Standing in the middle of Northampton’s oldest park, Abington Park Museum is a Tudor manor house dating back to 1485. The building has seen several different uses over the years, including a domestic residence, asylum and museum.
The building was built and originally owned by John Bernard, and was home to several generations of the family over the following 200 years, including Elizabeth Hall, who was the grand-daughter of William Shakespeare, and lived in the house during the 17th century. The manor house then passed into the possession of William Thursby, who lived in the building until 1841, when financial problems resulted in the house being auctioned off.
From the evidence of the great hall, the only part now remaining, it was a building of two stories with gables and mullioned windows, but after his acquisition of the property in 1669 William Thursby seems to have pulled down the greater part of the house and rebuilt it on a larger scale, adding in front of the old one a new south wing containing two large rooms, staircase, and entrance.
The manor was purchased of the Thursby family in 1841 by Mr. Lewis Loyd. His son, Samuel Jones Loyd, who was head of the bank of Jones, Loyd & Co. and was a prominent financial authority, was created Baron Overstone in 1850.
Upon the death of Baron Overstone his vast fortune, estimated at two million pounds, was left to his only surviving child, Lady Wantange. This in today’s terms equates to forty seven and a half million pounds and made her the richest heiress in England.
On her own standing, Lady Wantage was a noted philanthropist, and greatly interested in hospital and nursing work, as a result she became a highly respected and much beloved woman. With her husband, a former distinguished soldier and Victoria Cross hero, she was instrumental in establishing the National Aid Society, which was really the forerunner of the British Red Cross Society.
In 1883, when Queen Victoria instituted the Order of the Red Cross, Harriet was one of the first to receive the honor.
In 1845, the building was turned into an asylum, known as Abington Abbey, run by Doctor Thomas Octavius Pritchard. Conditions in the asylum are not believed to have been overly cruel or unpleasant, however it has been reported that during this time two patients hung themselves. Over the years, guests have reported feelings of great sadness and distress in the area where the bodies were discovered.
The land of the Abington Asylum was then given to the people of this town by Lady Wantage on 28 October 1892, 28 years prior to her demise at the age of 83, when the gift of Abington Abbey and 20 acres of parkland was offered to the then Mayor, Councillor Edwin Bridgewater, for the inhabitants of the Borough forever, with the Borough Council becoming the Custodians. The park was then opened to the public in 1897. Two years later Abington Park museum was opened. In 1900 the bandstand was put in place and has held many a concert since, with it this year hosting over 40 concerts.
Today the museum features displays about the social and military history of Northampton and Northamptonshire. Exhibits include the Northamptonshire Regiment, local history, and changing exhibits of clothing from its costume collection.
Why I got interested in this museum?
Fright Nights Northampton are creating a ghost hunt in the manor that allows the people to attend for a nice sum of 40GBP. They are claiming that the museum is a disorientating maze of rooms and corridors, with a very eerie, unsettling atmosphere and do not exactly know who is haunting the place as very few investigations have been carried out at this location in the past.
Various different sightings and occurrences have been reported by both staff and visitors, including shadowy figures that have been sighted in various areas of the building, disembodied footsteps coming from behind a locked door, and feelings of sadness, anger and distress.
Visitors have also reported the feeling of being watched, and some have felt a presence standing close to them, even though they have been alone at the time. A member of staff was left terrified after having their arm grabbed by an unseen hand whilst locking up.
You can see why I got interested and did some research. Unfortunately – I could not see any reported occurences (with the exception of this site), nor any talks of grizzly haunted asylum from any other people. The only reports found were of a peaceful place, a retreat for the wounded and the mentally feeble. Nothing scary in this. No un-natural death reports whatsoever. No murders. Suicides? No reports again… I think I’m going to save my money and skip this great offer 🙂
I shall have to wait a bit longer to get the American Horror Story: Asylum experience live.