A Brief History of Woodchester Mansion
What makes Woodchester Mansion so intriguing is that it is an unfinished grand country house. This historic house has a fascinating and unfortunate history.
Where the Mansion now stands once stood a large Georgian house, called Spring Park, which was owned by the Ducie Family. The Ducies purchased the park from George Huntley, who originally created a deer park and manor house on the property.
The 2nd Earl of Ducie couldn’t afford grand alterations to the property and decided to sell.
The ground was purchased by William Leigh in 1845, and Spring Park was demolished to make way for Woodchester – a house that was never completed.
For sixteen years labourers worked to create William’s grand vision of a house built in the Gothic Revival style.
It is said that during 1868, the workers dropped their tools, never to return to work. The reason? No one knows, but it is rumoured it was caused by unexplained deaths, a murder, or possibly dark energies lingering around the site.
However, the likely cause was financial limitations.
William’s son got quotes to either finish construction or demolish the house, but these were too expensive, even for the wealthy heir.
The drawing room was completed in a hurry in 1894 when the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster paid a visit. This was the only room to ever be completed.
The granddaughters of William Leigh sold the unfinished mansion to the Barnwood House Trust in 1938. This mental health charity had plans to build a mental asylum. However, the plans were shelved.
During WWII, Woodchester Mansion was revitalised. It housed Canadian and American soldiers, who camped in the fields around the house. The house itself was used by the St Paul’s Teacher Training College.
But even this period wasn’t without incident.
During a training exercise for D-Day landings, a pontoon bridge collapsed, with soldiers and vehicles being sent to their deaths at the bottom of the lake. The bodies were recovered and stored within the mansion, and the souls are said to still wander the building today.
Despite being abandoned for many years, the local population ensured the house was never vandalised. The Stroud District Council purchased the surrounding land and leased it in 1992 to the Woodchester Mansion Trust.
Today, the board of trustees oversees the Woodchester Estate, who manages the mansion and opens it to the public. It is also used for stone-masonry training courses.
The Ghosts of Woodchester Mansion
With such a strange history of murder, death and war, it is no surprise that the Mansion is such a haunted place.
It all started with the previous owner, the 2nd Earl of Ducie. He hosted a grand party in 1840 to celebrate his newly inherited Earldom but was left speechless when the dinner was interrupted by his father’s ghost – seated at the head of the table.
Since then, there have been dozens of reports and sightings of strange spectres around the mansion and the nearby Woodchester Park.
Woodchester Mansion is notorious for the sheer amount of poltergeist activity. Strange noises echo through the abandoned halls, while visitors have been pelted by rocks and jerked by invisible hands. Those unfortunate enough to have visited the mansion have also reported dark masses lingering near doorways and in corridors.
Second World War soldiers
After the bridge collapsed, the bodies of the lost Canadian and American troops were brought into the mansion. Now visitors are reporting that their spirits – upset by the means of their passing – still walk through the halls, reminding anyone who steps inside the mansion doors of its connection to the war.
Other sinister experiences
- Ghost hunters who investigate the mansion at night have felt temperature fluctuations and recorded strange noises on their EVP recorders.
- During the daytime, visitors heard the haunting melody of a girl’s voice, singing an Irish song in the mansion’s kitchen.
- Also in the kitchen, visitors have reported the figure of a young man, crouching in the corner. It appears as if he is terrified to be found. Perhaps he is hiding from the tall figure who’s been seen in the kitchen doorway, leaning in the direction of the hidden lad? Interestingly, these two figures have always manifested at different times.
- The chapel is one of the most haunted spots in this unfinished masterpiece. Despite being abandoned, guests have smelled extinguished candles, leaving them wondering “Who was here?”
- Other people have seen a short man lingering in the chapel doorway. He appears harmless, staring at the chapel windows, apparently at peace. Some have reported that his body language is that of concern like he is investigating the windows for any damage.
Some ghost hunters suspect he is the spirit of an ancient stonemason, who is anxious about water damage to the stonework in the years since its abandonment.
- Guests have reported strange, floating lights, which move through dark corners. Despite so many people witnessing these lights, they’ve never been caught on camera!
- Many visitors who are seemingly alone in the country house have heard bangs vibrating through the house, and nearby footsteps echoing through the hallways when there’s no one there. It seems there’s always someone just out of sight.
- A young girl has been seen, and heard, skipping down the staircase in the hall. It seems she is only having fun, completely oblivious to the fear she is causing.
- Going up the staircase, many have reported a woman standing at one of the windows on the first floor. She doesn’t seem to move, simply staring out towards the front of the building, watching visitors come and go.
- The mansion caretaker’s dog has also had encounters of its own. It often wags its tail at no one, and would like the air, seemingly happy to welcome the ghostly visitor.
Woodchester Mansion Featured on TV
Woodchester Mansion has been featured in Living TV’s Scream Team, where sceptics and believers ghost hunt at the old house.
It was also featured twice on Most Haunted Live in 2003 and 2005. Thanks to this feature, it became a popular ghost-hunting destination.
Since then the Woodchester manor has been filmed for:
- Scariest Places on Earth
- Ghost Hunters International
- Magick Eve
- The Crown
- His Dark Materials
Visiting Woodchester Mansion
Today guests who are brave enough to come face-to-face with ghosts and poltergeists (and some greater and lesser horseshoe bats) can visit the mansion.
The magnificent landscaped park around the mansion, called Woodchester Park, is owned by the National Trust. It includes the gatehouse and boathouse, as well as an ice house (where ice was stored for use in the house).
Are there ghost hunts at Woodchester Mansion?
Yes! The Woodchester Mansion Trust recommend contacting any of the UK’s leading ghost-hunting organisers to find out more about hunts at Woodchester Mansion. Some options include:
Woodchester Mansion has a complicated history. From when the Ducie Family decided to sell the property to when the surviving family of William Leigh sold it to become a mental hospital, and the training of Allied troops. It is no surprise that, given its complex history, Woodchester Mansion has become a haunted hotspot in Gloucestershire.