Monday, 23 August 2010
Newark Park House
Part of the Haunted Stairway
The Tudor Bedroom
Newark Park estate is situated close to the town of Wotton-Under-Edge. It stands in Gothic splendour high on a limestone cliff giving spectacular views over Gloucestershire, the Mendip Hills and the Marlborough Downs.
Newark Park was built by Sir Nicolas Poyntz in 1550 as a Tudor hunting lodge, originally named ‘New Walk‘, it was largely constructed from building material acquired from Kingswood Abbey some five miles away. Following the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII, much of the Abbey was demolished and the stone and timbers used for building elsewhere. Today, only the 16th Century gatehouse and some precinct walling remain of what must have been a once grand Abbey. It is thought by some researchers of the paranormal who lend support to the ‘imprint’ theory, that Newark’s hauntings may be the result of Kingswood Abbeys restless monks, who, by means unknown have managed to transferred from Kingswood to Newark.
The Clutterbuck family purchased the house in 1790 and commissioned James Wyatt, a renown English architect to update and extend it introducing a Georgian gothic arched porch and a new remodelled south elevation.
In 1949 the National Trust took possession of the lease and a further twenty years of letting ensued. A succession of tenants adapted the house for use as a nursing home for the elderly. By 1970 it had become very rundown and neglected. Nature had reclaimed the once beautiful gardens and the house was now in a state of disrepair. The Trust were desperate to find someone willing to rescue the house from almost certain ruin. Eventually, the lease was taken by Robert Parsons, a Texan, who in 1971 signed the agreement on the understanding that he would restore the house and gardens, which he did and dedicated much of his life in doing so. He was joined in the early 1980’s by Michael Claydon, who is still the current occupier, together they finished the project. Robert Parsons died in 2000 after a short illness but during his occupancy he was convinced the house was haunted.
One article written in 1978, stated unequivocally ‘the house has many ghosts’ and went on to surmise that the sound of footsteps on the stairs could be the Abbot of Kingswood searching for his lost abbey and that the hauntings would subside when the restoration to the house were complete. This is not a new theory, some believe that by disturbing a buildings fabric, it can in some cases trigger paranormal activity. As for spooks hitching a ride from building to building…
Robert Parsons spent much of his time living alone when the house was semi derelict, he claimed to have experienced many inexplicable disturbances. He would often lie in bed night after night listening to the sounds of heavy footsteps on the stairs which lead up to the first floor. The footsteps would often be accompanied by tapping, rapping, thumping and knocking. Michael Claydon has also heard similar inexplicable sounds coming from the stairs and also the terrifying crash of doors being slammed at great force. The stairs, more than anywhere else in the house, seem to have developed into a ‘hotbed’ for unexplained phenomena . On one occasion, Michael Claydon was going downstairs from the second floor when he noticed his dog Boston, a Great Dane, on the half landing with hackles raised and emitting a slow growl whilst appearing to watch something at the foot of the stairs. Michael watched in stunned bewilderment as the animal moved its head, apparently tracking the progress of something unseen. This chilling behaviour lasted all of 10 minutes, Michael and Boston were alone in the house. Many guests and visitors to Newark have claimed of feeling uneasy when on the stairs, especially between the ground and first floor.
At the top of the house is the Tudor Bedroom, most likely to have been the bedchamber of Sir Nicolas Poyntz. Many guests staying in that room have been woken by the sounds of shuffling footsteps coming from the other side of the door and also the sound of something heavy being dragged across the floor. The muffled voices of women, soft whispers and men arguing, are another ghostly feature of this bedroom. As I looked about the room I was amused to see some light reading that Michael Claydon had made available for his guests on one of the bedside tables: Great Ghost Stories, The Oxford Book of English Ghost Stories and one or two similar tomes, which I am sure were carefully selected so as to keep his guests at their ease - nice one.
Many researchers of the paranormal have held vigils at Newark and still do. Peter Underwood, the celebrated author and acclaimed ghost researcher, spent several days with members of The Ghost Club and obtained some surprising results. A full and detailed account of their visit is available to read in his book Nights in Haunted Houses..
The house has a long history of hauntings, all have been audible but none, I am given to understand have been visual, unless of course you count the strange photograph above.
This curious amorphous shape was captured quite by chance when a professional photographer was taking promotional photographs for the National Trust’s handbook. He was blissfully unaware of the ’blemish’ during the shoot and only discovered it when later developing the film. He immediately contacted Michael Claydon who has since put the photograph on display in the upper part of the house. I will leave to you to decide what is in the photograph. Coincidentally, the image was captured outside the Tudor Bedroom.
Michael Claydon welcomes visitors to his home and is always fascinated when people claim to have seen or heard something in one of the rooms. There have been incidences where visitors have felt uneasy in certain parts of the house, more often than not on the stairs.
Should you wish to do some ghost hunting of your own, the National Trust hires out an apartment on the first floor that accommodates six.