demolished in 1871.
Although the present Loftus Hall is an entirely new building, interest in the ghost story has remained strong and many aspects of the story seem to have attached themselves to the newer house.
1. The father of the Rev. George Reade stayed with a large party at the Hall some time about 1790, and was given the Tapestry Chamber to sleep in. "Something heavy leapt upon his bed, growling like a dog. The curtains were torn back and the clothes stripped from the bed". Suspecting that "some of his companions were playing tricks", he shouted to warn them and then fired his pistol up the chimney to frighten them. He then searched the room and, of course, found nothing. The door was locked as he had left it on getting into bed.
2. Some years later, when the 2nd Marques of Ely (who succeeded in 1806) was at the Hall, his valet, Shannon, was put in the Tapestry Chamber and woke the whole household by his screams in the night. The curtains of the bed, he said, had been violently torn back and he saw "a tall lady dressed in stiff brocaded silk". He fled in terror.
3. After a further period George Reade and his father were staying at the Hall. George knew nothing of his father's earlier experience, and chose the Tapestry Chamber as his bedroom. One bright moonlight night he sat up late reading an article in Blackwood's Magazine, when he saw the door open and a tall lady in a stiff dress passed noiselessly through the room to a closet in the corner, where she disappeared. For some reason the idea of a ghost never entered his head, and he went to sleep.
The next night the experience was repeated. He rushed towards the lady, threw his right arm round her, and exclaimed "Ha! I have you now". His arm passed through her and came "with a thud against the bed-post". The figure went on, and her silk brocaded gown "lapped against the curtain". Next morning he told his father, who said nothing; and the whole incident left little impression on him. He slept in the room without disturbance "many a night after". Some years later George Reade was again at the Hall, and heard the valet, Shannon, tell the housekeeper that "he would sooner leave his Lordship's service than sleep in the Tapestry Chamber". Reade asked him why; and Shannon then told him the story of Anne, which he had never heard before.
4. In 1858 the 4th Marques, who succeeded in 1857 at the age of 8, came to the Hall for the bathing season, with his mother (the Lady of the Bedchamber) and his tutor, the Rev. Charles Dale. The tutor was put in the Tapestry Chamber and came down to breakfast one morning in an obviously nervous state, but refused to say anything. In the autumn Lord Henry Loftus, uncle of the Marques, wrote to George Reade, told him about Charles Dale, and added that a Mr. Derringey had slept in the room and had had "a splendidly fitted dressing case" ransacked during the night. He asked him what his own experience had been. Thereupon Reade wrote to Dale, then in a parish in Kent, and the latter wrote back a long letter, in which he said that he had slept in the Tapestry Chamber for three weeks without disturbance - and without knowing anything about Anne Tottenham.
Then one moonlight night he had had the same experience as Reade's father - something heavy jumping on the bed, growling, and tearing off the bedclothes. He leapt out of bed, lit a candle, but could find nothing. He had, however, made inquiries and had talked with an old woman called Haggard, who lived to the age of 106. She had told him the whole story, and remembered Father Broders referred to above.
5. Finally, in 1868, Reade once more visited the Hall, which had been considerably altered. The Tapestry Chamber was now a billiards-room. He asked the old housekeeper how Miss Anne Tottenham had taken these changes, and she replied “Oh! Master George, don't talk about her. Last night she made a horrid noise knocking the billiard balls about!”
'History of Loftus Hall Part Two' by Thomas P Walsh in the Journal of Old Wexford Society (1971) gives a very detailed account of the ghost story and several alleged apparitions in the old Loftus Hall. According to Vol 4 of 'History of Wexford' by Hore a version of the ghost story was printed in the Cork Examiner August 11 1888 and was related to Queen Victoria by the Marques of Ely towards the end of 1860.
Loftus Hall, Co. Wexford which is described as "an old rambling mansion, with passages that led nowhere, large dreary rooms, panelled walls, and a Tapestry Chamber". It was built on a limestone promontory "stretching out into the Atlantic Ocean" by one de Raymond, a follower of Strongbow, who settled there. After the Rebellion of 1641 it was forfeited and became the property of the Loftus family. "A wild and lonely place".
Strangely enough if you know the history of the Irish Hellfire club you will recognise the same story of a stranger seeking shelter from the storm and playing cards. He too was found to have cloven feet and disappeared in a puff of sulphur smoke through a hole in the ceiling.