Hauntings At The Historic Sudeley Castle

The stunning Sudeley Castle is nestled away in the Cotswold Hills.  The exact origins of Sudeley are shrouded in mystery, lost in time; we do know that during the reign of King Ethelred ‘The Unready’ (978-1013 1014-16) early 11th century there was a Saxon manor house on the site.  It is believed that in 1443, Ralph Boteler was responsible for building the first stone castle on the present site.

The castle has seen its fair share of bloodshed and conflict, being involved in both The Anarchy and English Civil War.  It also has strong royal connections and has seen many royal guests including King Richard III, Lady Jane Grey, Queen Elizabeth I, King George III, King Henry VIII, Queen Anne Boleyn and Queen Katherine Parr.  Queen Katherine Parr, King Henry VIII’s 6th wife lived, died and was buried at Sudeley. In fact it is the only private castle in England to have a queen buried within its grounds and is an important point relating to one of the hauntings at Sudeley.

Following the English Civil War, Sudeley Castle was ordered by Parliament to be destroyed and the site lay ruinous and neglected for over 200 years, that is until brothers John and William Dent, wealthy glove manufacturers purchased the castle and set about on an extensive but sensitive restoration.  The brothers chose to leave some of the earliest areas as picturesque ruins.   Click here to read more about the history of Sudeley Castle.

Sudeley Castle, with its long and eventful history, is said to be home to several ghostly legends and eerie occurrences. Here are some of the most famous ghost stories associated with the castle:

The Relentless Housekeeper

Our first tale is that of the stern Scottish housekeeper Janet, who was employed at the castle from 1896.  Janet was tasked with maintaining rigorous oversight of the household and its extensive staff. She was a staunch purist and took her responsibility of segregating the male and female servants at night most seriously.  Janet would sit at the top of the stairs leading to their sleeping quarters, armed with a feather duster to fend off any menservants straying into the female servants room.  Even after retiring it is said that Janet would regularly return to the castle to scrupulously inspect the work of her successor.  

Death has not stopped Janet from continuing her watch on the castle, a stern looking ghostly figure wearing a mop cap, blouse and white skirt has been sighted by staff and visitors in the South Hall and on the stairs that would have once led to the servants quarters.  One encounter involved a teenage girl who had inadvertently strayed from her tour group and found herself on the upstairs landing. To her shock and horror, she encountered the apparition of a stern-faced housekeeper.  The ghostly figure waved her feather duster towards the girl in a disapproving stance, which sent the young girl into hysterics.

Heartbroken Queen

Sudeley Castle is also known for its royal haunting of Queen Katherine Parr, the final wife of King Henry VIII. She lies in a tomb within the beautifully restored 15th-century St. Mary’s Church on the castle grounds. Legend has it that Katherine, who passed away just five days after giving birth, is often seen wandering the castle’s corridors. She is said to be searching for her infant daughter, who is believed to have tragically died at the tender age of two.

In 1860, a remarkable and well-documented ghostly encounter with Katherine Parr occurred at Sudeley Castle. The estate worker, Fred Simmons, had been tasked with repairing a broken blind by candlelight, at the request of the castle’s mistress, Emma Dent. As he was making his way back through the Chandos Room after completing the task, an inexplicable event unfolded. His candle abruptly extinguished, and he felt the distinct sensation of a woman rushing past him, her silk dress rustling. Assuming it was Mrs. Dent, he thought little of it until he spoke with the castle housekeeper, Mrs. Bayliss, who informed him that no one else had been upstairs at the time.

Fred Simmons later made a startling confession. He admitted that some time prior to the ghostly experience, he had taken a tooth from Katherine Parr’s coffin. In his notebook, he mused, “Could it be so, that the ghost of Katherine was permitted to roam over those old precincts – making night hideous – and to fill with awe those who had been guilty of robbing the dead!” Not surprisingly, his wife promptly encouraged him to return the tooth to the coffin, perhaps hoping to appease any restless spirits disturbed by his actions.

Romantic Encounter

The castle’s tithe barn is known for its own phantom presence—a young woman in her twenties, believed to have been a Victorian guest at the castle. She is described as having long auburn hair and wearing a white dress. Unlike many ghostly apparitions, she is characterised as playful and joyful and it has been suggested this is because she had a romantic encounter at the castle, a holiday romance that left her with fond memories and a lingering presence in the barn.

These ghostly tales have contributed to Sudeley Castle’s reputation as one of England’s haunted historic sites.  Many flock to the castle in the hopes of experiencing a paranormal encounter or catching a glimpse of one of its famous ghosts. Whether you believe in these legends or not, the castle’s rich history and picturesque setting make it a fascinating destination.

Click below to watch our video on the hauntings at Sudeley Castle

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