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Goldington Grange

Goldington Grange about 1910 [Z1306-51]
Goldington Grange about 1910 [Z1306/51]

Goldington Grange was owned by Charles Livius Grimshawe who died in 1887, leaving it to his wife Emily Mary [X899/6/4]. She died ten years later leaving it to her son Arthur Grimshawe Cecil Grimshawe of Aspley Guise [X899/611]. It was not an old house and the term grange was simply picturesque, it did not begin life as the mansion house of a manor owned by a religious foundation, the true meaning of “grange”.

A piece in the Bedfordshire Times for 24th March 1944 gives us a ghost story from Goldington Grange by regular contributor Touchstone: “Glancing through the files of the last fifty years, which is a spare time hobby of mine, leaves me with the impression that the Bedford folk of long ago often made a prodigious cry about a precious little lot of wool. Matters which to us of these present times, inured to, and hard-bitten by, world-shaking events and convulsions in earth and sky, would appear as of thistledown triviality, intrigued them vastly or moved them to passionate protest. One scarcely knows whether to laugh at these good people or to envy them. The truth is that they lived in such blest immunity from any threat of major disasters that they could afford to take deep personal interest in little things”.

“Hence we need not be surprised that village or servants’ gossip could start such a tale of a haunted house as filled columns in the local newspapers and even attracted the attention of the national Press. The house was Goldington Grange - but in the attempt to avoid prejudice to the interests of the owners, it was given the stage-name of “Silverton Abbey””.

“A letter in the London Standard about the end of April 1896 set the ghost-hunt afoot. It was written by the tenant of the Grange [Cecil Ernest Gladstone took the lease in 1888 - X899/6/13], who told how he was a retired Army officer, a man who had many times faced death without being suspected of cowardice, how he had taken the Grange, being charmed with its position and now, after living there for a year or more he had been forced to leave the place because it was impossible to induce servants or his family to remain. In proof of the truth of his statement the writer, who signed himself “Bruggeling” said that although he had taken the house on a five-years’ lease at £200 a year, he was prepared to let it to anyone for £50 a year”.

“Bruggeling” stated that although he had seen no ghost, he had often heard extraordinary and violent sounds that could not be produced by any natural agency: and that one night he had seen the handle of his bedroom door turned and the door thrown open, but that, on rushing, revolver in hand, into the well-lighted corridor, he saw no one, nor was there any way by which anyone could have escaped. For himself he was not disturbed, but the governess, the nurse and several servants stated that they had distinctly seen, on waking in the night, a tall woman with black, heavy eyebrows, who appeared to attempt to strangle them and who, when the screamed, simply vanished. Servants brought from Germany, and who knew nothing of the ghost stories, had a similar alarming experience. On another night, while the family were at a concert, the old Scots housekeeper was utterly unstrung by a horrible shriek. And so on, and so on …”

“This supernaturally-evicted tenant sought a legal remedy, but his lawyer said that the English law did not recognise ghosts; and the Estate Gazette, in a careful (and amusing) analysis of the problem failed to see how ghosts, having no distrainable assets, could be joined in an action for breach of the peace or disturbance of “quiet enjoyment”. But “Bruggeling” contended that his landlord should have told him about being frightened out of the house himself by manifestations in 1892 and about his habit of sitting up all night surrounded by dogs and going to bed at dawn” [Kelly’s lists the occupier in 1890 as Mrs Grimshawe].

“Enquiries elicited the information that although one part of the Grange was older than the other, none of it was older than sixty years; also that the last five occupiers had been Mr Saint Quintin, Mr James Howard, Mr Wing, Mr Grimshawe and Mr C E Gladstone. The last named, said to be a nephew of the Right Hon W E Gladstone, was probably “Bruggeling””.

“This newspaper (of course) took the cool and dispassionate view that the queer noises were caused (1) by rats; (2) by wind rattling the windows of this big old house, with its rows of empty bedrooms, or (3) by practical jokers; in short that the ghost was a mere cock-and bull creation”.

The Bedfordshire Times and Independent, to satisfy itself, also sent its own investigator to Goldington Grange. He thoroughly explored the house and found it all in excellent repair, with no loose doors, casements or shutters. But what did give him to think was the marvellous system of cellarage - “underground chambers opening onto one another like extensions of a cavern - cellars resembling crypts with their elaborate vaulting supported on massive piers”. This strikes me as being by far the most interesting and mysterious feature of the whole story”.

“It was not the “silly season” but the London newspapers seized upon the story with avidity, and Silverton Abbey became a nine-days’ wonder. Parties of strong-nerved “ghost-hunters” and psychical experts eagerly competed for the privilege of spending the night in the haunted house. The governess’ room (where the black-browed lady was said to have been most often seen) was fitted out with beds, victualled and fortified. The bold men sat and smoked and snored and occasionally heard patterings and clatterings, but nothing more uncanny; sand so went empty away”.

“The only point scored, and that a doubtful one, was by a professional medium, who fell asleep in his chair and tumbled off it; and afterwards alleged that the chair had been suddenly snatched from under him and that he had seen the head of a grey-haired, narrow-faced man, with heavy eyebrows and pointed beard”.

“’Twas not enough. Bedford and the outside world came to the conclusion that the ghost (if any) had been laid, and that it was a pity such a fine house as Goldington Grange should remain empty because of silly tales. I don’t know how its market value had been affected, but certainly it found tenants again. And Bedford soon found something else to talk about”.

Goldington Grange was demolished in the early 20th century [STuncat 856]. The site lay at the junction of today’s Grange Road with Goldington Road.