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Ghosts of Raynham Hall

Updated on March 14, 2012

"The Brown Lady"

One of the most famous ghost photos ever taken is the "Brown Lady" ghost at Raynham Hall.
One of the most famous ghost photos ever taken is the "Brown Lady" ghost at Raynham Hall.

One of England’s most haunted places is Raynham Hall in Norfolk, England. It has a long been the scene of paranormal events dating back over 250 years and the home for generations of the prestigious Townsend family. The famous 1936 ghostly photograph of “the Brown Lady,” was also taken there. Many have considered it to be the most authentic picture of a ghost ever captured on film. However, during recent years, some have claimed it to be a fake. Regardless of the photo’s authenticity there have been other reports of strange phenomena at Raynham Hall.

Samuel Townsend purchased the property in 1738. At the time there was only a four-room frame house, an orchard across the street and a narrow meadow leading down to the Oyster Bay harbor. Within two years he had made it into eight rooms and named it "The Homestead.” He and his wife Sarah Stoddard Townsend had eight children.

Samuel was a wealthy merchant, Justice of the Peace and Town Clerk. He was later elected to the New York Provincial Congress, which voted to ratify the Declaration of Independence.

The first known sighting happened in 1835 around Christmas. A Colonel Loftus, a guest for the holidays, was heading for bed late one night when he saw the strange figure of a woman in the hallway. Startled to find anyone else up at that hour, the colonel stopped and was about to address the woman when she suddenly vanished. The colonel dismissed the vision as simply the result of being tired and sleepy.

Raynham Hall

However, about a week later the Colonel saw her again, but this time she was carrying a lamp and on the staircase. He described her as being of noble stature and wearing a brown dress. What was frightening about the apparition was her face seemed to glow and she had empty eye sockets. He later made a sketch which he showed to other guests.

The Brown Lady has also been seen by others whose integrity would seem beyond question. No less a prominent personage as King George IV had an encounter with her. As he slept in the state bedroom he was awakened by a deathly pale woman dressed in brown standing next to his bed. The king was so terrified he refused to stay “another hour in this accursed house.”

Several other encounters came not long afterwards. Captain Frederick Marryat and two of Lord Charles Townshend's nephews saw the ghost carrying a lamp down a corridor. Marryat, frightened by the sinister smile she gave him, drew his pistol and fired a shot at the apparition. Being an excellent marksman and the close range there was no way he could have missed. But it wouldn’t have made any difference as the bullet passed straight through her. The bullet was later found buried in the wall behind where the ghost had been standing.

Most encounters with the Brown Lady have occurred at night and more often than not she is carrying a lantern. The identity of the mysterious figure is not known for certain, but it’s strongly suspected she is the spirit of Lady Dorothy Townsend. She was the sister of Robert Walpole, Prime Minister of England in 1722.

Dorothy fell in love with Lord Charles Townshend and strongly desired to become his wife, but her father forbade it. When Charles married Elizabeth Pelham, daughter of Thomas Pelham of Pelham Manor, Dorothy fell into a depression and began an affair with a Lord Wharton. Around 1710 Lady Pelham died of unknown causes and two years later Dorothy and Charles wed. The only problem was she didn’t break off the affair with Lord Wharton.

When Charles discovered what was going on behind his back he became enraged and had her locked up in her room. She was a prisoner in her own home. There are varying accounts as to how she died but most believe either she fell down the staircase or of small pox. She was 40 years old at her death in 1726.

There is also another interesting note to the history of Raynham Hall. Following the colonists' defeat in 1776 at the Battle of Long Island, the British army occupied the Townsend home from 1778 to 1779. They used it as the Queen's Rangers headquarters that were commanded by Lt. Col. John Graves Simcoe. Simcoe apparently had a sweetheart by the name of Sally. He sent her the first known Valentine to arrive in the United States.

To this day Raynham Hall still stands in Norfolk, England and has had many more reports of the Brown Lady. Besides her other entities have been seen. The Duke of Monmouth, two ghostly children and a cocker spaniel.


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    • oldersister profile image

      oldersister 5 years ago

      Raynham Hall had an official website, It is very cool. You can actually try to capture the lady in grey on their web cam. Very cool have to see if you can still access it on the internet.

    • profile image

      SuperDave 5 years ago

      The photo looks like a double exposure, but Raynham Hall looks and sounds creepy anyway. Good story!

    • oldersister profile image

      oldersister 5 years ago

      I used to love their website and webcam. Do they still have it?

    • profile image

      Joan Whetzel 5 years ago

      I love these kind of stories. Keep them coming.

    • moonlake profile image

      moonlake 5 years ago from America

      I have seen the story on tv. Spooky. Enjoyed reading your hub.