Parlington Hall :: Apparitions and Ghosts

If you were exploring Parlington Woods in the early 1950's and out of the gloom you were confronted with the desolate scene above, you might be forgiven for imagining that there was more to the place than simply an abandoned old building. After sunset things take on a different character, there are endless noises from within the woods, the occasional screech from an owl can cause the heart to miss a beat, the sudden flutter of a bird startled in the tree tops sends a shiver down your spine. But worse it is incredibly dark, that is to those used to living in the town or city. In recent years the new M1 which is about ¾ of a mile away as the crow flies, has provided a background hum from the endless stream of traffic, heading north or south, this provides comfort in the knowledge that you are not alone, but if the wind is from the west, the traffic noise is absent and then it can be both inky dark and eerily quiet. Then you hope you are alone!

There are a number of tales of ghosts and unexplained events, however no manifestations have ever been witnessed by me, so I merely relate some of them for the record. There are a number of tragic events that have occured over the generations which may be the basis for ghostly occurrences. They are listed latest first.

Crown Prince Ernestine Vladimir Zmronge

A recent brief visit to a local bookstore, to while away some time, produced a most unusual result. A book on Discovering Yorkshire's History has a short piece which was seemingly taken from the Garforth Gazette of 1903. A clue may be the date of the publication; 1st April. Anyway it is worth a pré-cis of the account in the book, as follows.
A visitor to Parlington Hall in the spring of 1903 was the dashing Crown Prince Ernestine Vladimir Zmronge, recorded by the Garforth Gazette as a prominent and popular Romanoff, sixth in line to the Russian Throne. He was, according to the report in the book, a guest of his Great Uncle, Sir Cecil Gascoigne and his wife Lady Gascoigne. [There is no known Gascoigne in the line with the name Cecil, and certainly the last baronet was Sir Thomas who died in 1810, furthermore Lady Gascoigne had died even before the Sir Thomas a short time after the birth of their only son Tom in 1786].

The article continues... the young man had a growing fascination for steam railways and was keen to inspect the recently completed mineral railway on his great uncle's estate. [Curious, the railway was constructed in the first half of the nineteenth century and steam engines were introduced in 1870 with the purchase of Mulciber Engine# 319 on 11th August and a few months later on 6th February 1871 with the Ignifer Engine# 343 from Manning Wardle of Hunslet, Leeds.] The article further states that the young prince spent several uneventful days inspecting the line and travelling on the rolling stock. [Odd! the line can be walked at a brisk pace in under an hour. Also it was less than a fine example of steam transport, being used principally to move coal from the collieries in Garforth (hardly a prime location for a Russian Prince) to the coal staithes in Aberford. It is true that by 1903 a third engine had been introduced, the Empress bought 31st March 1897, again from Manning Wardle engine# 1254, and it is a fact that the engines did carry passengers in the single coach, pictures of the old railway engines are available here ]

Then, proceeds the article, on the sixth day he (The Prince) went out for a walk in the woods and never returned. Despite an exhaustive police search using bloodhounds [Not that the Gascoigne's were short of hounds, there being the hunt pack kept at the rear of the Gamekeeper's cottage just by the railway line.], no body was ever found and his disappearance remained a total mystery until 1997 when the old hall was demolished!!! [Well, what can I say, I recall being at the remains of the hall before that date and as I have gone to considerable trouble to discover the demise of this place, I will not reply here to that statement.]

The article takes plausibility to the extreme by stating... A sheaf of papers belonging to Sir Cecil's bizarre wife Lady Constance Gascoigne was discovered in January of that year bricked up in the orangery. [REALLY!] The outlandish and previously dismissed mutterings of estate workers about the lady's fascination with the occult and witchcraft were suddenly given unquestionable veracity. [REALLY, SQUARED]

Continuing the fantasy... Several manuscripts in Constance's own hand, proved beyond doubt that she was a witch. But this was not the most sensational revelation. In a long letter addressed to the Russian royal family, Lady Gascoigne finally revealed the fate of the crown prince. According to her own account, on the day of his disappearance he had inadvertently stumbled across a naked convention of witches in Parlington Wood. The cavorting ladies were angered at the interruption and charged their leader with striking the young man dumb. Before Constance could do so, however, the bewildered prince ran off towards the railway line. He sprinted only a few hundred yards before a spell took hold and he was rooted to the spot forever.

Rooted to The Spot

The picture below is showing a similar view of the tree on Parlington Lane, which is sited just a few hundred yards from the east end of the Dark Arch, the Rooted to the Spot, location according to the author of the book Len Markham. My understanding is that the tree in question, sometimes referred to as the love tree, was the work of a former chief woodman who lived in the cottage at the Aberford end of Parlington Lane, Mr Evans! See the Truth about the Love Tree below!

The Truth about the Love Tree

Nellie's Tree

One of the great advantages of the Internet, is that if you publish something which is wrong there is a good chance someone will let you know! The love tree is a case in point. A relative, in fact THREE relatives, of the the man who created the tree have made contact with me. I am pleased to amend my article to concur with their understanding of the events about the tree. The picture above is of Victor Stead, the man who grafted the trees together to form a letter N.

Extract from Peter Lund about the tree

My brother and 2 sisters have been buzzing with chatter about your Parlington web site for the last 2 weeks ever since my brother Chris discovered it. My sister Jenny might have contacted you about the story under your 'Odd Tales' section about the 'love tree' in Parlington Woods supposedly where Prince Zmronge was rooted to the spot - or as you suspected, the work of former chief woodman Mr Evans, who lived on Parlington Lane.

Of course as you probably now know, the tree was actually the work of our grandad, Victor Stead, who lived in Garforth. He was a great allotment gardener and walker, and over the course of his life worked as a coal miner and farm-hand; as a lorry driver's mate (back in the days when there were such people); and in a ball bearings factory. He served in the Coldstream Guards in the First World War, but didn't like to talk about it (except that he once stood guard at Buckingham Palace). I remember him showing me how during the miners' strike of the 1920's he used to catch sparrows under a garden riddle propped up with a stick tied to a long piece of string -- to make sparrow pie. He also worked as a roofer, and while repairing the spire of Garforth Church, carved our mother's initials into the top.

Anyway, he bent down the trunk of the young beech tree in Parlington Woods and spliced it into the tree next to it so that it grew as a perfect graft, forming the letter N for Nellie (for Nellie Mosby, before she married him and became our grandma). He was very poud of the tree, and it's a pity if it goes on record as being someone else's work. Here he is in the attached picture with his tree (carrying his old Brownie box camera slung from his right hand).

So there we have it a great example of corrective local history in action, thanks to Chris, Jenny and Peter for their information and on a final note, the tree and Victor's efforts are mentioned in the definitive publication 'Flora Britannica' by Richard Mabey, available here It is really good to tie up an article with the complete circumstances of an event, so much in history is based on interpretation and often the facts get distorted.

Page 80 in the book carries this paragraph ...Young beech shoots will graft very readily, even from close natural contact, as one of the most touching twentieth-century landmark trees demonstrates: 'My father lived in Garforth and Mother worked as a live-in dairy maid in Aberford, so he used to walk down the Fly-Line [a disused railway track] to visit her. He found three beech saplings growing by the path and - as he was courting Nellie - he grafted the middle trunk across the left-hand sapling to form the letter N. He gave it the name Nellie's tree. This would be about 1920, and the tree is still there.'

Peter Hills Death: 1879

The poacher incident[1] which saw the savage beating of assistant gamekeeper Peter Hills, such that he died five days later in Leeds General Infirmary may be a candidate for a haunting, but the actual location of the attack is not known, only that it was on the estate.

The complete story of Peter Hills is set out on the Barwick in Elmet web site here

Edward Cotton Death: 1870

The sad story of Edward Cotton, a farm labourer, who whilst assisting with a shooting party was unfortunately despatched by Colonel Gascoigne.

[An extract, believed to be from the Leeds Mercury or Leeds Intelligencer, kindly provided by Mr R Sudderdean of the Garforth Historical Society. States as follows] June 18th 1870, a gardener's labourer, named Edward Cotton, while acting as a marker at a private rifle range at Parlington Park, near Leeds, was accidently shot by Lieutenant Colonel Gascoigne. The marker had left the rifle butt whilst firing was proceeding and without receiving any signal. The ball passed through his body and killed him on the spot.

So Edward Cotton would have just cause to revisit the place of his demise, the location being the former Deer Park, I believe the location was not the Deer Park of my earlier entry, the description clearly refers to a private rifle range, this would be one which was sited not far from the Lodge by Ass Bridge on the Barwick in Elmet road. This range was home to the Leeds Service Rifle Club in the years following World War Two, it fell into decay thereafter, but I do not know why. Colonel Gascoigne for his part is recorded as being much troubled in his later years by the unfortunate accident. The old Colonel died almost to the day 35 years later 22nd June 1905.

To provide some context to the Shooting Party, the image below shows shooters at Cissbury Rifle Range, Findon, West Sussex, kindly provided by Valerie Martin from her web site: www.findonvillage.com. This photo is from the early twentieth century, but the casual nature of the shooters contrasts with the rigourous procedures that are taken nowadays. A larger version of this picture showing more of the range can be seen by clicking here or on the image. The article on the Findon Village web site has some interesting details of artefacts found on the old range.

Cissbury Shooting Party

A flattened bullet [3cms across] found on the perimeter of the former Deer Park, is probably very similar to the one which passed through the unfortunate Edward Cotton. This particular bullet has hit something very solid like a wall! The transcript from the paper states that ... the ball passed straight through..., indicating that the bullet was an early type of ammunition.

Flattened Bullet

The Bullet is lead and may have come from a .577 Snider cartridge or the later .577/450 Martini-Henry amunition famously used at the battle of Rourke's Drift and in the Zulu wars of 1879. Colonel Gascoigne was noted as a marksman and following his death in 1905 two Metford guns were amongst the effects catalogued for probate purposes. Earlier observations about the possible use of one of these guns, which were acknowledged as the gun of choice for target shooting, in the fatal accident was not correct as the type of gun in use in 1870's was more likely to be the .577 Snider

The Sons of Richard Oliver Gascoigne Deaths: 1842

Richard Oliver [Gascoigne] inherited a lifetime interest in the Gascoigne estates following the death of Sir Thomas Gascoigne in 1810, he had four children, two sons and two daughters, both his sons [Thomas b: 3/06/1806 d: 24/04/1842 & Richard b: 1/01/1808 d: 25/12/1842] died within a few months of each other the year before Richard Oliver Gascoigne himself perished in April 1843. Could they be the spirits which haunt the remains of the old hall.

Tom Gascoigne Death: 1809

The next and most obvious candidate for haunting Parlington, is Tom Gascoigne whose untimely death occured in October 1809, with a future secure in the landed establishment, he threw it all away in a frivolous riding escapade whilst hunting near Retford. He was unseated as he jumped a fence and dashed his back against a tree, almost severing his spinal column, he died later that day on Friday 13th October 1809. [See Notes] More comprehensive details about the death of Tom Gascoigne can be found in the family section

The demise of young Tom Gascoigne, was believed to be instrumental in bringing about the early death of his father Sir Thomas Gascoigne, it has been suggested he died of a broken heart following the tragic death of his son some four months earlier. This may well be true, but judging by the rotund figure that Sir Thomas had acquired by that time, his fitness may have contributed to his death.

The Incidents

The Guest Room

The first recorded unexplained incident took place in the December of 2003 when a guest sitting in the guest lounge on the first floor of the West Wing saw a light. She described it as a ball[2] [of light, I believe] rise through the floor and upwards to the ceiling! No explanation has been attributed to this event.

Two more similar incidents have been noted in the same room.

The Still Room

The Still Room is at the eastern end of the west wing which is part of the oldest section of the hall, possibly dating to the seventeenth century or earlier, from time to time the room becomes uncomfortably cold and then reverts back to its normal state, recent modifications, with the addition of a wood burning stove, uncovered a cast iron fire backplate with an unidentified motif. Since the alterations no sudden cold occurances have been observed.

The Man in the Broad Brimmed Hat

This tale was re-counted by a resident of Garforth. Two school children in the 1950's ventured to the Hall and were confronted by a man in a broad brimmed hat and old fashioned clothing, he was standing in the Drawing Room, [the floors had gone by this time], the boys left rather quicker than they had arrived.

The Stairway

Another old resident of Garforth who was in the audience at a recent talk about the old hall, re-counted that he an a friend some time after the Second World War but before 1950, climbed over the estate wall to visit the remains of the Hall and ventured up a large curving staircase towards the first floor, on arriving at the top they sighted someone but before they could react, it was gone. But where the staircase was cited is a mystery! The well thumbed plan by Fowler Jones of 1885, is most definitely the layout of the hall that remained until its destructuction, nowhere on the ground floor plan is any indication of a Grand staircase so this must also remain a mystery!

The old kingdom of Elmet by Edmund Bogg

Edmund Bogg wrote a very flowery book on Elmet, within it is a short account of an apparition seen on the road between Barwick and Aberford, at the high point above the Cock Beck [Ass] bridge.

A little nearer Barwick the Ass Bridge spans the Cock, and a few paces to the south in the wood and on the edge of the high cliff, is a fine view of Barwick.

This spot is also the scene of the apparition of the cliff lady, a crepuscular spirit, often seen in years gone by. 'Twas said to be the restless ghost of a lady believed to have been murdered at Parlington. A belated traveller relates that, in passing this spot, a carriage emerged from the wood and crossed the road in front of him, and he distinctly saw the white face of a lady, but he heard no sound of horses* feet or crunching of wheels, as the carriage mysteriously glided away. At other times, she has been revealed by the moonlight washing her dress by the beck side. Apart from this apparition, in olden time the Padfoot, with huge saucer eyes and clanking chains, nightly held the bridge, to the terror of the village lads and the continual dread of the superstitious; and the people feared to pass the spot at midnight.

Who was the mysterious lady murdered at Parlington? I have not turned up any reference to a female being a murder victim in any of my research. Although I have come across details of a male victim in more recent times, see below.

eBook copy of Edmund Boggs

The old kingdon of Elmet eBook

Murder in Parlington

A body was discovered not far from Lakeside Cottage, across the Cock Beck from the house. A small plaque on the site commemorates the victim's life stating In loving memory of Christopher Robin Cooper whose life was taken 26th July 1975 A thread to the story was picked up on Secret Leeds and also a forum site had the following reference to the murder:

I remember as a young kid in Garforth around 1979, the police finding the body of a young lad from the village buried in a shallow grave in old Gascoigne family owned, Parlington woods, between Garforth and Barwick. Turned out that the kid had been taken out there and dispatched by a Hells Angel after an argument, or as some think as part of an initiation process for leadership of the group. It made all the newspapers and was of course the talk of the town. I was both impressed and terrified in equal amounts to find out that the Angel who had done it was the older brother of my pal at school, next door neighbour and one time Roadie for Hawkwind.

The area around the former lake is so overgrown and wild, that the notion of a ghost in this area would be very compelling if you were tramping through the woods on a late evening, just before dark!!

Conclusion

We all remember unusual incidents from when we were young, small children often tell of strange happenings. More so if you are venturing to a secret place where you should not be and could be found by the Gamekeeper! As to the guest who was alarmed by the rising ball, I wonder whether the heavy meal earlier in the day had something to do with it! Also no evidence was left by the strange visitor, not even a mark on the carpet!

The sudden cold, well that's the English weather for you! But on a dark night, it is very creepy in the woods!

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Notes

Peter Hills died May 12th 1879
Peter Hills,[1] is remembered due to his untimely death at the hands of poachers, in the spring of 1879. He was beaten unconscious by a gang of poachers as he and two other keepers attempted to apprehend the offenders on the Parlington Estate. Mr Walter Brown the house surgeon at the Leeds Infirmary stated in evidence at the later court case that he [Peter Hills] had a wound on the forehead that went to the bone. He was conscious for five days and then became delirious, dying early in the morning of the 12th May. A blow from a loaded stick or the butt end of a gun would be likely to cause the wound.
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Tom Gascoigne killed October, Friday 13th 1809
Thomas Charles Gascoigne, born 7th January 1786, suffered a fatal accident whilst hunting and died at Wallingwells, Notts., the residence of Sir Thomas Woollaston White, on Friday 13th October 1809 [London Times View Copy] or on 20th October 1809 [Coleman's], aged 23. He was buried at Barwick in Elmet, 28th October, when as stated in a contemporary broadsheet, over two thousand persons were present and above four hundred of his father's tenants.

External References

The full account of the tragic poacher incident is recorded on the Barwick in Elmet Historical site the link to the article is here »

[2]The strange ball that went through the floor and then upwards through the ceiling, this explanation on Wikipedia
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The Snider rifle that used a .577 lead round can be found here and the rounds it used are shown here on Wikipedia

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