Haunted: Borley Rectory, Essex
Stewart | On 22, Jun 2017
The Most Haunted House in England
So, the infamous Borley Rectory in Essex… was it really ENGLAND’S MOST HAUNTED HOUSE?
Before we go on, let me give you a brief intro to Borley and its infamous rectory…
The village of Borley is located in north Essex, England on the Essex/Suffolk border about a couple of miles from Sudbury in Suffolk.
If you plan on visiting Borley you’ll need to head towards Sudbury along the A134 and the take the B1064, Borley Road, Lower Road and Hall Road…
One word of warning though… it very hard to park there, you may need to park up outside the village and then walk into Borley!
The name Borley comes from Saxon words meaning Boar’s Pasture.
There’s been some sort of settlement at Borley for centuries… a Borley Manor was even mentioned in the Doomsday Book!
Borley Rectory was built by the Reverend Henry D. E. Bull in 1863 on land that contained the foundations of an old priory, a 12th century church, a caretaker’s house and other smaller buildings.
The Shocking Story of the Bricked Up Nun
Before I delve into the hauntings of Borley Rectory, let me tell you about the shocking story of the bricked up nun!
The story goes something like this…
Around 1362, there was a Benedictine monastery on the Borley Rectory site.
A nun from the Bures convent, which is about seven miles from Borley, fell head over heels in love with a monk from the monastery.
Elders found out that they were going to elope and decided to put a stop to it…
So, the monk recruited a friend of his to drive a get-away carriage to help them escape.
Unfortunately, the elders caught them whilst they were trying to elope and they weren’t too kind to them either…
They beheaded the monk’s friend, hanged the monk and then bricked up the nun behind the walls of the vaults beneath the rectory.
And to no surprise… it’s now said that their ghosts haunt Borley Rectory to this very day!
Some say that this legend was the result of Reverend Bull’s children’s overactive imaginations…
But, there have been reports of apparitions at Borley Rectory both before and after the period when the Bull family were living there.
The Haunting of Borley Rectory
In 1862 Reverend Henry D. E. Bull was named rector of Borley and had the rectory built the next year to house himself and his family…
The rectory was a big building. It consisted of three floors with twenty rooms and lying beneath it was underground tunnels and vault rooms.
In 1863, locals who visited the rectory reported hearing strange unexplained footsteps within the house.
For a few years after that there wasn’t any paranormal activity reported at the rectory until…
In 1885, the visiting P. Shaw Jeffrey saw stones being thrown through the air by an unknown force!
At this time, some visitors to rectory also started to report seeing a ghostly figure of a nun walking around the property.
Now you wouldn’t believe this, but the apparition of the nun became a common sight with numerous dinner guests reporting seeing her looking through the window at them…
In fact, it got so bad that they resorted to bricking up the window!
The Reverend even built a summer house overlooking the area where the nun walked so that he could witness the apparition… her ghost was that frequent!
On the 7th May 1892 the Reverend Henry Bull sadly died in the Blue Room of Borley Rectory.
His son Harry carried on with family tradition and became the rector of Borley.
In 1900, Harry Bull and his sisters witness the apparition of the nun walking along what’s now called Nun’s Walk in broad daylight.
The sisters approached the spirit and tried to talk to her…
Unfortunately, they were unsuccessful as she simply vanished into thin air!
Over the next twenty odd years, ghostly apparitions of nuns, monks and the odd horse and carriage were said to have seen at Borley Rectory.
Witnesses described the two most common apparitions as a lady in a grey cloak and a man in a black gown with a sort of bald head.
In 1927, Harry Bull, like his father, died in the Blue Room of Borley Rectory…
And so began the next chapter of the hauntings of the infamous Borley Rectory!
The Famous Paranormal Researcher Harry Price
Harry Price was really the guy who brought fame to Borley Rectory…
It all began a year after Harry Bull died when the Reverend Guy Eric Smith and his wife moved into the home.
You see, one day Mrs Smith was cleaning out a cupboard and she found a brown paper bag…
To her horror, she discovered a skull of a young woman in it!
Shortly after her discovery, paranormal activity started to occur within the rectory…
Disconnected servant bells would unexplainably ring, phantom lights would appear at windows, small pebbles were mysteriously thrown through thin air by unknown forces, lights would turned on and off by themselves, keys would simply vanish and unexplained footsteps would be heard walking around the house!
In fact, one night Mrs Smith was adamant she saw a phantom horse-drawn carriage through the gates of the rectory.
The Smiths, in their desperation, contacted the Daily Mirror for help… this was the beginning of the rectory’s infamy!
The Daily Mirror sent a reporter to the rectory which resulted in the first news article about the hauntings at Borley.
The paper also arranged for the paranormal researcher Harry Price to pay a visit and as they say… the rest is history!
He asked permission to stay at the rectory for a short time to carry out his investigations…
In fact, he ended up staying there for over a year!
By the end of 1930, the Smiths had left Borley Rectory for good… probably due to the hauntings and all the publicity surrounding them!
The Haunting of the Foysters
A year after the Smiths left Borley, the Reverend Lionel Algernon Foyster, his wife Marianne and their adopted daughter Adelaide moved into the rectory.
This was the beginning of the most active poltergeist activity to take place in the house!
For the next 5 years, at least two thousand poltergeist phenomena were experienced at the rectory.
Bell-ringing, windows breaking, stones and bottle being thrown and wall-writing were all witnessed at Borley during this period.
The Reverend had the house exorcised a couple of times but to no avail!
After five frightening years of living at Borley Rectory the Foysters decided to leave.
Some said that they were driven out by the poltergeist activity, but the truth was that Reverend was an ill man and he couldn’t carry on with his work due to his ill health.
The Return of the Paranormal Investigator
After the Foysters left, Borley Rectory stood empty for a good couple of years.
But in 1937, Harry Price took out a year-long lease in order to investigate the hauntings of the house in more detail.
He advertised in The Times newspaper for responsible persons of leisure and intelligence, intrepid, critical and unbiased, to form a team of investigators who would spend several nights in the abandoned building.
From his newspaper advert he recruited forty eight observers. Their task was to spend time at the rectory and document any paranormal activities they came across.
The poltergeist activity which was so prevalent during the Foysters stay had subsided but mysterious footsteps, the moving of trigger objects and the appearance of cold spots were documented…
If you want to read Harry Price’s exact findings for this period at Borley you can do in his book called The Most Haunted House in England.
The Burning Down of Borley Rectory
In 1939, Captain W. H. Gregson became the proud new owner of Borley Rectory…
Unfortunately, whilst unpacking some boxes he knocked over an oil lamp which quickly set fire to the house.
The fire spread rapidly throughout the building, damaging a vast majority of it!
Whilst the rectory was ablaze, witnesses supposedly saw ghostly figures through the flames and a nun’s face peering down from a window.
In 1944, the remaining burnt out ruins of Borley Rectory where demolished.
But, that was not the end of the hauntings…
To this very day, apparitions of nuns and monks are seen at Borley Church and at the site where Borley Rectory once stood!
Carmel King (2009) Haunted Essex. The History Press
Jason Day (2011) Paranormal Essex. The History Press
FEATURED HAUNTED HOTEL: The Arnos Manor Hotel
Along the Bath Road in Bristol you’ll find the Arnos Manor Hotel.
The hotel was first built as a private home for the business merchant William Reeve in 1760.
It was once a girl’s school which was run by nuns and it’s the ghost of one of these nuns that is said to haunt the hotel today.
Local legend says that a nun had committed suicide because she fell pregnant.
To hide the scandal, the other nuns bricked up her body behind a wall at the hotel.
During the Second World War the hotel was bombed by the German Luftwaffe.
The workmen who were sent in to repair the bomb damage area of the hotel uncovered a female skeleton.
Apparently, to avoid delay, the workmen just buried the bones elsewhere within the building!
Since then, poltergeist activity has taken place throughout the hotel.
Terrified guests have also witnessed a ghostly brown figure within the hotel especially within Room 160.
Guests have heard a female voice calling their name and have felt a figure pinning them down whilst they’ve slept in Room 160.