Visiting Blickling Hall, Blickling, near Aylsham, Norfolk, England: supposedly haunted by Anne Boleyn

Flag of England
Flag of England | Source
Blickling Hall from the garden
Blickling Hall from the garden | Source
Anne Boleyn, by Wenceslaus Hollar
Anne Boleyn, by Wenceslaus Hollar | Source
Map location of Norfolk
Map location of Norfolk | Source

Magnificent but macabre

Blickling Hall, in Norfolk, England, is supposedly haunted by Queen Elizabeth I's mother Anne Boleyn, one of the six wives of King Henry VIII, notorious practitioner of revolving door matrimony and spousal execution.

Anne, whose parents Sir Thomas and Elizabeth Boleyn lived at Blickling Hall, became Queen Consort of England in 1533 but was beheaded in 1536. Lack of piety was an official reason for her decapitation (although this may also have been related to Henry's perception that Anne might not bear a male heir). Later writers, however, noted that Anne was supportive of Bible translator William Tyndale; in any case, moral accusations made against her at the time of her execution have long been regarded as trumped up. Another background fact was that Anne had a sister, Mary, who was already a mistress of Henry VIII by the time that Anne made his acquaintance, so, with all the family and political wheels within wheels, it is not easy for the reader of history to gain a dispassionate and balanced view of who Anne Boleyn was and what is her historical significance.

That there is fiction about Blickling Hall being haunted by Anne's ghost, is, however, fact (if this makes any sense?), Blickling Hall being Anne's supposed birthplace. However, theories about Anne Boleyn's birthplace revolve around ideas regarding the correct year of her birth, about which there is uncertainty. Various dates have been suggested, ranging from 1501 until 1507, and it is known that Anne's parents, Sir Thomas and Elizabeth Boleyn, were not resident at Blickling Hall during at least part of this period.

In any case, the existing structure of Blickling Hall dates from 1616, a magnificent Jacobean structure, with prominent gables, which replaced an earlier, ruined, Medieval building. Features include three-and-a-half storey turrets, while the gabled parts of the building have three storeys. It is executed in brick, with additional facing in stone. The building was designed by Robert Lyminge. The Hall has a library with many, extremely valuable items and heirlooms. The Hall also possesses a sumptuous Garden and Park.

Still, the legend that Anne's headless ghost arrives annually at Blickling Hall on the anniversary of her execution, seated in a carriage driven by a coachman who — as it happens — also appears to be a decapitee, is too good not to be repeated to the many tourists who visit Blickling Hall, which for many years has been in the care of the National Trust. A magnificent property, then, but with somewhat macabre associations (or allegedly so!)

February 20 2013

Also worth seeing

In Aylsham (distance: 2.6 kilometres) itself, St Michael's church, dating in part from Medieval times, is a flint structure; landscape gardener Humphrey Repton is buried here; the former corn hall in the Market Place is now the Town Hall.

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How to get there: United Airlines flies to London Heathrow Airport, where car rental is available. Aylsham is 241 kilometers from Heathrow Airport. Please note that some facilities may be withdrawn, without notice. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.

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