Dungeon Mistresses

Saturday dawned misty, despite the sunshine we were promised. We set off for Temple Newsam in Leeds, which was about half an hour away. The ghosts there include Margaret Ingram, who was robbed by highwaymen and had her pearl necklace stolen, which had been a christening present from her grandfather. The next day she remembered nothing of the attack and was convinced she had lost the necklace. She refused to eat and spent the next two weeks frantically looking for it, even unpicking cushions. Then she died. People report still seeing her wandering or see furniture moving and carpets rippling in her search. Most ghost hunting websites say she was 14 or 15. However, we found an epitaph of her headstone in Westminster Abbey and it says she was 12. The other ghost is Phoebe Gray, a 16 year old servant girl strangled to death by a vulgar, smelly man called William who took a fancy to her and attacked her on the dark stairway before tossing her body down the well. He was hanged for his crime. So not only does Temple Newsam have two great ghost stories, it also has a farm and an adventure playground. To be honest, we couldn’t decide which we were more excited about.

Temple Newsam

Temple Newsam

We didn’t get lost! We headed to the manor house as we wanted to get on the cellar tour, which started at 11. We weren’t allowed to film and photography was also prohibited, but as you can tell from the photos, not everyone is willing to follow the rules. No flash was used so there’s no damage caused, and as for taking photos in the cellar, they said ‘no photography inside the house.’ Technically, we were underneath it 😀 The manor house was lovely though the overuse of ‘please do not touch’ signs did hint at mistrust. There was no-one on hand to tell us stories about the place like there was in Baddesley Clinton, though one bored worker in charge of entertaining school kids happily talked to us.

Temple Newsam

stairway where Phoebe Gray died

Then began the tour. It was really cool. We were taken to the stairs where Phoebe was murdered and taken through parts of the house where normal tourists aren’t allowed, through servants’ passageways and then down to the cellars. We walked through the servants’ tunnel and our guide switched out the lights. It was pitch black. We could imagine how scary it must have been walking through there with only a candle, if they were lucky. We would’ve tripped and dropped the tray. They even had to master the stairs in the dark. We can’t even master stairs in daylight!

Temple Newsam

show us your babies!

After the tour came the part we were most looking forwards to – the farm! Yes the manor house had ghost stories and creepy tunnels but the farm had babies! We shouted “show us your babies!” and almost every animal obliged. We got to pat kids (the goat kind) and lambs. The lambs even nibbled our fingers and when we scratched them above the tail, their little woolly tails wagged! They were so cute. We wanted to take them with us but with a four seater Mini Cooper and our electric cool box taking up one seat, there was no room. Plus there’s the frankly unworkable ‘no more pets’ rule that has been enforced at Casa Raven. Temple NewsamWe spent more time with the animals than we did at the manor house. We interviewed chickens, donkeys, cows, ducks, sheep, goats, rabbits and pigs about the ghosts at the manor house but not one animal would talk to us. Even one particularly noisy sheep fell silent every time we mentioned the ghosts. Then four grey hens (who can’t be named for legal reasons) gathered around and they were very eager to speak to us. Through the syllables clucked, we were able to determine their answers. When asked “what happened to Phoebe Gray?” they responded with “she died.” And when we asked how, they said “William killed her.” We might now have to take these hens in to Witness Protection.

Temple Newsam

Neen on the swing

Time disappeared and we reluctantly dragged ourselves away from the babies. But York was calling and so was the adventure playground. We dropped our bags, hitched our skirts and showed the kids how it’s done. Think they were impressed. It’s not every day you see Goths in playgrounds. We took turns on the swings then the obstacle course, going up it the wrong way and demonstrating to the kids how not to use playground equipment.

Cat showing kids how it's done

Cat showing kids how it’s done

Neen was the only one suitably dressed for playground shenanigans but we never let style get in the way of having fun. And it turned out, satin skirts made the tube slide even faster, with Cat shooting out and landing on her feet before giving an enthusiastic bow. Only for her heavy locket to swing up and smack her on the nose. She still has a bruise and small lump there four days on. And Lynx hurt herself in the slide when she came out sideways and landed on a stone. Then we all jumped on the rounabout, only to feel sick with all the spinning. We were unable to walk once we’d jumped off. It’s a sign you’re getting old when you can no longer enjoy the children’s roundabout 😦

Temple Newsam

Lynx demonstrating climbing skills

Then we set off for York and The Dungeons. We loved Edinburgh Dungeons and regularly stalk the Twitter and Facebook pages so we were really looking forwards to the York Dungeons. We even found a cheap car park! £4 for 24 hours, so we could use it Sunday too. It was quite a walk, but we’ll happily walk further to pay less. Though our feet weren’t thanking us by the end. Even Cat’s special insoles for heel spurs gave up. We had to queue outside The Dungeons but finally the sun had appeared so it wasn’t too bad. In Edinburgh there was only 8 in our group. In York, there was 23. It would’ve been better with less. Even worse was there were 3 intensely irritating 10 year old girls in our group. Even Neen wanted them to be locked in the mirror maze and she’s a mother! There were also 2 15 year old girls who spent the entire time clinging to each other with their eyes shut. The Dungeons say if you have a nervous disposition, don’t enter. The only ones who weren’t scared, were us and Neen. The attractions were great and the staff are amazing there, though the girls did ruin it for us. It’s hard to enjoy something when someone irritates you to the point of murderous intentions.

But the highlight was Neen being chosen as the witch. We heckled and called for her burning while the group were silent. They did eventually join in with chanting when the witch pricker encouraged it. Neen cursed everyone as the flames rose and when they died, all that remained was a charred skeleton. We asked if we could take it with us, as we were now a team member down and a charred skeleton would look great in our photos. We weren’t allowed and Neen was returned to us unharmed. Clearly a witch.

We had fifteen minutes before the final tour of the witches’ shop so we rushed across York to Stonegate and got there with two minutes to spare. Except the final tour had already left. Calamityville Horror – we didn’t get there in the end.

York Dungeons

Off with her head!