Friday, February 15, 2013

Who Was the Brown Lady of Raynham Hall?

Catherine Cavendish has been on my blog a couple of times. Here's one of her fabulous posts.
She's just had her novel, The Second Wife, published and I can't wait to read it. 
You know, Catherine is becoming a published author with an impressive following. And do you know what I think her secret is? (This is my view, btw). Not only does she write excellent books I think it's because she's building a large backlist of books that her fan-base loves. We devour her books and look around for more (and she delivers!). Spook plays an important part in her novels, so I asked Catherine here today to frighten us out of our socks. 

Here's Catherine! 

Thank you for letting me take over your blog today, Sue.

My latest paranormal horror novella, The Second Wife, is a scary ghost story in which a photograph of the deceased first wife, Emily, plays a major role. The problem is, you see, that Emily just won’t rest in peace.

In my meanderings around the internet, in search of stories of hauntings, ghostly pictures and the like, I am often drawn to arguably the most famous photograph of a ghost ever recorded – and she too was a second wife. In 1936, photographers from the British upmarket magazine, Country Life, weretaking pictures to accompany a feature on Raynham Hall in Norfolk, stately home of the Townshend family. The photographer was a Captain Provand and it was his assistant, Indre Shah who saw the ghostly figure on the staircase and urged him to photograph it.

When the photograph was developed, the figure of a woman in a brocade dress was revealed. The family confirmed that a female ghost wearing an old fashioned brown brocade dress had been seen on a number of occasions down the years. She fitted the image on the photograph perfectly.

Though the negative has been examined in minute detail, the authenticity of the photograph has never been disproved.
The Brown Lady

So who was she?

Lady Dorothy Walpole
Legend has it that she was Lady Dorothy Walpole, sister of Robert Walpole, Britain’s first Prime Minister. She lived from 1686-1726 and, in 1711, was married to Charles, 2nd Viscount Townshend. She was the love of his life apparently, but her father had vetoed their marriage some years before.

In the meantime, Charles had married his first wife (who was now deceased) and Dorothy had become the mistress of the cad and bounder, Philip, Lord Wharton. Only after their marriage (and seven children later) did Charles learn of this previous relationship. When he did, insane jealousy took hold and he kept her imprisoned in her apartments at Raynham Hall, where she died at the age of 40. He refused her any further contact with any of her children.

Officially, her cause of death was given as smallpox. But many at the time believed that  she fell – or was pushed – down the Grand Staircase, where 210 years later, her tragic spirit was captured on camera. It is believed she haunts Raynham Hall in search of her children.

Through the years since, a variety of people from George IV (when he was Prince Regent) to author Captain Frederick Marryat, plus various members of the Townshend family and others have reported seeing this sad lady who searches endlessly for that which she has lost…

Now I’ll give you a flavour of The Second Wife:

Here’s the blurb:

Emily Marchant died on Valentine’s Day. If only she’d stayed dead…

Something told Chrissie the house didn’t want her, but it’s her new husband’s home, so now she must live in it. Sumptuously furnished, Barton Grove is filled with his first wife’s treasures.

 Emily died six years earlier but a part of her never left. A stunning photograph of the first Mrs. Marchant hangs in the living room. Yet there is something unnerving and impossibly alive about that portrait.

A series of terrifying events take over Chrissie’s life, but no one will believe her. As her marriage and her life unravel around her, she discovers, with devastating consequences, that Emily never intended Joe to take a second wife.

And now for an extract:

At some stage, a wall had been knocked down and two sizeable rooms had become one. Through a simple archway, the second half of the room was dominated by a framed photograph of a beautiful blonde woman, which hung above another marble fireplace. I was drawn to the photograph and moved closer, until I stood within a few feet. “Who is she?”

Joe sighed and ran his hand through his hair. “Emily. My late wife. I told you about her.”

I nodded. I had only known Joe for a short time, but I felt as if I had known Emily for years. I knew her nickname had been Willow, and could now see why. The face that stared back at me was undeniably beautiful, with high, aristocratic cheekbones and thick golden blonde hair that cascaded way below her shoulders. Her eyes were a vivid violet and her mouth, shaded a delicate pinky apricot, perfectly complemented her peaches-and-cream complexion. If the portrait had been full figure, I know I would have been looking at a slender, graceful woman with perfect poise.

Damn her! I thought to myself. I was keenly aware of what a contrast I must have been with my short dark hair, olive skin, and penchant for wearing jeans and T-shirts. After such perfection, what on earth did Joe see in me?

Maybe the photographer had used an airbrush, but I couldn’t see one blemish on that beautiful face. The shot had been taken from an angle so that she wasn’t quite full face. She was unsmiling. The set of her mouth and the way her eyes stared out at me gave her an enigmatic air. One hand was raised to her cheek, its long, perfectly manicured fingers clasping an exquisite cream-colored rose.

I stared long and hard at that photograph, taking in every detail, hardly aware of Joe telling me about the furniture and where Emily had found it all, who had decorated for them and the dinner parties she had hosted to raise money for all the worthy charities within a fifty mile radius.

Perfect Emily. Saint Emily, I thought, as she gazed lifelessly down at me.
And then…

I stared, unblinking, sure I must have imagined it. Had that been a flicker of recognition? But this was a photograph. Emily was in her coffin six feet under St Matthew’s churchyard. By now she was hardly more than a moldy skeleton.

So why was I certain—just for a fleeting second—that she had looked back at me?

The Second Wife is available now from:

You can find Cat here: as Catherine Cavendish!/cat_cavendish


  1. Thank you for hosting me today, Susan!

  2. I remember the story of the Raynham Hall ghost from when I was a child. My mother lived at West Raynham before I was born and I know the area quite well. We often drive out to Castle Acre to see both the castle and the ruined priory and carry on to do a random tour of Norfolk - the Raynhams, Fakenham - and on to Wells. The area can be quite creepy at night - but not sure why...very... still, for want of a better word. Interesting post, Cat and Sue :-)

  3. Cool. I remember sharing ghost stories with my uncle long ago as we both loved visiting old (and haunted) places.

  4. *chills* I love ghost stories, though I'd never want to see one myself. Such tragic circumstances for this poor woman!

  5. You're very welcome, Cat!
    Thanks Julia - I know Raynham Hall too. And Castle Acre.
    Sheila and Lu, I love ghost stories, but I wouldn't like to see one either!

  6. Thanks Sheila and L.G. I've loved ghost stories since I was a child. Deliciously chilling. You can't beat that feeling!

  7. I can't wait to read this. I have this love-hate relationship with ghost stories. I'm a scaredy cat!


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