Charles Wade and the Ghosts of Snowshill
Part 1 | Part
The Ghosts of Snowshill Manor
It is perhaps inevitable that an eccentric
collector living in a lonely manor house in the Cotswolds will inspire ghostly stories of strange goings
on. In the best traditions of local folklore there are indeed eerie tales told of Snowshill Manor. When Wade acquired the
Manor he engaged twenty-eight workmen who stayed in the attic during the week.
After the first night, one workman refused to stay another night in the place
saying that it was haunted. Wade later learned that there was a belief in the
village concerning the ghost of one of the Benedictine Monks of Winchcombe Abbey. Some people who visit Snowshill Manor have
noticed that the entrance to the house has a certain uncanny ambiance and
occasionally refuse to enter.
When Charles Wade began his restoration of the
first floor rooms he sent a small piece of the timber to a well known lady
psychic in Brighton, without telling her where it originated. She replied:
'Two houses upon a
steep slope - the larger, lofty and mysterious. In the lofty house in an upper
room, late at night there is a girl in a green dress of the seventeenth century
- she is greatly agitated - she paces anxiously up and down the room - she
doesn't live here and will not stay the night'.
It was only later that Charles Wade came
across a story that may have inspired at least one of the hauntings at the
It involved a clandestine marriage that took place in an upper room of
the house on St Valentine's Eve, 1604. Ann Parsons, a sixteen-year-old orphan heiress
related by marriage to John Warne, owner of Snowshill at the time, was forcibly
removed from the home of her guardian by Anthony Palmer, a handsome
twenty-year-old servant, and some friends. She was then taken to Snowshill Manor
and married to Palmer at midnight in the room above the Great Hall, by the vicar of
Broadway (another Cotswolds village nearby). She
afterwards refused to stay at Snowshill and the dejected wedding party was
forced to travel by night to the village of Chipping Campden. The marriage was
subsequently declared invalid by the court of the Star Chamber. The room is now known as Ann's
room, and is haunted by her unhappy ghost.
Another incident which may have contributed
to the ghostly atmosphere of the house is the duel which is supposed to have
occurred in the room known as Zenith, in which one of the participants was
killed. Another story relates to Charles Marshall, who occupied the house in the
first half of the 19th century and held leases over a thousand acres of land. After he died his
widow still lived at the Manor and farmed the adjacent land. Some time before
1858 (the year Mrs. Marshall died) a
labourer named Richard Carter was working at a remote place called Hill Barn
Farm. Returning home one winter's evening by a little used track, he met an apparition
of his former master, Charles Marshall, who rode alongside him on a
fine black pony. This happened several times and finally Carter, on the advise
of the rector, asked the ghost what it wanted. The reply was that Carter should
meet him at midnight in the chaff-house. At the meeting that night Carter was given a
secret message for Mrs. Marshall, the contents of which were never made known.
However, there were rumours that the message was connected with the location of
hidden money as soon after the incident the widow managed to start new buildings
to the north of the Manor.
This story was told to Charles Wade
in 1919 by Richard Dark, son-in-law of the labourer Richard Carter.
A Haunted Cotswolds
The village of Snowshill itself also has its
tales of ghosts and hauntings. Alistair Biles, landlord of the Snowshill Arms
from 1969 to 1979, frequently saw a ghoslty figure in the ancient upstairs part
of the inn.
This apparition could open doors and would
disturb his dog so much that it would run downstairs to the modern part of the
building. The strange figure often took the form of a hooded monk, but at other
times seemed to have very little form at all, being no more than a misty shape
that would disappear through walls or closed doors. Neither Mr. Bile nor his
family ever felt threatened by the figure.
There is also a strange presence that lurks
in the lane that runs past the Manor, and there is a particular spot here
that many of the older villagers refuse to pass after dark. Many local people
think the ghost, like the one in the Snowshill Arms, and perhaps the Manor, is that of an unhappy
monk probably connected with Winchcombe Abbey. The pub is one of the oldest
buildings in the village and in medieval times it is thought that the older part
was used as a hostel for visiting clergy and
Charles Wade, though rarely seen about the
village, was well liked by the locals, though his 18th century appearance, with outlandish
bobbed hair and breeches, stockings and buckled shoes, was thought eccentric to
say the least. In 1946 he married and spent many
of his last years in the West Indies. He maintained a keen interest in Snowshill
Manor and continued to add to his collection. In 1951, when he gave over the
Manor to the National Trust, Wade was the same unique figure, 'still
mischievous, waxy complexioned, a medieval face seen through the woodsmoke'.
While on a visit to England in July 1956,
Wade was taken ill in Broadway, and shortly after died in Evesham
Hospital. He is buried with his mother and sisters in Snowshill churchyard.
He once wrote of his beloved Snowshill Manor:
'Old am I, so very old,
Here centuries have been.
Mysteries my walls enfold,
None know deeds I have seen.'
Sources and Further Reading / Viewing
Brooks, J.A. Ghosts and Witches
of the Cotswolds. Norwich, Jarrold, 1986, pp22-26.
Mason, Carolyn. Snowshill. A
Gloucestershire Village. Cheltenham, Thornhill Press, 1987.
Trust, Snowshill Manor, London,1995.
Turner, Mark. Folklore &
Mysteries of the Cotswolds. London, Robert Hale. 1993, pp161-4.
by Brian Haughton. All Rights Reserved.