TEMPLE NEWSAM, LEEDS

WEST YORKSHIRE

The site of Temple Newsam boasts over 1,000 years of history, which includes a significant period of ownership by the Knights Templar until their demise in 1307. Origins of the manor, often referred to as the Hampton Court of the North, have stood here for over 500 years. Being the birthplace of Lord Darnley, husband of Mary Queen of Scotts and father to James I England (James VI Scotland), the stunning Tudor/Jacobean manor has many a story to tell.

This story features the two most commonly sighted specters in the property, with accounts of their activity by many a terrified visitor spanning back 200 years. One haunts upstairs, the other downstairs. As they were in life, so too are they in death.

Since the late seventeenth century, reports of the Blue Lady, said to be the ghost of Sir Arthur Ingram’s granddaughter, Mary Ingram (b.1638-d.1652), have echoed through the halls of Temple Newsam.

Sir Arthur was a prominent politician and responsible for the considerable extension and development of the house during the seventeenth century. Due to his wealth and affection for Mary, he presented the child with a significant string of pearls as a christening present. When Mary was old enough to appreciate their beauty and value, she would admire them daily but only wear them on very special occasions.

At the age of fourteen, Mary attended a high society event and when returning with her governess, their carriage was ambushed by highwaymen at near-by Garforth. During the robbery, the pearls were torn from Mary’s neck and due to the shock of the experience, Mary passed out. Upon their return to Temple Newsam, Mary was taken straight to bed, where she was expected to stay until she had recovered from the ordeal.

The following morning, Mary arose early and was in good spirit. When asked about the previous night’s incident, Mary had no recollection of the robbery. It was as if the whole thing had never happened. Later that evening, Mary went to get her pearls from the jewelry box in which they were kept, only to find it empty.

Despite her family’s best intentions to explain the previous nights incident, Mary was having none of it and began the search for her pearls throughout the house. It is said that for days, Mary obsessively searched, emptying wardrobes, lifting floorboards, unstitching cushions and tearing at the walls. Mary refused to eat until she had found the necklace. From that point, her decline was swift and within 14 days of the robbery, Mary passed away. But a part of her still lingers in the grand house to this day.

There have been hundreds of reports of the Blue Lady, whose description matches that of Mary – a portrait of whom can be seen above the fireplace in the Green Damask Room.

Many accounts have reported her apparition standing next to the door of the Gothic Room, whilst others have witnessed furniture being moved, rugs pulled and ruffled, unnatural cold spots and faint whispers of a young woman asking “My pearls, where are my beautiful pearls?”

Below the formal rooms of the house, disembodied footsteps, shuffling, banging and muffled screams are frequently heard. But Mary’s spirit wouldn’t venture to the servants quarters of the house – this is another haunting altogether.

William Collinson wasn’t a very nice person. He was a heavy drinker and described as being brash, foulmouthed and intimidating to his co-workers from the estate. His appearance was as unattractive as his personality, with very low levels of personal hygiene, even for the time. Despite this, he did have a keen eye for the women and thought himself somewhat of a Casanova.

In the summer of 1704, a huge party was thrown at Temple Newsam to celebrate the Duke of Marlborough’s success at the Battle of Blenheim against the French. Everyone on the estate was invited to celebrate, even the servants and groundsmen attended a bonfire and dance, where food, beer and wine were plentiful. Collinson took advantage of his master’s generosity and proceeded with the intention of getting blind drunk.

As the night wore on, Collinson’s interests in the pretty, sixteen-year-old nursemaid, Phoebe Gray, began to get the better of him. He’d attempted to dance with her earlier in the evening only to have his advances rejected. He’d taken an unhealthy interest in her for a while and knew that she would not break her routine of taking the Nanny a nightcap. He was right. Through his drunken haze, he watched Phoebe return to the house to fulfill her duties.

At midnight, as fireworks exploded over the estate and lit up the night sky, Phoebe set off to take her mistresses drink upstairs via the deserted back staircase. Only this night, it wasn’t deserted.

Lurking in the shadows, William Collinson stepped into the candlelight and grabbed Phoebe. Startled and petrified, Phoebe dropped the drink and screamed. In an attempt to stifle her screams, Collinson put his hand over Phoebe’s mouth and squeezed. After a few moments, her screaming and struggling did stop… as did her heart.

With Phoebe’s body now limp in his arms, Collinson knew that he had to get rid her, so he dragged her by the arms, down the back staircase, her feet scraping and banging down every step. Arriving in the cellar, Collinson lifted the cover from the well and threw Phoebe’s cadaver into it. Then he ran.

Over the course of the next two days, gossip grew among the servants, who believed that Phoebe had eloped with Collinson. That was until her body was discovered in the well.

On the orders of Viscount Ingram (Mary’s nephew), three men set out to find Collinson, in which they succeeded. Collinson was taken to York, tried for Phoebe’s murder and hanged from the gallows.

Whilst Collinson got his comeuppance and Phoebe’s untimely death was avenged, her spirit still lingers in the cellar and many have witnessed the sound of something being dragged down the back staircase. Scrape, thud, scrape, thud.

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