A Brief History of Dudley Castle
Before we can get into all the hauntings of Dudley Castle, let’s first take a look at the history of this magnificent structure to get a better idea as to why there are so many ghosts within the stone walls.
Dudley Castle started as a motte-and-bailey castle in 1071. It was constructed by the followers of William the Conqueror to keep control of this area of the West Midlands.
In 1130 the fortification was transformed into a stone building by the Paganel family. It was key during the Civil War between King Stephen and Queen Maud, the king’s cousin. The king’s men tried to besiege the castle in 1138, but the castles’ defenders stood firm.
King Henry II ordered the destruction of the stronghold in 1175 because the castle owner – Gervaise de Paganel – was reportedly rebelling against the king.
And so Dudley Castle stood for almost a hundred years until permission was granted by the court to rebuild the castle fortifications in 1264.
The next six decades saw so many new additions to the fortress, including the gatehouses that welcome visitors today.
The Sutton family got ownership of the stronghold in 1321 when Margaret, daughter of Lord John Somery, and her husband, John de Sutton, took over. They lived here until 1536 when the Duke of Northumberland, John Dudley, got his hands on it and ordered it to be rebuilt in a Renaissance style.
John Dudley never saw his dream realised, as he was executed not long after.
And so the Suttons again lived at the fort after it was granted to them by Queen Mary.
The castle received guests like Queen Elizabeth, and potentially imprisoned Mary Queen of Scots.
Despite this, the Suttons were not well off. To try to strengthen their finances, Edward Sutton III arranged the marriage of his granddaughter to the son of a merchant, Humble Ward.
The Wards lived at the fortress until the next Civil War. The Parliamentarians took over Dudley Castle in 1646, and the fortifications were demolished in 1647.
The Hauntings at Dudley Castle
With a long, turbulent and sometimes violent past, it is no surprise that ghosts were reported as early as 1870. The very first ghost sighting was recorded by a local man from Dudley, Harry Bentham.
Since then, there have been plenty of ghost sightings and reports, including in the 1930s when a guide and visitors to the fortress had a haunting experience.
According to The Friends of Dudley Castle, the guide recounted his experiences: “It happened on a fairly quiet afternoon. I was sitting at the bottom of the castle keep… in full view of the doorway when suddenly two elderly people came around from the keep dressed in either seventeenth or eighteenth-century clothes… They walked straight past us and up into the keep. I went up after them, but there was no one there – they had just disappeared.”
If that’s not enough to send chills racing up your spine, here are some other ghostly sightings at the fortress.
The Grey Lady
Dudley Castle is considered one of the most haunted places in the UK, and that’s partly because of the Grey Lady.
She’s perhaps the most popular ghost in the West Midlands, believed to be the lingering spirit of Dorothy Beaumont, the wife of second-in-command John Beaumont.
Dorothy lived at the castle in 1645, where she gave birth to her daughter, Frances. Sadly, Frances passed away shortly after birth, and because of birth complications and maddening grief, Dorothy joined her daughter in the afterlife on 26 April 1646.
Before passing, Dorothy requested to be buried next to Frances, and for John to be at the funeral. However, these requests were not granted, as the fortress was under siege. The chapel where Frances was buried had been torn down, and there were fears that John would be assassinated if he attended the rushed funeral.
Now Dorothy is seen wandering the castle grounds, forever tormented that she was not laid to rest according to her wishes.
People see the Grey Lady mostly near the castle keep and the pub, which was named The Grey Lady Tavern in her honour.
The pub is actually a hotbed of paranormal activity – not all of it related to the Grey Lady. Visitors report noises, sudden drops in temperature, a faint blue mist that appears and disappears near the bar, and unexplained alarms going off.
Beneath the chapel is the undercroft, one of the most haunted spots in the castle.
There is a stone coffin holding the remains of John Somery, one of the most feared lords of Dudley Castle. Many people who have visited the undercroft have reported legs walking along the coffin, believed to be the limbs of John.
Other visitors have felt their clothes being tugged or being poked by unseen hands.
Because of these reports, there are a lot of paranormal investigations in the undercroft. During one investigation, a little girl was reportedly flipped over a chair.
Another time, the investigators captured a dark shadow on camera.
In 1962, staff from Dudley Zoo were working in the undercroft as the aquarium was housed there. The staff rushed out when all of a sudden they heard surreal groans and moans, and doors started slamming all around them.
Above the undercroft is the castle chapel. It dates back to the fourteenth century. Hauntings here have not been common, however, guests to the stronghold have seen a lonely monk pace in front of the large courtyard window.
The Little Drummer Boy
With so much war and destruction surrounding Castle Hill, it’s no surprise that souls from the Civil War still linger.
One is that of the little drummer boy. The young lad was killed by a stray bullet from a musket during a small skirmish.
It seems he never found peace, as he can still be heard hammering his drum as if preparing for battle.
Because of the unfortunate cause of the boy’s death – by a wildly inaccurate 17th-century firearm – it is considered bad luck to see him or hear his pounding drums.
Other ghostly sightings
- Three electrical workers saw several ghostly hooded figures walking past them in 1978.
- That same year, investigators on a ghost hunt captured an image of a figure with its arms folded – there was no one there!
- A woman who either committed suicide in the keep or was murdered by some youths is said to haunt the castle.
Can I do a ghost hunt at Dudley Castle?
Is Dudley Castle open to the public?
Yes, the castle is part of Dudley Zoo. You can purchase tickets online through the Dudley Zoo & Castle website or purchase tickets at the Dudley Castle visitor centre.
Where can I hunt ghosts in the North East?
There are numerous haunted locations in the North East, there’s Chillingham Castle, Newcastle Castle, Preston Hall and Durham Castle.
Where can I hunt ghosts in the Wales?
There are many haunted locations in the Wales, there’s Skirrid Mountain Inn, Craig-y-nos Castle, Llancaiach Fawr Manor, Ruthin Gaol.
Dudley Castle has a complicated and often violent history. From being a key defence during the Norman Conquest to the renovations undertaken by the Sutton Family – it is no surprise there are so many spirits that also call the castle grounds home.