Even on a bright sunny day there's no doubt that Woodchester Mansion looks like the classic haunted house with its gothic architecture. This huge stone building stands ominously, its dark windows looking out across Woodchester Park.
Woodchester Mansion replaced a Georgian country house called Spring Park, which was built at the beginning of the 17th Century and named because of the many springs in the valley. The estate has much earlier origins wich evidence of occupation dating back to pre Roman times.
The building itself was commission by William Leigh a freemason he had bought the previous building Spring Park and decided to demolish it and build Woodchester Mansion over its foundations. Williams cash ran out before the building was finished and died in 1873. It remained in the Leigh family until 1938 until the estate was sold. In the 1940's American and Canadian forces were stationed here until the end of the war. It now belongs to the Woodchester Trust who are trying to return it to its original state.
According to legend, Sir Rupert de Lansigny, who inherited Spring Park after killing his cousin, once owned the estate. Several locals have reported seeing a headless horseman, believed to be Sir Rupert, near one of the park lakes. A coffin has also been observed hovering above one of the estate's lakes, which possibly belonged to a Dominican friar who killed himself by drowning! More recently, February 2004 and September 2005 saw sightings of a black dog inside the mansion itself which appeared to coincide with the deaths of individuals closely associated with the building.
In 1902 a local vicar saw a strange apparition at the gates to the mansion needless to say he never returned to the building again. A few years later a phantom horseman was also seen on the drive dressed in civil war clothing. But it is the Mansion itself that is the epicentre of the haunting.
As you step in through the front door you find yourself suddenly transported back to the late 1800's, standing amidst what is effectively a Victorian building site. But as soon as you've taken in the amazing sight of fireplaces suspended in mid-air, doorways leading nowhere and the strange undulating floor which is in fact the vaulted ceiling of the cellar below, you have to wonder why it is that the building was never finished. Some of the rooms still have the abandoned workman's tools and equipment. During the building work there were seven deaths six from accidents and a reported murder.
The mansion has its very own chapel lit by two large stained glass windows. One of the more intriguing stories surrounding the chapel involves apparent 'Satanic rituals', which are said to have taken place, during the 1980's. How true these stories are is difficult to say. To the left of the main chapel, beside the corridor, which leads away toward what would have been the servant's quarters; there is a small private chapel, intended for Leigh's personal use. A short arched passageway connects these two rooms.
On more than one occasion visitors to the chapel have witnessed the ghost of a small man standing in the doorway. This figure stands gazing up at the two huge ornate stained glass windows, as if concerned for their poor state of repair, as most of the glass panels are now missing or cracked. Guests and visitors have also reported seeing stones and other bits of masonry being thrown across the room.
Moving on from the main chapel we enter a corridor which leads past the smaller chapel, the larder and on to another passage, at right angles to the first. This corridor has been the location of a number of sightings of an unknown 'tall man'. This strange figure has been spotted standing at one end, beside the door that leads to the laundry room. This figure does not simply remain standing in the one area, but has been seen walking along the corridor, which leads to the chapel, although he is never actually seen entering it.
In the scullery if you listen closely you just might catch the sound of a woman's voice singing an Irish folk song. As Woodchester was never occupied for any length of time it would never have had any staff that could have 'returned' in spirit. Many of the spirits residing at Woodchester are thought to be linked to the previous residence Spring Park.
It is known that Woodchester's kitchen and scullery occupy the same spot as the previous building. Indeed it is worth noting that the floor of the scullery and kitchen seem to be much older the building itself. In the short passageway between the two rooms the floor is worn and pitted, as if it has experienced centuries of use.
Walking through the passage we enter Woodchester's kitchen, it's here where the clock intended for the mansion's main tower, now stands. One of the more famous ghost stories about the property concerns this clock, which is said to start of its own accord. Visitors have heard its chime, even when the clock has not been working.
The spirit of a young girl has been seen on numerous occasions playing and running up and down the stairs to the first floor. This staircase is positioned almost exactly where Spring Park's stairs once stood, so it is possible that the girls spirit could be from that period too. Once you reach the first-floor landing and look to your right you may spot either one of two other ghosts who've been spotted within along the landing. The first ghost is that of a man whom Little is known of, except that he is seen he is aware of the person viewing him. The second is a much smaller man usually dressed all in black and wearing a hat.
Walking back along the corridor, 'occupied' by the ghost of an unknown man, we find ourselves heading for what has become known as the 'World War II' section. U.S. and Canadian soldiers once occupied this part of the mansion during the Second World War. Some of the lakes in Woodchester Park were used for training in preparation for the the D-Day landings. And it was during these exercises that tragedy struck, whilst testing out the strength of a pontoon bridge, built across one of the lake.
The bridge collapsed and a tank and upto 20 soldiers fell into the lake. Those who went in were killed either by being crushed by the fall of the tank, or by parts of the bridge that crashed down on top of them. The Woodchester Park Angel was said to have appeared the night before at the same location as the incident .
As well as sensing the presence of 'people' in military uniform, music from the 1940's has been heard. And, some visitors have reported the smell of bacon frying to guides.
Woodchester mansions cellar is, considered by many to be the most haunted part of the building. The rooms high vaulted ceiling and lack of light, gives the cellar a daunting atmosphere. Behind the many and varied manifestations that have occured in the cellar, there seems to lurk one powerful and possibly demonic presence. On a number of occasions a figure, often described as a 'ragged dwarf', has been seen.