Friday, August 13, 2010

Ancestral Spirits Still Reside In Gothic House

whtimes - The pen is mightier than the sword – an iconic proverb coined by Victorian novelist, poet and playwright Edward Bulwer-Lytton in 1839.

It’s a phrase which makes regular appearances to this very day; just like its creator, the ghost of whom is said to haunt the gothic Times Territory stately home where he once lived.

Lord David Cobbold, the great-great-grandson of Bulwer-Lytton, made the revelation about Knebworth House on the BBC Radio 4 show Desert Island Discs.

The 73-year-old told how he hears the whispers of his ancestor and other spectres on the estate, which has been home to the Lytton family since 1490.

“I hear them and feel their presence but my wife sees them,” he said.

“I have the feeling that Bulwer-Lytton is still there.”

Lord Cobbold, who established Knebworth’s tradition of hosting rock concerts back in the 1970s, added: “It’s the spirit of the house.

“You just feel that this is a rather special place to be.”

Born in London in May 1803, Edward Bulwer-Lytton attended Cambridge University before becoming a Member of Parliament and a prolific novelist.

His many popular books include The Caxtons and The Last Days of Pompeii.

He was created Baron Lytton of Knebworth in 1866 and died at Torquay, in Devon, in 1873.


The Legends of Knebworth House, Hertfordshire

Victorian novelist, poet and playwright Edward Bulwer-Lytton

Knebworth has a number of legends and ghost stories, it was home to Sir Bulwer Lytton, the Victorian author with an avid interest in the occult. He was certainly involved with many people who were major players in occult thought from that time, including Eliphas Levi, the famous French Magus who visited Knebworth on several occasions. Bulwer invited the famous medium Daniel Dunglass Home to Knebworth, they held a séance with a group of friends, which is said to have resulted in some strange phenomena.

Edward Bulwer-Lytton had strong ties with the house so it is not surprising to find that his presence is still felt there. His study remains much as it was when he was alive and visitors speak of strange uneasy feelings when they are in there. This feeling pervades both the study and the adjoining drawing room and is so strong that cleaning staff refuse to work there on their own.

An older tradition suggests that the house is haunted by a radiant or yellow boy, a spirit attached to the Lytton family and a relatively common ghost of old families and family castles. The appearance of the boy is said to foretell a rise to power but a violent death. Lord Castlereagh is said to have been the last one to see him, the spectre drew its fingers across its throat in front of him. In 1822 Lord Castlereagh committed suicide by cutting his own throat.

The house is also said to be haunted by the noise of spinning, said to originate from a spirit called Spinning Jenny who was locked away in a room to keep her from a lover of low birth. According to Jennifer Westwood in her scholarly book 'Albion' Paladin, 1987, the story was invented around 1800 by a Miss James, a guest at a Christmas party. As the story goes, Jenny Spinner was a young girl who was working on the estate in the 18th Century. For reasons unknown she was imprisoned in Knebworth House's east wing (no longer standing) with nothing to do but spin yarn for cloth. The grounds for her imprisonment are unclear but it is popularly believed in the village that one of Lytton's wily forebears locked the girl up after she fell pregnant with his child. The scandal that a love child would have caused was enough to ensure that poor Jenny Spinner was locked away. Ask a local and they will tell you that Jenny went mad and died in her room.

The story, as with all good tales of ghouls and goblins, does not end there. Since her death, the sound of a spinning wheel can sometimes be heard throughout the halls of Knebworth House. The news the spinning portends is not good, for it is said that when spinning is heard the death of a Lytton is imminent.

Other ghosts include a girl with long blond hair who haunts the Queen Elizabeth room. Recently an American guest woke to find the girl leaning over her. She may be the same ghost that haunts the picture gallery and has occasionally been seen though no one knows who she is.

The house and the grounds are well worth a visit, a nearby wooded area has some Bronze Age round barrows, evidence of older occupation in the area.


Ancestral Spirits Still Reside In Gothic House
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