The Brown Lady Of Raynham Hall: The Harrowing Story Of The Ghost Of Lady Dorothy Walpole

Raynham Hall is home to one of the most famous hauntings in England, countless sightings have been reported of the Brown Lady, as well as a photograph claiming to capture the spirit floating down a staircase.

When you visit a beautiful mansion in the English countryside, you are looking for a quiet, calm, and relaxing experience. The last thing on your mind would be coming face to face with a ghost. This, however, has been the experience of many visitors to Raynham Hall. The Brown Lady of Raynham Hall is certainly well documented, with several sightings over the years, and a photograph claiming to have caught her even being published in a magazine. Raynham Hall is a large country house in Norfolk, England. It has been under the ownership of the Townshend family for almost four centuries. The Hall lent its name to the five nearby estate villages, which are collectively referred to as the Raynhams, the beautiful property provided the backdrop for the famous photo of the Brown Lady of Raynham Hall, published in the country life magazine in 1936.

The impressive house is one of the most beautiful properties throughout the whole Norfolk area. Construction on the building began in 1619, but it ended up being a false start, resulting in nothing but collecting a significant amount of Ketton stone in the area until 1621. It was in 1622 that the actual construction of the home began. The property was almost complete when the owner, Sir Roger Townshend, died in 1637.

It was during the ownership of the second Viscount, Charles Townshend, that the manor house was catapulted into infamy. Charles Townshend contracted one of the United Kingdom's most sought-after architect designers, Mr William Kent, to construct extensions and add fancy additions to the property's interior.

Raynham Hall is home to one of the most famous ghosts ever reported
Raynham Hall is home to one of the most famous ghosts ever reported

When you enter Raynham Hall, you instantly appreciate the genius architectural style in which the entire home is presented. The property was built flawlessly as well as elegantly.

The family decorated the home with majestic portraits and paintings, some of which are still in the house to this day.

For all the beauty and impressive design of Raynham Hall, the real intrigue with this building lies within its history and the legend that surrounds it: the story of the female spirit, known as the "Brown Lady" because of the brown brocade dress she wears that still roams the halls of the mansion.

Charles Townshend was born in 1674, and he served as a leader in the House of Lords. It is believed that the Brown Lady of Raynham Hall is his wife, Lady Dorothy Walpole, the sister of Robert Walpole.

Robert Walpole is viewed by many as the first Prime Minister of Great Britain. Although the exact dates of his term are a point for debate, most agree that between 1721 and 1742 the country was under his control, giving him the record as the longest-serving Prime Minister in British history.

Robert Walpole was known to have been quite the gentlemen, however, his brother-in-law, Viscount Charles Townshend, was not. Charles was known for his short and fiery temper, despite this, he was known to be somewhat of a ladies' man.

Lady Dorothy was known for her beauty, and she quickly caught the eye of Charles Townshend, who at the time was already married to Lady Elizabeth Pelham. Charles wasted no time in making Lady Dorothy his new wife and moved her into Raynham Hall, the place it is believed that she never left, even in death.

It is speculated that Lady Dorothy was actually having an affair with Lord Wharton at the time of her wedding. Lord Thomas Wharton, the first Marquess of Wharton, was notorious for his debauched lifestyle. He was born in 1648, he was a nobleman who also served as a politician. He was more known for his out-of-work antics, drinking, partying, and leading a life of self-indulgence, he had multiple lovers and was known as somewhat of a playboy of that era. It is noted that he once broke into a church whilst drunk and relieved himself on the communion table, as well as in the church's pulpit.

It is believed that Lady Dorothy was attracted to his charm, wit, and power, as well as his partying lifestyle. It was the discovery of the affair by Charles Townshend that ultimately led to her death.

The photograph that claimed to capture the Brown Lady at Raynham Hall
The photograph that claimed to capture the Brown Lady at Raynham Hall

Lady Dorothy was not killed in a violent fit of rage by Charles, she endured a much more cruel and painful death. It is believed that Charles Townshend locked his wife up in the grand family home, and left her to die alone and discarded within the walls of Raynham Hall. Lord Wharton made no attempt to rescue her, she was left to slowly rot within the home, likely going mad in the process.

There was an outbreak of smallpox, and when Lady Dorothy caught the disease, there was no one around to help her, she was alone, lonely, and extremely sick. In 1726 she passed away at the property and was buried on the grounds.

The death of Lady Dorothy was certainly cruel, slow, and agonizing, it comes as no surprise that the anger within her soul ensured that her spirit could not rest.

Charles Townshend himself died in 1738, after spending the last few years of his life at Raynham Hall, possibly being haunted by the ghost of his wife. However, it would appear that the death of her husband was not enough for her restless spirit to move on. The first recorded sighting of the Brown Lady came in 1835 when Colonel Loftus went to Raynham Hall for Christmas. He was walking to his room late at night when he suddenly caught a glimpse of a figure standing in front of his bedroom.

It was a woman dressed in a brown brocade gown. When Loftus attempted to get a better look at the apparition, she vanished. The next night she appeared again. This time, Loftus made a note of her empty eye sockets and her glowing countenance. When news of the sighting spread, several members of staff who worked in the house resigned and left the property.

The next reported sighting of the ghostly figure was a second-hand account. Captain Frederick Marryat, a sailor, writer, and friend of author Charles Dickens, was the next person to come into contact with the Brown Lady. While he didn't comment on his encounter himself, his son, Florence Marryat, recounted the brush with the ghost of Lady Dorothy that his father had experienced.

By this time, the locals had seen the Brown Lady frequently enough that Raynham Hall had developed a reputation as a haunted mansion. Marryat decided he was going to find out the truth, so he requested that he could spend a night in the supposedly haunted room. However, he believed that the "haunting" was merely local smugglers using Raynham Hall as their base, and they wanted to keep people away from their contraband.

Florence Marryat stated that his father had stayed in the room that had the portrait of the apparition. By comparing the ghost to this portrait, people quickly came to the conclusion that it was Lady Dorothy that was haunting Raynham Hall. The sightings mainly happened in this very room, which was later said to be the room that she likely died in.

Marryat slept in the room each night with a revolver hidden under his pillow. For the first two days, nothing unusual happened, no sightings, no ghosts, and nothing remotely paranormal were said to have occurred.

However, on the third night, two young men called on his help to authenticate a gun that was arriving from London that day. As he left the room, he picked up his revolver, joking that it was for safety, "In case we meet the Brown Lady."

Marryat, who was dressed in nothing but shirt and trousers, which was seen as indecent attire for that era, accompanied the men down the hall. Initially, they saw a lamp coming towards them, the men at first thought it was one of the mansion's female staff on her way to the nursery. They crept away from the incoming woman and hid behind a door, mainly because of Marryat's immodest clothing.

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Marryat froze in shock when he realised that the approaching woman was wearing the infamous brown brocade gown, as pulled out his revolver the woman stopped at the door he was hiding behind. Marryat claimed that she lifted the lamp she was carrying up to her head, showing her empty eye sockets, before grinning at him in "the most malicious and diabolical manner."

Marryat fired his revolver, aimed right at her head, the bullet passed straight through her and lodged itself in the wall before the Brown Lady vanished. Marryat left Raynham Hall that night, with no desire to ever return again.

The next reported sighting of the Brown Lady of Raynham Hall happened in 1926, which was recorded by the then Lady Townshend. Her son had been playing on the staircase with his friend when they claimed to feel an unusual chill in the air and caught sight of the ghost, they quickly realised that the ghost they saw was the same woman in the portrait, and they concluded it was yet another sighting of the Brown Lady.

The most infamous sighting of the Brown Lady was in 1936 when the spirit was said to have been captured on camera and published in Country Life magazine, making Lady Dorothy and Raynham Hall, famous overnight.

On September 19, 1936, Captain Hubert Provand, a photographer from London, came to Raynham Hall with his assistant, Indre Shira. Both of them worked for Country Life magazine and wanted to photograph the impressive manor for an article they were writing. The photo that they took was believed to be one of the first genuine pictures of a ghost ever captured.

Having just taken a picture of the main staircase in the property, Shira caught sight of a strange spectre floating down the stairs, she quickly took another photo, but it was not until they developed the picture that they realised they had in fact caught the infamous Brown Lady on camera.

A well-known paranormal investigator called Harry Price interviewed them. He claimed that their story was genuine, stating that they did not even realise they were capturing a photograph of an actual ghost. The negative was verified as not being tampered with and found to be authentic.

Over the years, many other people have studied the photograph, often arguing over its authenticity. The photo has been examined using modern science countless times, each time the verdict comes back as inconclusive. People have said they believe the image could be an accidental double exposure or that light got inside the camera by mistake, whilst others have said they believe that Shira and Provand faked the photograph for their own gain.

Following the publication of the photo, the sightings of the Brown Lady continued. The late Marchioness of Townsend reported seeing her several times in the late 1960s, whilst many of the housekeeping staff still talk about the cold drafts and strange lights seen around the mansion.

Many visitors and staff alike, believe that Lady Dorothy still roams the manor house, haunted by what happened to her all them years ago.

Let us know your thoughts and opinions on the Brown Lady of Raynham Hall in the comments section below.

Now you have read about the Brown Lady of Raynham Hall, make sure you read about the Borley Rectory, once described as the UK's most haunted house.


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