Raynham Hall

One of the oldest halls in Norfolk, Raynham Hall was the first in England to be heavily influenced by European architecture.

The History of Raynham Hall

The 17th Century hall has been home to the Townshend family for more than 300 years.

Built by Sir Roger Townshend in 1620 and boasting a contemporary red brick design, Raynham was built in an entirely new style to what had gone before. Further additions were made to the hall in the 1730s when the second Viscount “Turnip” Townshend employed the services of William Kent who went on to be one of the architects of Holkham. Kent was responsible for some fine work at Raynham, including the elaborate carved chimney-pieces, the mosaic paintings and decorated doorways.

Turnip Townshend of Raynham was born in 1916 and succeeded the title when he was only five years old and grew up to be a revolutionary agriculturalist, hence his nickname “Turnip”.

The Haunted History of Raynham Hall

Easily the most well known ghost said to haunt the Raynham estate is the world famous `Brown Lady“. Believed to be Lady Dorothy, Turnip Townshend`s wife and sister of our first Prime Minister Robert Walpole. Various versions of her death have been stated, including starvation from imprisonment and falling (possibly being pushed) down the grand staircase at Raynham Hall, the most popular location for the sighting of her ghost. However, the contemporary announcement of her death, on 29th March 1726, gives the cause as smallpox. Whatever the cause of her death, one thing which is clear is that she did not rest in peace, as it was only a few weeks later that her ghost was first seen by servants working at the hall.

One of the most famous sightings reported was by George IV (then Prince Regent) who was, staying in the State Bedroom for the duration of his stay at Raynham. He is said to have alerted the whole household in the middle of one night, saying that he had been woken by `a little lady all dressed in brown, with dishevelled hair and a face of ashy paleness` who he said had stood by his bedside. He promptly refused to spend another moment in the hall and left immediately.

Another sighting was reported in 1849 by Lucia Stone, a member of a large house party at Raynham. As Major Loftus, a relative of Charles Townshend, went up to bed after he had stayed up late playing chess with another guest,  he spotted a lady in a brown dress standing on the landing. He did not recognise her as one of the guests, but when he went to speak to her, she vanished. Sure of what he had seen, Major Loftus stayed up the following night, determined to see her again.  Once more he came face to face with the woman. He could see her clearly and described her wearing a `richly brocaded brown dress with a coif on her head`, but the most frightening aspect was that instead of eyes she had two dark, hollow sockets!  He is believed to have made a sketch of what he had seen and showed it the following day to the other guests, which inspired some of them to do some ghost-hunting of their own, but the Brown Lady did not reappear.

Probably the most startling and controversial piece of evidence to do with the `Brown Lady` is the famous staircase photograph. It was taken in the 1930s  when two photographers from Country Life magazine were taking photographing of Raynham Hall. Captain Provand was photographing the staircase when his assistant, Indra Shira, suddenly noticed a misty figure descending the stairs. He quickly urged Captain Provand to take an exposure, which he did, although he himself had seen nothing at all! He was sure that Indra Shira must have imagined the figure and declared that even if there was something there, nothing would appear when the negative was developed.

But Indra Shira was positive he had seen a figure so transparent that the steps were visible through it, and later when they were developing the negatives the Captain could see that there was definitely something on the staircase. Indra Shira hurried downstairs to the chemist below their studio and brought Benjamin Lones back to be a witness that the negative had not been tampered with. Later a number of experts examined it and were satisfied that the picture had not been faked in any way. It remains one of the most talked about `ghost` photographs in the world today.

Interestingly, the Brown Lady is not the only ghost said to reside in Raynham Hall. Other ghosts, including that of a dog, have also been seen. Nor does Dorothy Walpole exclusively haunt Raynham . She has also been known to appear, in a younger, happier guise, at Houghton Hall, and at Sandringham House.

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