The Haunted Ruins of Minster Lovell
Minster Lowell is an absolutely beautiful village that nestles next to the River Windrush in England's Cotswolds region, but its most well-known feature is undoubtedly the imposing turrets and walls of the ruined Minster Lovell Hall, the awe-inspiring arches and towers standing proudly next to the river with the church of St Kenelm looking on behind. This was a grand Medieval mansion built in a square compound to include stables and other facilities and was most probably completed in 1440. by Francis Lovell the 9th Baron and 1st Viscount of Lovell.
Despite these grand titles Francis does not appear to have been knighted, however that didn't stop him fighting for the Yorkist cause during the Wars of the Roses. He had been a good friend and a relation by marriage to Richard III long before his ascension to the throne and was charged with guarding the south coast of England against any landing by Henry Tudor. The forces of Henry evaded him and landed in Wales then within two months had destroyed the Yorkist forces led by Richard III. Francis Lovell fought and escaped the battle, hiding out for some time before emerging with a new force of rebels. He made three attempts to seize the young Henry as well as financing assassination plots, then made battle against the Tudor/Lancastrian army at Stoke Field where the forces of the imposter Lambert Simnel were vanquished.
Francis Lovell escaped the field once again and rode for his life towards Minster Hall. Dying in battle was one thing, he and every other knight were ready for it, but to be captured then publicly executed would have been worse still. Arriving “home”, now technically in the hands of Jasper Tudor, Lowell explained to his most trusted servant that he wished to be permanently walled up within a converted cellar, the chamber to be concealed and kept secret, until such time as the Tudor line could be ended. He intended to receive provisions and give orders and messages through a small slot in a wall. The old steward was also a Yorkist diehard and so the work was done, and Lovell, along with his favourite dog, was walled up.
Life went on at Minster Lovell Hall as usual, with the new owner none the wiser, but tragedy struck when the old servant collapsed and died while purloining food for his master. With not a soul in the world that knew he was down there, it wasn't long before Viscount Lovell perished too. The Hall changed hands several times down the centuries until the Coke family moved in. Thomas Coke, who had inherited the Viscount Lovell title, lost interest during the 1700s and began work on a new mansion near Norfolk, so Minster Lovell Hall gradually fell into ruin.
It is here that we first hear of the “return” of Francis Lovell. His spectre was said to appear on moonlit knights, striding back and forth inside the ruins, clad in voluminous flapping black robes. Just prior to Thomas Coke moving out, workmen digging in the floors discovered the secret vault within which the first Viscount had been entombed. It is said that they found a skeleton hunched across a table with the bones of a dog at its feet. Since that day the sounds of groans and screams, unearthly yapping of a dog, and the “rustling of papers” have been heard emanating from under the ground at Minster Lovell Hall. The black-cloaked figure has calmed down somewhat though, with a more subdued wraith now standing forlornly by the river.
The Hall is still a magnet for “paranormal investigators”, although I can't imagine why a figure like Francis Lovell, combining the two sides of hardened warrior and privileged aristocrat, would deign to interact with people shouting at him to “make himself known”! Visitors to Minster Lovell Hall have felt icy gusts of wind blown at them and heard padding footsteps following behind their own, and the ghost of the Viscount has been alternatively described as being almost a skeleton, clad in a ragged cloak, that hovers a foot or so off the ground before gliding towards the river followed by his dog.
One detail that I did find very interesting was the presence of “witch marks” incised around one of the window frames, The hexafoil patterns are just visible within their circles but it appears some Victorian vandal has attempted to carve the symbols into a penny farthing! In any case, the protection marks have had little effect in preventing the escape of the Hall's ghost if the tales are taken as true.
No tour of the Cotswolds would be complete without a visit to Minster Lovell Hall, but whether you choose to explore the ruins by the sun or by moonlight is your choice...
If you like these posts you might like my book The Mystery Of Mercia, available at this link -
The old tower stands by the riverside, where the ghost of Francis Lovell is said to glide