Sussex, England was the birthplace of British Prime Minister and poor people hater Theresa May, and that’s not all that’s scary about it.
With a name that originates from the Saxons that lived there a shit tonne of years ago, Sussex has a long and varied history. It was there that the Normans took control of Britain from King Harold and his not-so-merry-but-actually-really-fucking-tired men at the bloody Battle of Hastings, and that’s not all. The county has been home to humans in some form or another for almost as long as they’ve been around, with early hominid remains found there dating back 500,000 years.
During that time we and our extinct sub-species that didn’t quite make it have managed to pack in plenty of murder and mayhem. Sussex has had its fair share of battles, and is packed with so many castles, ruins and taverns with unsettling histories that it’s no wonder so many think the place is haunted.
THE MERMAID INN, RYE
A historical inn located in the heart of the ancient town of Rye, The Mermaid Inn is one of the best known buildings of its kind in south-eastern England, and that’s mostly because of its ghosts. Established in the 12th century, the inn has connections to the notorious Hawkhurst gang and has a bloody history of duels, smuggling and murder.
Room 1 is said to be haunted by the ghost of a white lady that sits in a chair besides the fireplace, and watches guests with an expressionless face while they sleep or relax. Guests that have stayed in the room claim to have woken up to find clothes left on the chair overnight soaking wet.
A medium and a previous landlord once found themselves briefly sent back in time, where they saw a duel play out before their eyes. Supposedly the duel carried on through several rooms in the hotel before one man ran the other through with a sword and hid his body beneath the floorboards.
Room 17 is said to be haunted by the ghost of Arthur Gray, leader of the Hawkhurst gang, who was executed by hanging in Tyburn in 1748. Similarly to Room 1’s white lady, Mrs Gray silently watches the living from a corner of the room.
That’s not all. In one room a man is said to walk through the bathroom wall of The Fleur de Lys room, only to disappear into the opposite wall, and in the Elizabeth Chamber bottles have been reported to fall off shelves all by themselves.
AMBERLEY CASTLE, ARUNDEL
Erected in 1377 by Bishop William Reade, the oldest part of Amberley Castle that still still stands is the lower part of the great hall. Bishop Luffa had a timber-framed hunting lodge built on the site over 250 years before in 1103, but the manor was demolished and rebuilt twice before the current structure was completed. Bishop Reade applied for permission to have the home fortified, and over the next 400 years forty foot high walls, a gatehouse, crenelations, battlements and a portcullis were added under the supervision of subsequent bishops, the last of which to reside in the building was Robert Sherborne.
The castle was rented out or owned by a surprising amount of families up until the outbreak of the Civil War, during which time it became a royalist stronghold. General Waller was sent by Oliver Cromwell to deal with the defences, and in 1643, 20-30 feet of the curtain walls and the great hall were destroyed, creating a ruin. After the war the castle was seized from the church by Parliament was eventually sold to John Butler, a cloth merchant from London who built the manor house out of what was left of the great hall.
In 1989 the castle was converted into a hotel, the guest of which have reported numerous supernatural occurrences.
The hotel is reportedly haunted by the ghost of a young girl called Emily. Thought to be a friendly spirit that causes those who see her to feel a wave of calm, she’s often described as wearing a Victorian style dress, and having long brown hair. The story goes that Emily was a castle employee that fell hopelessly in love with a Bishop she was having an affair with. After becoming pregnant and being rejected by her lover, she climbed the spiral staircases to the battlements and leapt, heartbroken, to her death. Visitors to the hotel have reported seeing her in various parts of the building, particularly the Hertsmonceux Room.
While Emily is, as mentioned before, a friendly spirit, there’s another ghost in the castle that may not be so friendly. Those that have ventured into the empty room above the portcullis have claimed to experience the intense feeling of having someone standing right behind them, watching them.
PRESTON MANOR, BRIGHTON
The former manor house of the ancient Sussex village of Preston, Preston Manor, which is now part of Brighton and Hove, has existed in one way or another for centuries, but its currently form dates mostly from 1738, when Thomas Weston had its original 13th century structure rebuilt. The manor has had countless owners over the years including the crown, the Diocese of Chichester and the Stanfords- reputedly the richest family in Sussex-, one of whom, Charles Thomas-Stanford, bequeathed the building to the Brighton Corporation who eventually made it a museum.
It’s possible that some of the owners of the manor may not have left, as the building has long been described as one of Britain’s most haunted buildings.
The most well known of the spirits reported to haunt the manor is The White Lady, or the Blonde Nun, who has been appearing to residents and visitors as far back as the 16th century. Most famously, the ghost was at one point seen by one of the Stanford family, the daughter of Eleanor Stanford, in 1896. The child claimed to have seen the ghost walking on a staircase but, when she tried to touch it, it disappeared. One of the child’s sisters saw the spirit afterwards and also saw two spectral men fighting on a staircase on the building’s southwest side.
The White Lady has been seen by numerous other people over the years, but no encounter is as memorable as that of a guest of the Standord family. The man claimed that the spirit spoke to him and revealed that she was a nun at the manor during its days as a monastery, who was excommunicated in the 1500s and later buried on unconsecrated land. Shortly after this, workmen uncovered the bones of a middle-aged woman, which were dated as being from the sixteenth century before being buried in the churchyard of the nearby St Peter’s church.
The ghost of a woman dressed in grey has also been seen. As has the spirit of a child playing with a toy tractor in the nursery.
Visitors to the manor have reported a number of other ghostly happenings over the years, including phantom hands moving up and down a four poster bed, strange noises, lights turning on and off for no reason, doors opening and closing, and dresses being cut.
PEVENSEY CASTLE, PEVENSEY
Pevensey Castle, or what’s left of it, is a medieval castle and Roman Saxon shore fort that was built way, way back in 290 AD. Known to the Romans as Anderitum, it’s thought that the fort may have been the base for a fleet called Classis Anderidaensis. Though the exact reasons for Anderitum’s construction are unclear, some historians believe that the fort was part of a defensive system put in place to guard again attacks from Saxon pirates. Another theory is that it was built by a force that wished to prevent the Romans from keeping a strong foothold in Britain.
Regardless of the reason behind its construction, the fort was eventually taken by a Saxon army that besieged it and massacred every Briton they found inside. After that attack in the late 5th century, it’s thought that the fort remained empty- save for occasionally being used as a vantage point over the English Channel- until the Norman invasion.
By the time William of Normandy and his armies came upon the fort it was all but a ruin. They built fortifications to strengthen the existing Roman walls, only to leave for the Battle of Hastings shortly after. Eventually, sometime in 1070s, a permanent Norman castle was built on the site. This was added to over the years, before finally worsening in its state and becoming ruinous due to neglect. During the Second World War the castle became a base for troops for some time.
One of the ghosts said to lurk around the castle is, you guessed it, a lady in white. She has been encountered numerous times over the years, the most famous incident of which was when she appeared to a group of people that were camping in a field near the castle. According to the campers, she passed along by them on her way to the castle. She appeared melancholy and lost, leading to some of the campers to follow her in concern of her well being. They stopped once they realised she wasn’t walking, but gliding.
Some say that the ghost is that of Lady Joan Pelham, wife of Sir John Pelham, whose husband took over the castle in 1394. Left behind when her husband was called away to fight a battle in the north, she was unwittingly left in charge when the castle was besieged by an invading army demanding it be surrendered in the name of King Richard II. Not knowing if she or her subjects would survive, Lady Joan paced the castle’s battlements daily until her husband returned. It is thought that she was left in such turmoil that her ghost still cannot leave its post.
Others insist that the ghost is in fact the wife of Henry IV, Queen Joan of Navarre. A mother to nine children, she was charged with witchcraft by a friar Randolph, and imprisoned in the custody of Sir John Pelham in 1419. She remained there for a year before being moved to Leeds Castle where she remained until Henry V finally felt some guilt for imprisoning his step mother.
Other ghosts seen at the castle include a black figure that was thought to be a living person before a dog ran right through it in pursuit of a stick, a Roman Centurion, and a drummer boy. A number of people have also claimed to be able to hear the unmistakable (or possibly very much mistakable in this case) sound of an army marching in full armour.
Paranormal investigations have suggested that the dungeon and the North Tower have sinister and unpleasant atmospheres. Orbs (dust particles to those with a brain) have also been spotted there. Imagine there being dust in a dungeon! The shock! The horror! Quick, someone call Ripley’s.
Read more on the next page.