Sunday, 11 November 2012

17th Century History of A Haunted House - Borwick Hall

Just up the road from where I live is a massive gatehouse and high walls and a tantalising view of crenellated stone and high roofs. Walking all around the wall it becomes apparent that behind the walls lies  a wonderful old house, not open to the public, but a gorgeous stately stone building which has obviously stood for many generations. Enquiries revealed this building to be Borwick Hall.

This gateway was built by Robert Bindloss, the third Robert of his family, in 1650. He had been created a Baronet by Charles I. The Bindloss family had amassed a fortune from their business as clothiers. Robert was elected as the Member for Parliament for the Borough of Lancaster (aged 16) in 1640 and the following year he was knighted by Charles I. In London there was a saying "As rich as Sir Robert in the north." Nowadays it is hard to imagine anyone of 16 becoming an MP.

During the English Civil Wars however, he did not fight for his King - he was afraid to take sides in case his property was requisitioned by one side or the other. He was appointed a High Sherriff for Parliament as well as serving the Crown.

When the young Prince Charles (to be CharlesII ) fled in 1651 he insisted on a safe house at Borwick but Sir Robert himself was nowhere to be found, having taken refuge at a safe house himself away from the possible embarrassment of his two-faced position.

According to local legend, the young King Charles wasted no time in using his considerable charm to take advantage of the warm August night and a first floor bedroom at Borwick Hall to father a child with a young local woman, Lady Dashwood, arranged for his convenience. Afterwards he did honour his obligations though and made provision for the child. Rents from certain properties were made over to Lady Dashwood and were still paid right up until the last century.

After the young Charles's visit, Robert Bindloss stole quietly home. He was by all accounts an extravagant man who took to living beyond his means. He was also not well liked for his persecution of the Quakers at Yealand who were associated with the then radical George Fox. Sir Robert often sent armed guards to break up their meetings, egged on by his personal chaplain Dr Sherlock, a zealot who applied what he regarded as God's will with sinister enthusiasm.

Borwick Hall is said to be haunted by a starving girl who fought against her parents who had arranged her wedding - as punishment she was locked in the tower and forgotten about and starved to death, but her ghost still walks the corridors looking for vengeance.

There is also a story that an old lady knocked on the door in a blizzard one New Years Eve looking for some place to stay. Sir Robert put her up and made sure she was well fed. The next day she gave him a ripe apple and said if he kept it high up above the fireplace all year he would have good fortune that year. If he took it down then disaster would happen. It is still a tradition for someone to knock on the door and hand over an apple to this day.

Sir Robert died without a male heir in 1664 leaving Borwick Hall and his estate to his daughter, Cecilia. She married a Standish, a local prominent Lancashire Catholic family.

As for the Hall, it was used by the military in World War II, then sold off for the sum of £8,800. An amount of £650 was paid by the war department for dilapidations.Later it became a holiday camp and now it belongs to the Lancashire Youth Clubs Association who remain the present owners.
My books are 

The Lady's Slipper - An artist, a wild orchid and early Quakers  in the years following the English Civil War. 
The Gilded Lily - Beauty, desire, danger and redemption in Restoration London