|Hinton Ampner as it looks today|
It is believed that Henry James' classic Gothic tale "The Turn of the Screw" was at least partly inspired by one of England's most famous and well-attested ghost stories, the eerie goings-on at the manor house of Hinton Ampner. The following are the most relevant excerpts from the lengthy documentation of the case that was published in the "Gentleman's Magazine" for November/December 1872. These letters and narratives, rather like an epistolary novel of the era, largely speak for themselves.
A Hampshire Ghost Story.
The existence of the following narrative is alluded to in the recently published life of the Rev. Richard Barham, but the version therein given is incomplete, and consequently erroneous in some particulars. It therefore appears to the possessors of the two manuscript copies made by Mrs. Ricketts that it is now desirable to publish the original MS., and that they are fully justified in doing so with the addition of extracts from letters of relatives and friends, which bear strongly on the subject.
Mary Ricketts was the youngest child of Swynfen Jervis, Esq., and Elizabeth Parker, his wife. She was born at Meaford, near Stone, in Staffordshire, in 1737-8. From her early childhood she evinced a love for reading, and an aptitude for mental improvement, which were developed by the wise training of Nicholas Tindal, the learned continuer of Rapin's History of England.
Her veracity was proverbial in the family. Her favourite brother and companion was John Jervis who for his distinguished naval services was created Baron Jervis and Earl St. Vincent. Though his junior by three years, she rapidly outstripped him in book learning, and to her superior acquirements may be traced the unwearied pains which John Jervis took to make up for lost time, when, at the age of eighteen, he devoted his spare hours to study, instead of sharing in the frivolous amusements of West Indian life.
She married in 1757 William Henry Ricketts, of Canaan, in Jamaica, Esq., whose grandfather, William Ricketts, Esq., was a captain in Penn and Venables' army at the conquest of Jamaica. Mrs. Ricketts was called upon to accompany her husband in his visits to the West Indies, or to remain alone in England. The charge of her three infant children determined her to accept the latter alternative in 1769.
The children were:—
1. William Henry, born 1764, Capt. R.N., assumed the surname of Jervis by sign-manual in 1801, as heir to his maternal uncle, Earl St. Vincent. He was drowned in 1805, when in command of H.M.S. Tonnant, leaving two daughters, to whom Mrs. Ricketts bequeathed the MSS.—1. Martha Honora Georgina, died 1865, whose only child, by her marriage with Osborne Markham, Esq., is Mrs. Wm. Henley Jervis, the editor of this narrative. 2. Henrietta Elizabeth Mary, married Capt. Edmund Palmer, R.N.
2. Edward Jervis, born 1767, who in consequence of the death of his brother without male issue became Viscount St. Vincent. He inherited the fine and powerful intellect of his mother, and died, aged ninety-two, at Meaford Hall, Sept. 1859.
3. Mary, born 1768, married William, seventh Earl of Northesk. She died 1835, leaving a numerous family, and the example of piety and unwearied benevolence.
During the absence of Mr. Ricketts in Jamaica, his wife continued to inhabit the old Manor House of Hinton Ampner, and it was there that the following series of strange disturbances occurred, the effect of which was to render her continued occupation of the house an impossibility.
Mrs. Ricketts was a woman of remarkable vigour, both physical and mental. Her steadfast faith, and sense of the ever abiding presence of God, carried her through many bitter trials, and preserved her intellectual powers unimpaired to the advanced age of ninety-one, when she calmly resigned her spirit into "the hands of the God who gave it."
Mrs. Ricketts To The Rev. Mr. Newbolt.
Hinton, Wednesday Morning, August, 1771.
My Dear Sir,—In compliance with my promise to you of yesterday, I would not delay to inform you of the operations of last night. It was settled (contrary to the plan when you left) that John, my brother's man, should accompany Captain Luttrell in the chintz room, and they remain together till my brother was called. Just after twelve they were disturbed with some of the noises I had frequently heard and described, and so plainly heard by my brother that he quitted his bed long before the time agreed on, and joined the other two; the noises frequently proceeding from the garrets, they went up just at break of day, found all the men servants in their proper apartments, who had heard no disturbance whatever. They examined every room. Everything appeared snug and in place, and, contrary to usual custom, the opening and shutting of doors continued (after the other noises ceased) till five o'clock. My brother authorises me to tell you that neither himself nor Captain Luttrell can account for what they have heard from any natural cause; yet as my brother declares he shall never close his eyes in the house, he and Edward are to watch to-night. At the same time that I derive satisfaction in my reports being fully accredited, I am hurt that the few days and nights he hoped to enjoy repose should be passed in the utmost embarrassment and anxiety.
To the Rev. Mr. Newbolt, Winchester.
Captain Jervis To Mr. Ricketts.
Portsmouth, August 9, 1771.
The circumstances I am about to relate to you, dear Sir, require more address than I find myself master of; it is easy to undertake but difficult to execute a task of this delicate nature. To keep you longer in suspense would be painful. I therefore proceed to tell you Hinton House has been disturbed by such strange, unaccountable noises from the 2nd of April to this day, with little or no intermission, that it is very unfit your family should continue any longer in it. The children, happily, have not the least idea of what is doing, but my sister has suffered exceedingly through want of rest, and by keeping this event in her own breast too long.
Happy should I have been to have known it earlier, as I might have got rid of the alarm with the greatest facility, and dedicated myself entirely to her service and support till your return; but engaged as I am with the Duke of Gloucester, there is no retreating without the worst consequences. You will do me the justice to believe I have, during the short space this event has been made known to me, employed every means in my power to investigate it. Captain Lutrrell, I, and my man John sat up the night after it was imparted, and I should do great injustice to my sister if I did not acknowledge to have heard what I could not, after the most diligent search and serious reflection, any way account for. Mr. Luttrell had then no doubt of the cause being beyond the reach of human understanding.
My sister having determined on the steps necessary to pursue, of which she will acquaint you, I think her situation ought not to accelerate your return, at least till you are gratified with proving the utility of the laborious alterations you have made. The strength of judgment, fortitude, and perseverance she has shown upon this very trying occasion surpass all example, and as she is harassed, not terrified, by this continual agitation, I have no doubt of her health being established the moment she is removed from the scene of action and impertinent inquiry, or I would risk everything to accompany her to the time of your arrival in England; for which and every other blessing Heaven can bestow you have the constant prayer of
[Addition in Mrs. Rickett's hand.]
I omitted to mention there are several people will prove similar disturbances have been known at Hinton many years past.
Mrs. Ricketts To W. Henry Ricketts, Esq.
Winchester, August 17, 1771.
The captain took his final leave of me last week, and greatly hurt I was to part with him—he has acted so very affectionately to me, and taken that true interest in everything that concerns me, as I never can forget; and most extraordinary is the subject I have to relate. Without the utmost confidence in my veracity—which I believe you have—you could not possibly credit the strange story I must tell. In order to corroborate my relation, the captain means to write to you, and I hope his letter will arrive in time for me to enclose. You may recollect in a letter I wrote about six weeks ago I mentioned there were some things in regard to Hinton you would not find so agreeable as when you left it, and I added that I could not satisfy your curiosity; nor did I intend it till you came over, had it been possible to have rubbed on till then, but when it was thought absolutely necessary by my brother and all my friends that were consulted that I should quit the place, and that the reason of it was so publicly known that you must hear it from other hands, we concluded it much more proper you should receive the truth from us, than a thousand lies and absurdities from others; and much will you feel for what your poor wife has undergone, though I cannot in writing transmit all the particulars.
On the 2nd of last April I awoke about two in the morning (observe, I lay in the chintz room, having resigned the yellow room to Nurse and Mary) and in a few minutes after I heard the sound of feet in the lobby. I listened a considerable time at the lobby door; the sound drew near; upon this I rang my bell; my maid came, we searched the room, nothing to be found; Robert was called, and went round with as little success. This appeared to me extraordinary, but I should have thought little more of it; had I not, and all the servants in the house, except Sleepy Jack, heard the strangest noises of knocking, opening and shutting of doors, talking, explosions, sometimes as loud as the bursting of cannon.
I kept it to myself, tremendous as it was, except telling Mrs. Newbolt, till four months were almost expired, when, as I was so hurt for want of rest, and thought I could not support it much longer, I took the resolution to tell my brother, who upon that determined to sit up; Captain Luttrell and his own man with him. The noise was heard in the lobby, and in different parts of the house; they went all over it, every door shut, every person in his room; they were astonished, and the next morning they both declared that no house was fit to live in where such noises were heard, and no natural cause appeared. You know how much the notion of haunted houses is exploded, and how careful any man would be of asserting it, and in that I think them right; as for myself, I am not afraid or ashamed to pronounce that it must proceed from a supernatural cause; but why, except as Darby imagines—who passed some days with me—there has been a murder committed that remains yet undiscovered, or for some other wise purpose, though not yet manifest? I am at a loss to explain the noises increasing and coming in the daytime. At length I determined quitting the place, and be assured, my dearest life, I did not take this painful step while it was possible to continue there; and I thank God I am as I am; the want of rest created a little fever on my spirits, which the quiet life I have passed with the Newbolts, and Dr. Walsh's prescription, have removed, so that you need not have the least uneasiness about me. Whatever the cause of these disturbances is, I am sure there has always been something of the kind since we have lived here; you must recollect often hearing the doors open and shut below stairs, and your going down sometimes during the night, and finding no person there. The servants have behaved so well, and been so cautious, that the children have heard nothing of it, which was my great dread; they are now at Wolsey, which the Bishop desires I will command as my own, and I mean to go there next week, when I shall be able to get some necessaries from Hinton, and I can stay at Wolsey till the cold weather sets in. Sainsbury has behaved in the genteelest manner, and is certain Lady Hillsborough would not wish us to keep the house a moment longer than it would be a convenience. He has wrote to her, and when he receives an answer, will communicate to me; indeed, my dear, we cannot think of living there. Strange and recent (sic) as this must appear to you, be assured no means of investigating the truth has been left untried, and that it is no trick—though that is the current belief, and that Witerr (?) is concerned—but I know neither he nor any human being could carry it on. I have received the greatest friendship and attention from all my neighbours; the Shipleys have been particularly kind in offering me the house in town till the middle of January, and doing everything to contribute to my peace of mind, and so have the Newbolts. I shall not attempt to fix myself till you come over, as I can have Wolsey, I daresay, till that time, but if we should determine on going abroad, it will be very inconvenient to have any besides our own family, and by a letter from the lieutenant (G. Poyntz Ricketts), I forgot to mention, that the same noises have been heard by the servants since we quitted the house.
Hinton Parsonage, July, 1772.
To my dear children I address the following relation, anxious that the truths which I so faithfully have delivered shall be as faithfully transmitted to posterity, to my own in particular. I determined to commit them to writing, which I recommend to their care and attentive consideration, entreating them to bear in mind the peculiar mercy of Providence in preserving them from all affright and terror during the series of wonderful disturbances that surrounded them, wishing them to be assured the veracity of their mother was pure and undoubted, that even in her infancy it was in the family a proverb, and according to the testimony of that excellent person Chancellor Hoadly she was truth itself; she writes, not to gratify vanity, but to add weight to her relation.
To the Almighty and Unerring Judgment of Heaven and Earth I dare appeal for the truth, to the best of my memory and comprehension, of what I here relate.
The mansion-house and estate of Hinton Ampner, near Alresford, Hampshire, devolved in 1755 to the Right Honourable Henry Bilson Legge in right of his lady, daughter and sole heiress of Lord Stawell, who married the eldest daughter and co-heiress of Sir Hugh Stewkeley, Bart., by whose ancestors the estate at Hinton had been possessed many generations, and by this marriage passed to Mr. Stawell on the death of the said Sir Hugh.
Mr. (who on the death of his elder brother became Lord) Stawell made Hinton his constant residence. Honoria, the youngest sister of his lady, lived with them during the life of her sister, and so continued with Lord Stawell till her death in 1754.
On the evening of April the 2nd, 1755, Lord Stawell, sitting alone in the little parlour at Hinton, was seized with a fit of apoplexy; he articulated one sentence only to be understood, and continued speechless and insensible till the next morning, when he expired.
His lordship's family at that time consisted of the following domestics:—Isaac Mackrel, house steward and bailiff. Sarah Parfait, housekeeper, who had lived in the family near forty years. Thomas Parfait, coachman, husband to said Sarah, who had lived there upwards of forty years. Elizabeth Banks, housemaid, an old servant . Jane Davis, dairymaid. Mary Barras, cook. Joseph Silbey, butler. Joseph, groom. Richard Turner, gardener, and so continued by Mr. Ricketts. Lord Stawell had one son, who died at Westminster School, aged sixteen.
Thomas Parfait, his wife, and Elizabeth Banks continued to have the care of the house during the lifetime of Mr. Legge, who usually came there for one month every year in the shooting season. On his death, in August, 1764, Lady Stawell, so created in her own right, since married to the Earl of Hillsborough, determined to let Hinton Mansion, and Mr. Ricketts took it in December following. Thomas Parfait was at that time lying dead in the house. His widow and Elizabeth Banks quitted it on our taking possession in January, 1765. We removed thither from town, and had the same domestics that lived with us there, and till some time afterwards we had not any house-servant belonging to the neighbourhood. Soon after we were settled at Hinton I frequently heard noises in the night, as of people shutting, or rather slapping doors with vehemence. Mr. Ricketts went often round the house on supposition there were either housebreakers or irregularity among his servants. In these searches he never could trace any person; the servants were in their proper apartments, and no appearance of disorder. The noises continued to be heard, and I could conceive no other cause than that some of the villagers had false keys to let themselves in and out at pleasure; the only preventive to this evil was changing the locks, which was accordingly done, yet without the effect we had reasonably expected.
About six months after we came thither, Elizabeth Brelsford, nurse to our eldest son, Henry, then about eight months old, was sitting by him when asleep, in the room over the pantry, appropriated for the nursery, and, being a hot summer's evening, the door was open that faces the entrance into the yellow bedchamber, which, with the adjoining dressing-room, was the apartment usually occupied by the lady of the house. She was sitting directly opposite to this door, and plainly saw (as she afterwards related) a gentleman in a drab-coloured suit of clothes go into the yellow room. She was in no way surprised at the time, but on the housemaid, Molly Newman, coming up with her supper, she asked what strange gentleman was come. Upon the other answering there was no one, she related what is already described, and desired her fellow-servant to accompany her to search the room; this they did immediately without any appearance of what she had seen. She was much concerned and disturbed, and she was thoroughly assured she could no ways be deceived, the light being sufficient to distinguish any object clearly. In some time after it was mentioned to me. I treated it as the effect of fear or superstition, to which the lower class of people are so prone, and it was entirely obliterated from my mind till the late astonishing disturbances brought to my recollection this and other previous circumstances.
In the autumn of the same year George Turner, son of the gardener of that name, who was then groom, crossing the great hall to go to bed, saw at the other end a man in a drab-coloured coat, whom he concluded to be the butler, who wore such coloured clothes, he being lately come and his livery not made. As he passed immediately upstairs to the room where all the men servants lay, he was in great astonishment to find the butler and the other men servants in bed. Thus the person he had seen in the hall remained unaccounted for, like the same person before described by the nurse; and George Turner, now living, avers these particulars in the same manner he first related them.
In the month of July, 1767, about seven in the evening, there were sitting in the kitchen, Thomas Wheeler, postilion; Ann Hall, my own woman; Sarah, waiting woman to Mrs. Mary Poyntz; and Dame Lacy; the other servants were out excepting the cook, then employed in washing up her things in the scullery.
The persons in the kitchen heard a woman come downstairs, and along the passage leading towards them, whose clothes rustled as of the stiffest silk; and on their looking that way, the door standing open, a female figure rushed past, and out of the house door, as they conceived. Their view of her was imperfect; but they plainly distinguished a tall figure in dark-coloured clothes. Dame Brown, the cook, instantly coming in, this figure passed close by her, and instantly disappeared. She described the person and drapery as before mentioned, and they all united in astonishment who or what this appearance could be; and their surprise was heightened when a man, coming directly through the yard and into the house the way she went out, on being asked who the woman was he met, declared he had seen no one.
Ann Hall, since married to John Sparks, now living at Rogate, near Petersfield, will testify to the truth of this relation, as will Dame Brown, now living at Bramdean. The postilion is since dead.
Meanwhile, the noises continued to be heard occasionally. Miss Parker's woman, Susan Maidstone, was terrified with the most dismal groans and rustling round her bed. At different times most of the servants were alarmed with noises that could no way be accounted for. In the latter end of the year 1769 Mr. Ricketts went to Jamaica; I continued at Hinton with my three infant children and eight servants, whose names and connections were as follows:—Ann Sparks, late Ann Hall, my own woman, the daughter of very industrious parents. Sarah Homer, nurse, sister to a substantial farmer of that name, and of a family of integrity and property. Hannah Streeter, nursemaid, of reputable parents and virtuous principles. Lucy Webb, housemaid, of honest principles. Dame Brown, cook, quiet and regular. John Sparks, coachman. John Homer, postilion, aged sixteen years, eldest son to the farmer above-mentioned. Lewis Chanson, butler, a Swiss of strict integrity. Richard Turner, gardener, but did not live in the house.
I have been thus particular in the description of those persons of ,whom my family was composed, to prove the improbability that a set of ignorant country people, excepting the Swiss alone, should league to carry on a diabolical scheme imputed to them so injuriously, and which in truth was far beyond the art and reach of man to compass.
Some time after Mr. Ricketts left me, I—then lying in the bedroom over the kitchen—heard frequently the noise of some one walking in the room within, and the rustling as of silk clothes against the door that opened into my room, sometimes so loud and of such continuance as to break my rest . Instant search being often made, we never could discover any appearance of human or brute being.
Repeatedly disturbed in the same manner, I made it my constant practice to search the room and closets within, and to secure the only door that led from that room on the inside in such manner as to be certain no one could gain entrance without passing through my own apartment, which was always made fast by a draw-bolt on the door. Yet this precaution did not preclude the disturbance, which continued with little interruption.
About this time an old man, living in the poor-house at West Meon, came and desired to speak to me. When admitted, he told me he could not rest in his mind without acquainting me that his wife had often related to him that in her younger days a carpenter, whom she had well known, had told her he was once sent for by Sir Hugh Stewkeley, and directed by him to take up some boards in the dining-room, known in our time by the name of lobby, and that Sir Hugh had concealed something underneath which he, the carpenter, conceived was treasure, and then he was ordered to put down the boards in the same manner as they lay before. This account I repeated to Mr. Sainsbury, attorney to Lady Hillsborough, that if he thought it were a probability he might have the floor taken up and examined.
In February, 1770, John Sparks and Ann, his wife, quitted my service, and went to live upon their farm at Rogate. In place of John Sparks I hired Robert Camis, one of six sons of Roger and Mary Camis, of the parish of Hinton, and whose ancestors have been in possession of a little estate there upwards of four hundred years—a family noted for their moral and religious lives. In the room of Ann Sparks I hired Ruth Turpin, but she being disordered in mind continued with me but few months. I then took Elizabeth Godin, of Alresford, sister to an eminent grocer of that place. Lewis Chanson quitted me in August, 1770, and I hired Edward Russel, now living with Mr. Harris, of Alresford, to succeed him.
I mention these changes among my domestics, though in themselves unimportant, to evince the impossibility of a confederacy, for the course of nearly seven years, and with a succession of different persons, so that at the time of my leaving Hinton I had not one servant that lived with me at my first going thither, nor for some time afterwards.
In the summer of 1770, one night that I was lying in the yellow bedchamber (the same I have mentioned that the person in drab-coloured clothes was seen to enter), I had been in bed half an hour, thoroughly awake, and without the least terror or apprehension on my spirits. I plainly heard the footsteps of a man, with plodding step, walking towards the foot of my bed. I thought the danger too near to ring my bell for assistance, but sprang out of bed and in an instant was in the nursery opposite; and with Hannah Streeter and a light I returned to search for what I had heard, but all in vain. There was a light burning in the dressing-room within, as usual, and there was no door or means of escape save at the one that opened to the nursery. This alarm perplexed me more than any preceding, being within my own room, the footsteps as distinct as ever I heard, myself perfectly awake and collected.
I had, nevertheless, resolution to go to bed alone in the same room, and did not form any conclusion as to the cause of this very extraordinary disturbance. For some months afterwards I did not hear any noise that particularly struck my attention, till, in November of the same year, I then being removed to the chintz bedroom over the hall, as a warmer apartment, I once or twice heard sounds of harmony, and one night in particular I heard three distinct and violent knocks as given with a club, or something very ponderous, against a door below stairs; it occurred to me that housebreakers must be forcing into some apartment, and I immediately rang my bell. No one hearing the summons, and the noise ceasing, I thought no further of it at that time. After this, and in the beginning of the year 1771, I was frequently sensible of a hollow murmuring that seemed to possess the whole house; it was independent of wind, being equally heard on the calmest nights, and it was a sound I had never been accustomed to hear.
On the morning of the 27th of February, when Elizabeth Godin came into my room, I inquired what weather. She replying in a very faint tone, I asked if she were ill. She said she was well, but had never in her life been so terrified as during the preceding night; that she had heard the most dismal groans and fluttering round her bed most part of the night, that she had got up to search the room and up the chimney, and though it was a bright moonlight she could not discover anything. I did not pay much attention to her account, but it occurred to me that should any one tell her it was the room formerly occupied by Mrs. Parfait, the old housekeeper, she would be afraid to lie there again. Mrs. Parfait dying a few days before at Kilmston, was brought and interred in Hinton churchyard the evening of the night this disturbance happened.
That very day five weeks, being the 2nd of April, I waked between one and two o'clock, as I found by my watch, which, with a rushlight, was on a table close to my bedside. I lay thoroughly awake for some time, and then heard one or more persons walking to and fro in the lobby adjoining. I got out of bed and listened at the door for the space of twenty minutes, in which time I distinctly heard the walking with the addition of a loud noise like pushing strongly against a door. Being thus assured my senses were not deceived I determined to ring my bell, to which I had before much reluctance on account of disturbing the nursery maid, who was very ill of a fever.
Elizabeth Godin during her illness lay in the room with my sons, and came immediately on hearing my bell. Thoroughly convinced there were persons in the lobby, before I opened my door, I asked her if she saw no one there. On her replying in the negative, I went out to her, examined the window, which was shut, looked under the couch, the only furniture of concealment there; the chimney board was fastened, and when removed, all was clear behind it . She found the door into the lobby shut, as it was every night. After this examination I stood in the middle of the room, pondering with much astonishment, when suddenly the door that opens into the little recess leading to the yellow apartment sounded as if played to and fro by a person standing behind it. This was more than I could bear unmoved. I ran into the nursery and rang the bell there that goes into the men's apartments. Robert Camis came to the door at the landing place, which door was every night secured, so that no person could get to that floor unless through the windows. Upon opening the door to Robert I told him the reason I had to suppose that some one was intrenched behind the door I before mentioned, and giving him a light and arming him with a billet of wood, myself and Elizabeth Godin waited the event. Upon opening the door there was not any being whatever, and the yellow apartment was locked, the key hanging up, and a great bolt drawn across the outside door, as usual when not in use. There was then no further retreat or hiding place. After dismissing Robert and securing the door, I went to bed in my sons' room, and about half an hour afterwards heard three distinct knocks, as described before; they seemed below, but I could not then or ever after ascertain the place. The next night I lay in my own room; I now and then heard noises and frequently the hollow murmur.
On the 7th of May, exactly the day five weeks from the 2nd of April, this murmur was uncommonly loud. I could not sleep, apprehending it the prelude to some greater noise. I got up and went to the nursery, stayed there till half an hour past three, and then, being daybreak, I thought I should get some sleep in my own apartment; I returned and lay till ten minutes before four, and then the great hall door directly under me was slapped to with the utmost violence, so as to shake my room perceivably. I jumped out of bed to the window that commands the porch. There was light to distinguish every object, but none to be seen that could account for what I had heard. Upon examining the door it was found fast locked and bolted as usual.
From this time I determined to have my woman lie in a little bed in my room. The noises grew more frequent, and she was always sensible of the same sounds, and much in the same direction as they struck me. Harassed and perplexed, I was yet very unwilling to divulge my embarrassment . I had taken every method to investigate the cause, and could not discover the least appearance of trick; on the contrary, I became convinced it was beyond the power of any mortal agent to perform, but knowing how exploded such opinions were, I kept them in my own bosom, and hoped my resolution would enable me to support whatever might befall.
After Midsummer the noises became every night more intolerable. They began before I went to bed, and with intermissions were heard till after broad day in the morning. I could frequently distinguish articulate sounds, and usually a shrill female voice would begin, and then two others with deeper and manlike tone seemed to join in the discourse, yet, though this conversation sounded as if close to me, I never could distinguish words.
I have often asked Elizabeth Godin if she heard any noise, and of what sort. She as often described the seeming conversation in the manner I have related, and other noises. One night in particular my bed curtains rustled, and sounded as if dragged by a person walking against them. I then asked her if she heard any noise and of what kind. She spoke of it exactly in the manner I have done. Several times I heard sounds of harmony within the room—no distinct or regular notes, but a vibration of harmonious tones; walking, talking, knocking, opening and slapping of doors were repeated every night. My brother, who had not long before returned from the Mediterranean, had been to stay with me, yet so great was my reluctance to relate anything beyond the bounds of probability that I could not bring myself to disclose my embarrassed situation to the friend and brother who could most essentially serve and comfort me. The noises continuing in the same manner when he was with me, I wished to learn if he heard them, and one morning I carelessly said: "I was afraid last night the servants would disturb you, and rang my bell to order them to bed." He replied he had not heard them. The morning after he left me to return to Portsmouth, about three o'clock and daylight, Elizabeth Godin and myself both awake—she had been sitting up in bed looking round her, expecting as she always did to see something terrible—I heard with infinite astonishment the most loud, deep, tremendous noise, which seemed to rush and fall with infinite velocity and force on the lobby floor adjoining to my room. I started up, and called to Godin, "Good God! did you hear that noise?" She made no reply; on repeating the question, she answered with a faltering voice, "She was so frightened she scarce durst speak." Just at that instant we heard a shrill and dreadful shriek, seeming to proceed from under the spot where the rushing noise fell, and repeated three or four times, growing fainter as it seemed to descend, till it sank into earth. Hannah Streeter, who lay in the room with my children, heard the same noises, and was so appalled she lay for two hours almost deprived of sense and motion.
Having heard little of the noises preceding, and that little she did not regard, she had rashly expressed a wish to hear more of them, and from that night till she quitted the house there was scarce a night past that she did not hear the sound as if some person walked towards her door, and pushed against it, as though attempting to force it open. This alarm, so more than commonly horrible, determined me to impart the whole series to my brother on his return to Hinton, expected in a week. The frequency of the noises, harassing to my rest, and getting up often at unreasonable hours, fixed a slow fever and deep cough, my health was much impaired, but my resolution firm. I remained in anxious expectation of my brother, and he being detained a week longer at Portsmouth than he had foreseen, it occurred to me to endeavour, by changing my apartment, to obtain a little rest; I removed to that formerly occupied by Elizabeth Godin; I did not mention my intention till ten at night, when the room was prepared, and I went to bed soon after. l had scarce lain down when the same noises surrounded me that I before have related, and I mention the circumstance of changing my room without previous notice, to prove the impossibility of a plan of operations being so suddenly conveyed to another part of the house were they such as human agents could achieve. The week following I was comforted by the arrival of my brother. However desirous to impart the narrative, yet I forbore till the next morning; I wished him to enjoy a night's rest, and therefore contented myself with preparing him to hear on the morrow the most astonishing tale that ever assailed his ears, and that he must summon all his trust of my veracity to meet my relation. He replied it was scarce possible for me to relate any matter he could not believe, little divining the nature of what I had to offer to his faith.
The next morning I began my narrative, to which he attended with mixed surprise and wonder. Just as I had finished, Captain Luttrell, our neighbour at Kilmston, chancing to call, induced my brother to impart the whole to him, who in a very friendly manner offered to unite his endeavours to investigate the cause. It was then agreed he should come late in the evening, and divide the night watch between them, keeping profoundly secret there was any such intention. My brother took the precaution, accompanied by his own servant, John Bolton, to go into every apartment, particularly those on the first and attic story, examined every place of concealment, and saw each door fastened, save those to chambers occupied by the family; this done, he went to bed in the room over the servants' hall.
Captain Luttrell and my brother's man with arms sat up in the chintz room adjoining, and my brother was to be called on any alarm.
I lay that night in Elizabeth Godin's room, and the children in the nurseries; thus every chamber on that floor was occupied. I bolted and locked the door that opened to that floor from the back stairs, so that there was no entrance unless through the room where Captain Luttrell kept watch.
So soon as I lay down, I heard a rustling as of a person close to the door. I ordered Elizabeth God in to sit up a while, and if the noise continued, to go and acquaint Mr. Luttrell.
She heard it, and instantly Mr. Luttrell's room door was thrown open, and we heard him speak.
I must now give his account as related to my brother and myself the next morning.
He said he heard the footsteps of a person walking across the lobby, that he instantly threw the door open, and called, "Who goes there?" That something flitted past him, when my brother directly called out "Look against my door." He was awake, and heard what Mr. Luttrell had said, and also the continuance of the same noise till it reached his door. He arose and joined Mr. Luttrell . Both astonished, they heard various other noises, examined everywhere, found the staircase door fast secured as I had left it. I lay so near, and had never closed my eyes, no one could go to that door unheard. My brother and his man proceeded up stairs, and found the servants in their own rooms, and all doors closed as they had seen just before. They sat up together, my brother and Mr. Luttrell, till break of day, when my brother returned to his own chamber. About that time, as I imagined, I heard the chintz room door opened and slammed to with the utmost violence, and immediately that of the hall chamber opened and shut in the same manner. I mentioned to Godin my surprise that my brother, who was ever attentive not to alarm or disturb the children, should hazard both by such vehement noise. An hour after I heard the house door open and slam in the same way, so as to shake the house. No one person was then up, for as I had never slept, I heard the servants rise and go down about half an hour afterwards. When we were assembled at breakfast, I observed the noise my brother had made with the doors.
Mr. Luttrell replied, "I assure you Jervis made not the least noise; it was your door and the next I heard opened and slapped in the way you describe."
My brother did not hear either. He afterwards acknowledged to me that when gone to bed and Mr. Luttrell and I were sitting below, he heard dreadful groans and various noises that he was then and after unable to account for. His servant was at that time with mine below.
Captain Luttrell declared the disturbances of the preceding night were of such a nature that the house was an unfit residence for any human being. My brother, though more guarded in his expressions, concurred in that opinion, and the result of our deliberations was to send an express to Mr. Sainsbury, Lady Hillsborough's steward, to request he would come over immediately on a very particular occasion, with which he would be made acquainted on his arrival.
Unluckily, Mr. Sainsbury was confined with the gout, and sent over his clerk, a youth of fifteen, to whom we judged it useless and improper to divulge the circumstances.
My brother sat up every night of the week he then passed at Hinton. In the middle of one of these nights I was surprised with the sound of a gun or pistol let off near me, immediately followed by groans as of a person in agonies, or expiring, that seemed to proceed between my chamber and the next, the nursery. I sent Godin to Nurse Horner, to ask if she had heard any noise; she had not. Upon my inquiry the next morning of my brother, he had heard it, though the report and groans were loud and deep.
Several instances occurred where very loud noises were heard by one or two persons, when those equally near and in the same direction were not sensible of the least impression.
As the watching every night made it necessary for my brother to gain rest in the day, he usually lay down after dinner. During one of these times he was gone to rest. I had sent the children and their attendants out to walk, the dairymaid gone to milk, the cook in the scullery, my own woman with my brother's man sitting together in the servants' hall; I, reading in the parlour, heard my brother's bell ring with great quickness. I ran to his room, and he asked me if I had heard any noise, "because," said he, "as I was lying wide awake an immense weight seemed to fall through the ceiling to the floor just by that mahogany press, and it is impossible I should be deceived." His man was by this time come up, and said he was sitting underneath the room as I before mentioned, and heard not the least noise. The inquiry and attention my brother devoted to investigate this affair was such as from the reach of his capacity and ardent spirit might be expected; the result was his earnest request that I would quit the place, and when obliged to return to Portsmouth, that I would permit him to send Mr. Nichols, his Lieutenant of Marines, and an old friend of the family, to continue till my removal with me.
One circumstance is of a nature so singularly striking that I cannot omit to relate it. In one of our evening's conversations on this wonderful train of disturbances I mentioned a very extraordinary effect I had frequently observed in a favourite cat that was usually in the parlour with me, and when sitting on table or chair with accustomed unconcern she would suddenly slink down as if struck with the greatest terror, conceal herself under my chair, and put her head close to my feet. In a short space of time she would come forth quite unconcerned. I had not long given him this account before it was verified to him in a striking manner. We neither then, nor I at other times, perceived the least noise that could give alarm to the animal, nor did I ever perceive the like effect before these disturbances, nor afterwards when she was removed with me to another habitation. The servants gave the same account of a spaniel that lived in the house, but to that, as I did not witness, I cannot testify.
These two narratives are for my grand-daughters Martha and Henrietta Jervis, not to be read until twenty-one or upwards, nor then unless their nerves are firm. The letters, &c., belonging to be carefully preserved.
First Narrative, In Mrs. Rickett's Handwriting. To Be Read At Leisure.
I do not recollect ever hearing of the circumstance mentioned by Mrs. Boyle in respect to her father and his friends at Hinton, and do not think it ever reached me; for her intimacy with Mr. Ricketts, who was received by her father, Stephen Poyntz, as a son, justified his going without permission, which was asked by the late Lord Clanricarde, then Colonel De Burgh, who came armed, as did the park-keepers from Holt Forest, belonging to the then Lady Stawell, the owner of Hinton.
Thomas, Bishop of Winchester, whose lady was first cousin to my mother (thence our relationship with Bullers, Agles, Bouveries, &c.), was satisfied with my narration that it was not achieved by human being, till wrought on by others. The late Lord Carhampton had, by laughing at the present lord, weakened his zeal for truth; doubts arose. He, good man, was preceptor to our late excellent King.
The unbelief of Chancellor Hoadley went nearest my heart. He that once, upon Mrs. Hoadley half jokingly saying, " I cannot believe her," said "I do believe her, for she is truth itself," and when I replied, it was hard not to be believed, said, with mild yet firm voice, "Jesus Christ Himself could not be believed!"
£60 reward was offered on discovery by Lady Stawell, which Mr. Ricketts, on his return, increased to £100. The Bishop of Winton lent me the old Palace Wolvesey at Winton, to occupy at races or on any public occasion, and thither I removed when it was no longer thought proper I should remain at Hinton; and when I left, the Bishop of St. Asaph offered me his house in town, where I stayed till I had taken one in Curzon Street.
What determined my removal to Winton was, after trying to obtain rest by removing to Dame Camis's house, when I returned to the mansion I was soon after assailed by a noise I never before heard, very near me, and the terror I felt not to be described. It then appeared I was no longer to be supported, after my brother was convinced I ought not to delay my removal. I therefore accepted the earnest invitation of my friends Mr. and Mrs. Newbolt, and continued with them till Wolvesey was prepared for my dear children, where we remained till November, with the exception of three days, with Dr. Gilbert, Canon of Salisbury, and his daughter; and there Lord Radnor—then Lord Folkestone—was very desirous to see the lady that came from the haunted house.
The Bishop of St. Asaph opposed, on the ground that such means were unworthy the Deity to employ, while the good Bishop of Winton, when I related that Robert Camis had been thrice called at the window in a voice he well remembered, that of the steward of the late Lord Stawell, said he should have conjured him by the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; which I told him, but believe no such occasion occurred, or courage failed. This steward stole his lord's gold buckles, and was much suspected of other dishonesty; whence, probably, arose the idea of concealed treasure. I never heard that any was found.
When Lord Stawell was seized with the fit that carried him off, he called to his man, "Cut a vein, cut a vein!" but no vein was cut. The excellent Dame Camis, from whom I had much information of the Stewkeley and Stawell family. Dr. Durnford, minister of Bramdean, who performed duty at Hinton, also told me that, in the number of years he had officiated, he had never known her miss Divine Service, unless illness of any one of her family or of herself prevented.
When Mr. Ricketts returned from Jamaica, having continued to keep Hinton on account of our cattle and the manor, Mr. Ricketts took the Parsonage, where we resided for two years, when the purchase of Longwood was made, and we removed thither.
Narrative No. 2, In Mrs. Ricketts's Handwriting, And Attested By Her Second Son Edward Jervis Ricketts, Afterwards Viscount St. Vincent.
After Mrs. Ricketts had quitted Hinton House, and before possession had been given to Lady Hillsborough, the keys were left with. Dame Camis, who came over every fair day to open the windows, she living close by.
Mr. George Ricketts and Mr. Poyntz Ricketts, active young men in the prime of life, were walking to and fro close to the house on the paddock side, when a great noise was heard within it, upon which one of them said, "They are at their tricks again, let us go in and see." They lost no time getting through the drawing-room window on the ground floor, and proceeding throughout the house. No living creature was to be found in it, neither was there any appearance of anything that could have been moved so as to occasion the sounds they had heard.
(Signed) Edward Jervis Ricketts.
Narrative No. 3.—Notes Taken By Osborne Markham, Esq., From Mrs. Ricketts's Dictation.
Miss Parker, mentioned in page 8 (page 558 in the Gentleman's Magazine of last month), was afterwards Lady St. Vincent, who with her sister (afterwards Mrs. Heathcote) was staying in the house during the time their father, Chief Baron Parker, was going the circuit .
It is understood that when Mrs. Ricketts left Hinton she went to the palace of the Bishop of Winchester, of which his kindness gave her the occasional use, she being an intimate friend and relation to his wife. After Mrs. Ricketts left Hinton (say within a year) another family (Mr. Lawrence) came to reside there, who stayed about a year and then suddenly quitted it.
After this the house was never occupied. On being pulled down there was found by the workmen under the floor of one of the rooms a small skull, said to be that of a monkey; but the matter was never brought forward by any regular inquiry, or professional opinion resorted to as to the real nature of the skull.
The first appearance of anything being seen or heard was before Mrs. Ricketts took possession of Hinton, which did not come to her knowledge until some time after the disturbances had been heard in the house. Joseph (the groom) then being one of the servants left in occupation of the house, and being in bed in the garret, the moon shining brightly into the room, and he being clearly awake, saw a man in a drab coat with his hands behind him, in the manner his late master held them, looking steadfastly upon him.
Note by Martha H.G. Jervis.—A number of papers (broadsides, &c.) which had been concealed during the civil wars were found under the floor of the lobby when the house was pulled down, and a small box containing what was said to be the skull of a monkey.
Notes in the handwriting of Martha Honora Georgina Jervis, elder of Mrs. Ricketts's two grand-daughters, to whom the manuscripts were left, and second wife of Osborne Markham, Esq., the writer of the foregoing pages:—
Narrative By Martha H. G. Jervis.
Rosehill, July 10, 1818.
I called on old Lucy Camis at the farm and inquired if she had recently heard of Hannah Streeter. She replied that she lived at the Lower Brook, Winchester, and that she (Lucy) had been to see her last year, and asked her if she remembered having been disturbed by the noises at Hinton Ampner, particularly one night when the other servants were gone to bed, when, being in the servants' hall, they heard a sound as of the great iron brazier falling through the roof of the pantry (over which there was no room), and that it went "Twirl! twirl! twirl!" till it sank in the ground. They were so much terrified that Lucy would not venture up to the garrets, but slept that night in the nursery. They found the brazier the next morning in the place where it had been left.
When Lord St. Vincent was in the house, and the servants were suspected of making the disturbances, Mrs. Ricketts went one night for something she wanted to the housekeeper's room, which opened into the kitchen, where the domestics were all assembled at supper. She then heard noises, and was near fainting, and called to some one to accompany her up to her brother.
The morning after Mrs. Parfait's interment Elizabeth Godin complained to the other servants that she had been dreadfully disturbed the preceding night, and that soon after she was in bed something fell with force against the window, succeeded by a dismal groan.
Lucy said, "God knows whether these noises were not in consequence of their sins."
I replied, "What did you suppose they were guilty of?"
She said, "God knows whether she had a child and killed it; but I cannot say; it is not for us to suspect them, God knows."
She spoke of Mrs. Ricketts in the highest terms and with many tears; said she did so much good in the neighbourhood that it was very unlikely any should seek to drive her away, above all, her servants, who loved her and were in perfect harmony with each other.
One night Lucy slept in a small bed in Mrs. Ricketts's room, Elizabeth Godin being ill. Mrs. Ricketts woke her and asked if she did not hear music, which she did, and "the steps of some one moving stately to it." The noises seemed mostly in the lobby and the yellow and adjoining chambers.
Lucy said that when Mr. Lawrence afterwards took possession of the house he forbid the servants from saying a word of the disturbances under penalty of losing their places. She heard that once, as his housemaid was standing in the lobby, a female figure rushed by and disappeared, but of the truth of this she could not vouch.
The foregoing information was given me by Lucy Camis, who was perfectly collected, and I merely made such queries as should lead her on without in any degree prompting her recollection.
Martha H. G. Jervis.
[Note: The home was finally demolished in 1793, with a fine Georgian mansion built in its place. No hauntings were reported in the new house. If, as rumor suggested, Lord Stawell and his sister-in-law Honoria Stewkeley had a child together, which they killed and buried under the floorboards, it would not be surprising if the pair had an uneasy afterlife.]