Haunted Shropshire - Ghostly Shropshire Car Trails
Shropshire, in the heart of the English countryside, lies unspoilt and largely undiscovered. Shropshire’s castles, country houses and tiny villages are a haven for lovers of ghostly tales. Down the ages, the county’s many bizarre characters have produced an abundance of myths and legends. There are well over five hundred haunted sites in Shropshire and of those which have been passed down through the ages by word of mouth, surviving centuries in the telling and forming a large and fascinating part of the county’s heritage.
By following our circular car trails, you can now sample the county’s ghostly legacy and discover some of Shropshire’s mysteries. The two trails are designed to enable you to travel in either direction, at your leisure, from any starting point. As the maps indicate, though a number of locations are situated away from main routes, they can easily be reached should you choose to explore further. And as you explore the folklore, why not enjoy the varied scenery and the rugged beauty of the Welsh Borderland. The picturesque landscape captures the imagination, enabling you to step back in time as you follow the ghostly trails. Encounter the White Lady of Longnor, or witness the Phantom Funeral as it wends its eerie way out of the valley at Ratlinghope.
Embark on a journey of discovery through haunted Shropshire, where myth and reality mingle into a wealth of enchanting legends.
The Brimstone Trail
Close by Shrewsbury’s 11th century Benedictine Abbey is the Dun Cow Inn, apparently still a convenient haunt for thirsty clerics, though they be long dead. In 1980, Mrs Hayes, wife of the then landlord, woke suddenly one evening. In the room was a hooded figure. It wore a monk’s habit, though dotted with bright colours – and was bent over her infant daughter’s cot!
Disturbed, the phantom father disappeared, but later visited the child, now aged two again. She woke screaming, frightened by the man in her room. Mr Hayes also saw the monk; guests have glimpsed shadowy figures disappearing through walls and at night…Soft! Are those footsteps in the cellar?
Stay at the Mytton & Mermaid Hotel at Atcham on September 30th and spend a wild night with John “Mad Jack” Mytton, who gave his name to the hotel. Mad Jack inherited a fortune and devoted his life to daredevilry, risking it at least once a day and his liver more frequently, drinking up to six bottles of port. Eccentric, too. He is reputed to have kept 2,000 dogs and more than 60 finely-costumed cats. A long time ago, mind. The squire of Halston Hall between 1796 and 1834 died in a debtor’s prison. His funeral procession stopped at the Mytton, then a coaching inn, on the way to Halston Chapel. And as can’t deny a ghost’s rights to visit his old haunts on his birthday. Can you?
A man stands on the gallows, defiant, and declares: “Before Heaven I am innocent, though my master’s son swears me guilty. And as I perish an innocent man, may those who follow my murdered lord be cursed”.
So it was the butler of Condover Hall met an unjust and pendulous end, condemned by the lies of the son of Knyvett, lord of the manor, who stabbed his father to death, then blamed a poor servant for the murder. As he stumbled, mortally wounded, down the basement stairs, Knyvett reached out his bloodied hand, leaving an imprint upon the wall which defied all attempts to wash it away. No matter how hard the work, it simply reappeared, until finally, the stone upon which it lay had to be chipped clean.
A fine Elizabethan house is Condover Hall, built around 1590 by Judge Owen. Finer no doubt for being rid of the bloodied hand, but blighted still. No heir to Condover has prospered since the hall was cursed by a butler through the noose of rope which was to hang him.
The White Lady of Longnor
So young, so pretty…and so sad is the White Lady of Longnor. Time was, she would emerge, as if from nowhere, to join in the dancing at parties in the Villa close to the Black Pool. At least one young man, smitten by the beauty and mystery of the young woman dressed in a white wedding gown, tried to woo her. But as he reached out to hold her in his arms she eluded his grasp and vanished.
Faded away would be more precise. Faded away to the depths of the Black Pool, into which she had thrown herself many years before, broken hearted when deserted by fiancé.
No-one dances at the Villa any more, since the beautiful young woman vanished at dawn in the midst of astonished revellers. Even the Black Pool has gone, long since filled in. But the White Lady remains, waiting for her fiancé perhaps…or just the invitation to dance.
At Ratlinghope, should a grand funeral procession pass by at dusk, stand for a moment in respectful silence. Marvel at the grandeur of the cortege, led by the magnificent carriage, pulled by two horses decorated with black plumes, and accompanied by top-hatted bearers.
Watch the procession slowly glide down the narrow lane, over the bridge, past the pub and climb the hill out of the village to disappear from view.
How do we know that the funeral will pass this way? A word, friend. It has done so many times before. Who lies in the coffin and where is the body’s final resting place is, no-one knows. No record of such a funeral exists.
The Devils Chair
On hot summer nights on the top of the Stiperstones, the smell of brimstone in the air warns the wary traveller that Beelzebub himself sits upon his loft throne, a ragged peak called the Devil’s Chair, surveying his kingdom. One tale tells us that it was formed when Beelzebub was taking a break in his errand to fill in the valley at Hell’s Gutter. Getting up, his apron strings broke and, cursing, he dropped the rocks where they now stand. Another is that the Devil’s work is not yet complete. Disliking Shropshire more than any other county, he would bring rocks continually, hoping Shropshire will sink into the sea.
You may even see Wild Edric, the rebel knight imprisoned underground as punishment for siding with William the Conqueror. Mounted on galloping horses, he and his men ride to war, unable to rest until all wrongs in the country have been put right.
A carving in Middleton Church recalls a time during the Middle Ages when a great drought swept Shropshire. The people were near starving until a kind Fairy Queen took a beautiful white cow to graze on Stapeley Hill. The cow, she said, would produce milk enough for everyone, but they were to bring only one vessel at a time milking.
But while the magical animal produced milk in plenty, a wicked witch, Mitchell, was plotting against the fairy, whom she despised. At midnight Mitchell began to milk the cow using a bottomless pail. At once a great storm broke, thunder rolled and lighting flashed to reveal a white river of milk gushing, wasted, down the hill.
In a fury, the cow kicked out at the hag and galloped off, never to be seen again. Mitchell tried to escape, only to find her way barred by the Fairy Queen, who wreaked a terrible revenge on the crone.
Next morning, nothing was found of Mitchell, save a solitary stone which stood where she had been confronted.
Local people then placed other stones around her to ensure she never tried escaping again.
The Robber’s Grave
John Davies vehemently denied the charge of robbery which led to his trail and conviction during the last century. He denied it to the very last, as he stood on the gallows awaiting the choke of the hangman’s rope. “I am innocent of this crime and God will not allow the grass to grow on my grave for 100 years”, he cried. No-one believed Davies, until that is, a mysterious bare patch shaped like a cross appeared on his grave in the cemetery of St. Nicholas Church, Montgomery. Anyone trying to sow seed on the brown cross either became paralysed or met an untimely end. For nearly half a century it remained, a chilling reminder of Davies’s plea of innocence.
Dare you walk through Chirbury graveyard on a Halloween…when death is calling? Legend says whoever walks twelve times round Chirbury church at midnight hears a chilling roll-call of parishioners who will die within the year.
In the 18th century, two men, the worse for a night’s drinking, dared each other to make the fateful circuit. As they strained to hear the mumbled register of the damned, the name of one of their friends rang clear. Quickly, they ran to warn him. He scoffed…but was dead before the next Halloween.
It’s said a soul does not rest in the church until it has told the living of an impending death. Would you gladly hear the names it calls?
The Devil’s Talon
Outside Minsterley, in an old timber-framed house a Christmas Eve party was in full swing. The high-living host had poured his guests after-dinner port when their conversation was interrupted by an evil whistling through the avenue of trees outside. Their silent questions gave way to concern, then blind terror as a piercing scream cut the air. One shouted “Fiends from Hell!” as the guests scrambled for the door. In the confusion, however, the host disappeared.
Only one man was brave enough to return to search the house. The sight which met him chilled his bones. The host lay dead under an upturned table. His face, his clothes and the surrounding furniture were shredded by the rake of a giant claw…the Devil’s Talon!
A Tragic Tale
Driving home one night along the Broseley Road from Bridgnorth, through the little village of Astley Abbots, a Mr Owen from Little Severn Hall was startled to see someone crossing the road ahead of him. Near his home, past the neighbouring farm, between Little Severn Hall and the Boldings is a lay-by. Mr Owen was about eighty yards away when he first spotted the woman. She stood around five feet tall and wore dark, drab clothes. Her long skirt reached down to the ground and tight around her head was a shawl. But as Mr Owen drew closer in his car, the woman mysteriously vanished.
Perplexed, he related the story to his boss next morning and was shocked when he was told the tragic story of young Hannah Phillips. She lived on the other side of the river, across from the ford and was due to be married at Astley Abbots church. A day or two before the wedding, she was sent to the church to help with preparations for the joyful day.
On her way back, however, she slipped and fell in the river. Hannah Phillips was never seen again…alive. But still, it seems, she makes the fateful journey to Astley Abbots church, preparing for a wedding day that will never come.
A plaque in the 16th century Magpie House Restaurant at the bottom of Bridgnorth’s Cartway tells of a mother’s undying love for her two dead offspring, tragic victims of chance…and an innocent children’s game.
In the 1600’s the girl and boy were playing Hide and Seek and were inadvertently locked in the cellar of the Magpie House, which is close to the River Severn. Trapped, they had no means of escape when the river, high in flood, suddenly burst its banks, flooding the cellar and drowning the unfortunate children. The grief-stricken parents erected two marble images of the children, which can still be seen in the Terrace Gardens. But images of stone cannot replace flesh and blood, nor ease a grieving mother’s heart.
The Black Lady has been seen walking the house still, her soul tormented by the tragic loss. She cries, softly whimpering her sadness, or has been heard laughing gently in remembrance of happier times.
The old carpet factory in Bridgnorth was once well-known for its hauntings. A Mrs Street, left late one night as the last person in the building, encountered a figure as she passed through the old part of the factory. It was the ghost of a monk, “Old Mo”. Dressed head to foot in a white habit, he silently approached her up the basement steps, but on reaching the top turned and descended again. Since the factory lay idle, the spirits there have remained at rest, but recent housing development has disrupted the site, unearthing part of the medieval Friary. Will Old Mo still sleep, or will he arise to stalk the ruins once more?
The distinctive façade of Reynauld’s House in Much Wenlock’s High Street hides many unexplained phenomena. The fine timber-framed 17th century building has a mid-floor balcony on which children still play, spinning tops. Their faces peer out from the windows. Look closer. Their faces seem ghostly – and the clothes they wear are not of this time, but Victorian.
The Fighting Monks
If, passing through St Peter’s churchyard at Easthope, you should hear the sound of two men “knocking the living daylights out of each other”, walk on. Their quarrel is private, centuries old – and still unresolved. In the churchyard are two tombs, bearing no marking but a simple cross. There lie two monks, former residents of Easthope Manorhouse, who one night began a fierce argument. They came to blows struggled together, fell down the cellar steps and were killed. Their earthly life over, their argument rages on.
Are you brave or foolish enough, to stand on the cliff top between Presthope and Lutwyche Hall on Wenlock Edge and taunt the ghost of Old Ippikin?
Legend says that if a man was foolhardy enough to challenge the 13th century robber knight with these words:
“Ippikin, Ippikin, Keep away with your long chin”
The consequences, not to put to fine a point on it, could be fatal.
Ippikin was a fierce man of sour temper and evil looks. Some said he was an ancient magician who had found the secret of renewing life every seventy years. He and his bandits terrorised the locality. No-one dared approach his cave for fear of attack, even though it was rumoured to be full of Ippikin’s booty of treasure and precious stones. Where men feared, however, nature lent a hand in bringing the robber knight his deserved comeuppance. During a raging storm, lightning struck a huge rock overhanging the cave. It toppled, crashing down across the entrance and trapping Ippikin and his murderous band inside.
To this day, however, it is unwise to challenge Ippikin, who stalks the Edge with his men, pushing the unwary to their deaths over cliff. And doubters beware. Above Upper Hill Farm lies Ippikin’s Rock. Look close and you can see the mark of a gold chain the robber wore…or should we say wears?
The Chimney Tomb
Plaish Hall at Cardington is Elizabethan, with fine Tudor chimneys. The original house was built of stone, but the owner, the powerful Judge Leighton, wanted it rebuilt in brick. With the work almost complete, he sent for an ornamental chimney builder to add the last grand touches. The chimney-man, however, had been sentenced to die by the judge only the day before. But Judge Leighton’s vanity saw him offer the builder a lighter sentence in return for his labour. Not surprisingly, the delighted builder agreed what was ultimately a fatal contract.
When the work was completed, instead of a reprieve, the evil Judge ordered the man to be hanged from one of his own chimneys. The Judge then entombed the wretch in one of the chimney cavities.
It’s said that on stormy nights, when the rain lashed the Hall’s windows and the wind whistled through the chimneys, the walls of the cavity oozed blood. So called scientific minds would have us believe the gore to be a combination of soot, rainwater and rusting iron. But does that properly explain the haunting of Plaish…the anguished figure of the Grey Lady who walks the house accompanied by the tall and grisly spectre of the chimney builder himself? His mother, perhaps, who died grief-stricken awaiting the return of a man so cruelly betrayed?
Please respect the fact that this is a private house.
Tom Moody was “Whipper-In” at Willey Hall in the 18th century. He had a macabre fear of being buried alive. Came the time Tom felt his end was near, he asked to see his master, Lord Forester, to leave with him one last request – a call to awake before he was laid six feet under.
“When I am dead, I wish to be buried at Barrow under the Yew trees, in the churchyard there. And to be carried to the grave by six earth stoppers and my old horse, with my whip, boots, spurs and cap slung on each side of the saddle. And the brush of the last fox when I was up at the death at the side of the forelock, and two couples of old hounds to follow me to the grave as mourners. When I am laid in the grave, let three halloos be given over to me and then, if I don’t lift my head, you may fairly conclude that Tom Moody is dead”.
Old Tom was mistaken in his premonition. His request was followed to the letter. Tom Moody did not rise at the three halloos. His grave, covered by a slab, carries the inscription: “Tom Moody. Buried Nov. 19th 1796”. He may not have risen then, but Tom is often seen still, his faithful hound at his side. Paintings and drawings of his always include a second Tom Moody. His ghost, forever the Whipper-In at Willey Hall.