I have always been fascinated by The Tudor’s, and started my family history hoping to find that I am related to Henry VIII or Anne Boleyn. I left high school straight after my GCSE’s, and did not get my first A Level until I was 24. I selected History and the coursework project question was, ‘talk about an area that benefitted from the industrial revolution’, or along those lines. The obvious choice for me was Cardiff and the growth docks area using the Glamorganshire Canal to bring coal down from The Valleys. My love of local history began!
Through my day job I was invited to attend a one off, out of season, ghost tour with Visit Caerphilly at Llancaiach Fawr. It is a fully restored Tudor Manor which is furnished as it would have been in 1645, including guides and characters in traditional dress. It is a Grade I listed building and it is thought to have been built on the site of an earlier medieval structure.
It was the home of Colonel Edward Prichard when King Charles I visited on 5th August 1645, which is why the house has been set up for this moment in time. The Colonel was one of the Commissioners for the King and was charged with raising money for the Royalist cause. However, very shortly after the Kings visit, the Colonel changed sides and supported Parliament instead. He was appointed Governor of Cardiff Castle and was commended for his consistency during the battle of St Fagans.
As well as historical tours, Llancaiach Fawr now host events throughout the year including private conferences, meetings, dinners and weddings. One of the most popular events are the Ghost Tours, and the house has been named the 7thmost haunted building in the UK. Many TV programmes have been recorded there including Most Haunted and Ghost Story.
I arrived at sunset and with the red sky and dark trees, the scene was set. Before going into the house, we were asked if we believed in ghosts or were sceptics. I fell under the sceptic category, but with an open mind. It was explained that strange things have been experienced in almost every room, along corridors and upon the stairs. There have also been reports of different smells in the air such as lavender or even roast beef – when there was nothing in the ovens. The team were keen to impress that the tour was more to learn more about the history of the building and the people who lived there, and no ghost activity, if any, is set up.
Now dark there was a short walk through the grounds and into the house, and the tour started in the kitchen. Stories were told of a grand clock ticking, even though it had been removed many years before. The house was occupied right up until it was converted in the 1990’s. The family who lived here had friends who were refused to return to the house after staying the night, with one reporting that a figure of a lady stared at them throughout the night before disappearing into the fireplace.
The most ‘famous’ ghost is that of Mattie, a housekeeper from the 19th Century. She is believed to be the most active, or most seen. Reports of hearing the rustle of her petticoats has been heard in the bedchamber where it is believed she died tragically and the sound of keys jangling in the corridors. Upstairs in the bedrooms further stories were told of a little boy who fell to his death. He has previously made his presence known by tugging ladies dresses, or trying to hold their hand.
It was in one of the bedrooms where I had my first encounter. (Remember the scepticism!) Myself and another lady sat down on a bench during one of the stories, which lent against a chest of drawers. Both of us thought one of the gents stood next to us had lent on the drawers as we felt it move behind us. However, when we looked up at him he had his arms crossed. Before moving to the next room, we questioned him about it – he denied touching it at all. The chest of drawers were made of a very heavy wood, I could not shake it without putting considerable force on it. Very spooky…
The last room we visited was what would have been used as the local courtroom. A figure has been seen in deep contemplation, and it is believed that this is the Colonel contemplating turning his back on King Charles. I was sat at the back of the room, and heard a door slam in one of the upstairs rooms and footsteps on the stairs. The house was completely empty aside from our tour group. Luckily I was not the only who heard this.
The walk through the building was definitely eerie, and there were some unexplained noises. However, the spookiest thing for me was the walk back to the car. The tour guides locked the building behind us and we all left together. The speakers on the side of the building used for outdoor events began to crackle. The guide informed me that they are disconnected, and she was more than willing to take us back into the building to prove it.
Tours start in the autumn and run until spring and start at £16.50 per person for the hour and a half. I would highly recommend attending one. Whether you believe or not, the building, the history and the way the stories are told are brilliant.
Is it haunted? I’d say so!