Okay, the last Checkmate background post, and this is the good stuff – legends and ghosts!
THE GHOSTS AT DILSTON
There are many ghost stories associated with the castle, several of which are associated with the Radcliffe family.
There are reports over the last century of a man in antique clothing and a periwig staring malevolently out from the first floor windows of the Castle. This is thought to be Francis Radcliffe, James’ grandfather who so successfully restored the family’s fortunes following the Restoration that it was rumoured that he had been in league with the Devil.
Others claim to have encountered the Grey Lady of Dilston on the stairs in the Castle. This revenant is thought to be the ghost of James’ wife, Anna Maria, filled with remorse because she allegedly threw her fan at James’s feet and offered to take his sword and ride to the Jacobite cause in his place, when the ‘Reluctant Rebel’ initially hesitated to join the 1715 rebellion.
Dilston Hall was maintained for a while by Radcliffe’s servants following James’s execution. Several serving girls reported seeing an unnerving character which they called the ‘Raggedy Man’, haunting the woodland immediately surrounding the Hall. This ghost story has been interwoven with the conspiracy theory that the Earl paid an impoverished cousin to take his place on the scaffold.
To the north of the Castle runs the old carriageway to the deer park on the other side of Devil’s Water. Here the sound of horse’s hooves and bridles have been reported, as if a body of horsemen were riding out from the Castle grounds. These reports are nearly always associated with misty evenings.
In this century, the Friends of Dilston have hosted several ‘ghost nights’ which were great fun and produced varying success. Contact was seemingly made with a jogger who died in 1980, but has been seen jogging across the Lord’s Bridge over Devil’s Water, and right through a locked gate on the other side.
Dilston Castle is a truly haunted place, rich in history and romantic stories of the losing side.