A VISIT TO HAUNTED BORLEY
by Barry Van-Asten
by Barry Van-Asten
Saturday 28th July 2012
My companion and I were camping in Bures and after we had a look inside the church at Bures we decided to take our mountain bikes to Sudbury and cycle along the Valley Way to see the beautiful little church at Borley. The weather was warm and dry with just a few clouds in the sky and the date was significant to anyone with the slightest interest in the hauntings as it was Saturday 28th July 2012, exactly 112 years to the day (Saturday 28th July 1900) that the four daughters of the Rev. Henry Dawson Ellis Bull first saw the phantom nun in the grounds of the Rectory:
'They were returning from a garden-party on July 28th, 1900, and, as they entered the grounds of the Rectory, saw a young woman in the garb of a nun, telling her beads with bowed head, as she half walked, half glided, along the Nun's Walk. The three sisters (Ethel, Freda, and Mabel), then young women, were petrified with fear. They stood by the summer-house and watched her. One of the girls fetched another sister, Elsie. The four of them stood staring at the nun. Then Elsie made a movement as if to approach her. The figure stopped, turned her face towards the group, and instantly vanished. She had ''an expression of intense grief on her face'''
[The end of Borley Rectory. Harry Price. 1947]
A beautiful bike ride along the Valley Way!
We reached Sudbury about 1.20 p.m. and spent some time in St. Peter's Church, Sudbury and looking around the town before setting off on the Valley Way at approximately 4.15 p.m.
On reaching the junction with Hall Road we turned right along the pathway which goes past Borley Hall and to the Mill. This was around 4.45 p.m. Borley Mill was last used as a mill in 1947 when in the winter of that year, the severe cold weather caused the wheel shaft to split.
Returning back towards the Valley Way we stopped a while at Borley Hall. Borley Hall is a Grade II Listed Building and was probably built in the 16th-17th Century. It was the family home of the Waldegrave family: Sir Edward Waldegrave (of Bures) 1517-1561, Member of Parliament for Essex and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, was granted the manor of Borley with its Hall, Rectory and Church by Henry VIII in 1546. He was knighted at the Coronation of Queen Mary in 1553. It is most likely the oldest building in Borley and it is mentioned in 1358. During the 1890's the Hall was owned by the Payne family up until Patrick Payne (deceased) 1983.
Edward Waldegrave, son of John Waldegrave of Bures and Sudbury was imprisoned in the Tower of London for refusing to inform the Princess (afterwoods Queen Mary) that Mass must not be celebrated in her household. He ignored the Act of Uniformity which was passed at the beginning of Queen Elizabeth's reign to enforce the use of the Book of Common Prayer.
After Queen Mary's death Sir Edward was sent to the Tower of London for permitting the saying of a Mass at Borley. Spies in the household (Borley Hall) informed that Sir Edward was celebrating Mass according to the Roman Catholic Rites in his house and that his wife, Lady Frances Waldegrave (daughter of Sir Edward Neville) and his children, Lady Petre, Lady Jarningham and others were in attendance. Officers came and arrested Sir Edward and he was taken to the Tower with others who had been at the Mass, including Priests, his wife and household members, and even his physician Dr. Fryer.
Sir Edward Waldegrave died in the Tower on 1st September 1561. He was first buried at the Tower then later brought back to Borley Church where his ornate monument can be seen inside the church.
From Borley Hall we returned to the junction of the Valley Way with Hall Road and cycled up the hill towards Borley Church, which became visible further up the road on the right hand side.
Towards the Porch entrance
After seeing Borley Hall we returned to the junction of the Valley Way and Hall Road and turned left up the steep hill towards Borley. The sun was strong and the air was quite still as we saw tantalising glimpses of the church tower across the fields and above the trees.
It was about 5 p.m. when my partner and I rode up to the church and walked up the pathway to the porch, sight of many strange auditory phenomena. There was a strange silence, and for me, it had been a long awaited pilgrimage and right away I felt as if I were being observed, but not in any sinister way.
The church (dedication unknown) is a good example of an Early English style of Church from the 12th Century. Unfortunately no medieval glass remains in the church which is built from flint rubble, except for the brick porch.
Plan of Borley Church
1: Piscina. 2: Chancel Door. 3: Altar. 4: Altar Rail. 5: Chancel. 6: The Waldegrave Monument. 7: Organ. 8: Pulpit. 9: Nave. 10: Font. 11: Bricked-up arched doorway, visible from exterior. 12: Porch. 13: Tower.
The chancel door can clearly be seen here, it has an oak frame and dates from the seventeenth century. The chancel and chancel arch of the interior are late 15th or early 16th century. Some rebuilding went on in the chancel and the North wall of the nave (which is where the remains of an arched doorway can be seen) during the 15th Century.
The brick Porch was added in the 15th century
We headed straight for the porch and looked in through the iron gate, which was locked. We then turned left and walked round the back of the church. The small niche above the entrance would originally have contained a small statue of a Saint to which the church was dedicated, now lost and probably damaged in more turbulent times and so the dedication of the church remains unknown.
The view from the Porch and those magnificent yews
The grave of Rev. Henry (Harry) Foyster Bull M.A.
Henry (Harry) Foyster Bull is the eldest of four sons to Henry Dawson Ellis Bull and Caroline Sarah Foyster. 'Harry' was born on 24th January 1863 at Gestingthorpe Hall. He was educated at Malvern College and Exeter College, Oxford and ordained by Bishop Lightfoot of Durham, in 1886 and held curacies at St. Thomas, Westoe, County Durham and Chippenham, Wiltshire. He was curate to his father the Rev. Henry Dawson Ellis Bull in 1889 and Rector of Borley Church from 1892-1927. He married Ivy J. Brackenbury at Holborn, London in 1911 and died in the Blue Room of the Rectory on Thursday 9th June 1927, aged 64.
'Harry's' grave (full length)
There are several graves in the Bull family plot. To the right of 'Harry's' grave is the grave of his eldest daughter, Caroline Sarah Elizabeth Hayden, nee Bull 1864-1937.
Another of the Bull grave stones
The grave of Rev. Henry Dawson Ellis Bull M.A.
Henry Dawson Ellis Bull was the only son of the Rev. Edward Bull M.A. 1809-1884, born in Pentlow, Essex. Henry was born at Borley Place, on 23rd November 1833. Henry was admitted to Wadham College, Oxford, aged eighteen on 22nd October 1851. He gained his B.A. on 18th June 1857 and his M.A. on 3rd June 1858. Henry became Rector of Borley from 1862-1892. He died aged 59 in the Blue Room (bedroom) of Borley Rectory on 2nd May 1892.
Henry married Caroline Sarah Foyster, daughter of the Rev. Henry Samuel Foyster M.A. of All Saints, Hastings and Mary Harvey. The wedding took place at St. Clements Church, Hastings on 11th February 1862. Caroline died aged 77 in 1914 in the Blue Room of the Rectory and she is also buried at Borley Church. Henry and Caroline had the following children: Henry 'Harry' Foyster 1863-1927, Caroline Sarah Elizabeth 1864-1937 (she married John Hayden), Winifred Margaret 1865-1943, Alfred Richard 1866-1956, Basil Walter 1866 (he left the Rectory and went to Canada in 1885, returning in 1916 to serve in the Great War. Private Basil Walter Bull, Reg. Number 490565, enlisted at Vancouver, British Columbia on 10th May 1916 in the Canadian Engineers, 1st Pioneer Battalion and later serving in the Canadian Labour Corps, 3rd Battalion. He died of wounds from an enemy shell on 1st August 1917 and he is buried at Bleuet Farm Cemetery, Belgium, plot I.B.27), Ethel Mary 1868-1961, Adelaide Mabel 1868-1936, Edward Gerald 1870-1940, Constance St Clere 1872-1963, Hubert Ellis 1873-1953, Emily Toundrow 1876-1937, Cyril Garwood 1877-1877 and Alice Kathleen 1879-1934.
The East Window
The East Window rises above the altar which was discovered to be the original altar or 'mensa' by the Rev. A. C. Henning in 1947. The large stone was situated on the floor of the chancel and removed on 2nd June 1947 to be erected on four Portland stone pillars. The altar was re-dedicated on Sunday 15th June 1947 and on the following Sunday (22nd June) Rev. Henning offered the first Eucharist upon the new altar.
After taking photos of the Bull grave plot I sat down on the grave of 'Harry' Bull and my partner sat on his daughter Caroline's grave. The only sounds were the occasional movement of birds behind us or a little way to our right past the entrance to the crypt and to the rear of the church.
View from the chancel door to the porch
As we sat there facing west with the view of the East Window and the chancel door in front of us, we both distinctly heard what sounded like a wooden broomstick fall onto a stone floor within the church. The sound seemed to come from the chancel or altar part of the church and we both agreed as to what it sounded like and as to its direction. The time of happening was approximately 5.15 p.m. and the church was locked and there was no-one inside. Apart from that incident there was no othere auditory phenomena. I remember my partner commenting that the church didn't have any 'unnatural' feelings about it, but she definitely did not like the little sculptured heads that surmounted the South window! I next had the idea to photograph the rear of the church.
Before taking this photo (using a digital camera) I noticed a vibrant purple verticle stripe in the camera viewfinder, something I have never seen before. If I turned the camera horizontal, the stripe remained vertical, so it wasn't the camera. If I moved a little to the right the stripe disappeared and when I moved back it appeared again. After taking the photo the purple stripe did not appear on the finished photo. I cannot say this is not due to a natural light phenomena, but the camera has never behaved in this way before.
I tried once more. The stripe appeared again in the same place and did not appear on the final photo. Strangely, it is the same location where the photographer Simon Marsden caught a 'floating object' when he visited Borley. The North wall of the Nave (pictured above) is where the Waldegrave monument is situated; the fourteen foot high altar-tomb depicts Sir Edward Waldegrave and his wife and their six children. It shows the painted recumbent figures of Sir Edward and Lady Frances side by side. He is wearing plate armour and a ruff while she wears a flat cap and a large ruff. There are crests at the feet of both effigies. The elegant tomb has panelled sides with the kneeling figures of their three sons and three daughters, each with an inscription and a coat of arms. The canopy of the tomb rests on six Corinthian columns. Also on the North wall of the interior, in the chancel is a painted tablet of Magdala Waldegrave, Sir Edward's third daughter and the wife of John Southcote, which was erected after her death in 1598. On the tablet we see Magdala kneeling in prayer, with a flat head-dress and ruff, a tight-fitting bodice and flowing skirt.
The middle window in the North wall of the Nave is 14th Century. Also note the position of the bricked-up doorway between the two windows
A little further on and there are no more difficulties in taking photos. The strange purple light is not seen again.
Graves at the East side of the Church
The South Window is 14th Century
A view of the Tower which was added in the 15th Century
There are three bells in the Tower and the oldest one dates from 1574 which has the following inscription: Bury Saint Edmond Stephanus Tonne me fecit 1574. Another bell was cast by Cornelius Brewer in 1723 and re-cast by Alfred Bowell in 1925 at Ipswich. The third bell was also cast by Alfred Bowell in 1925.
The Stable Cottage
In the 1891 census the Rectory cottage is occupied by Walter Chinery aged 39, a coachman born in Borley, his wife Mary A. S. Chinery aged 33 and their daughter Amy A. Chinery aged 4. They are also there in the 1901 census.
From April 1916-March 1920 it was the home of Edward Cooper and his wife. Edward was employed by the Bull family for many years and it was Edward who saw the phantom coach and horses from the cottage. He also saw the ghostly nun and he and his wife were disturbed almost every night by the sound of a 'padding' dog running around the room and a frightening 'black shape' in the bedroom.
The poet James Turner 1909-1975 lived at the cottage with his wife from 29th April 1947 - 1st July 1950. Turner wrote his marvellously funny novel here, 'My life with Borley Rectory' (1950).
The Stable Cottage from the Church gate
Borley Place is a Grade II Listed Building built in the 16th Century with a 15th Century five bay barn. The Rev. Henry Dawson Ellis Bull was born here in 1833 and for the first nine months from March 1936, it was home to the Rev. A. C. Henning 1887-14th January 1955, Rector of Borley (with Liston) from 1936-1955 and his wife whom he married in 1934, Annette Eva Henning nee Bailey 1895-29th May 1964; they had a son named Stephen C. Henning born 1938. The Rev. Alfred Clifford Henning did not wish to stay in the rambling Rectory as it was much too large and innapropriate for the family, so the owners of Borley Place, Mr and Mrs Basil Payne, gave the Hennings accomodation at Borley Place. (The Rev. Henning and his wife Annette are buried at Liston Church).
Borley Place was also the home of the Rev. John Phillip Herringham who died in 1862.
View showing the location of the old Rectory from the driveway
Borley Rectory, in the Diocese of Chelmsford, was built in 1863 by the Rev. Henry Dawson Ellis Bull (1833-1892) who lived at Borley Place. A new wing was added to the Rectory to accomodate the Bull's growing family in 1875-76. It was built on the site of at least two previous dwellings. It is possible that Borley Manor House occupied the site and that the Waldegrave family lived there and that Borley Place was used as a Rectory. The second building to occupy the site of the Rectory was an earlier Rectory built by the Herringham family. In the 1861 census we can see a Rev. John Philip Herringham aged 72 (born 1789) and his wife Susanna aged 59, together with their four servants living at the 'Herringham' Rectory on the same site as the later (1863) Bull Rectory.
The old Rectory grounds today
After the death of Henry Bull in 1892, his son Henry 'Harry' Foyster Bull (1862-1927) became Rector of Borley and he lived at the Rectory. After his death it was difficult finding a successor, but in 1928 the the Bull family offered the living to the Rev. Guy Eric Smith who had been living in India (he left the Calcutta University in 1907) and working for the Indian Civil Service in Calcutta in the shipping department. He met his wife Sarah Helen Mabel Hart and they were married on 1st November 1924. After the wedding, Guy aged 39 decided to come to England and train for the ministry at Cirencester. He was ordained at the end of 1926 and Borley was to be his first post as Rector. Rev. Smith officially became Rector of Borley on 2nd October 1928, remaining with his wife 'Mabel' until Easter 1930 when he gave his last sermon on 20th April 1930 and became Rector of Sevington, in Kent. Rev. Smith died on 3rd August 1940. Harry Price made his first visit to the Rectory on 12th June 1929. After the Rev. Smith and his wife left it was then offered to a cousin of the Bulls, the Rev. Lionel Algernon Foyster born 7th January 1878 in Hastings, Sussex. he attained his B.A. in 1900 and his M.A. in 1907 (Pembroke College, Cambridge) and had been doing missionary work in Canada from 1910-1929. Lionel was the son of the Rev. George Alfred Foyster 1836-1911 of All Saints Church, Hastings, Sussex and Adelaide Julia Tillard 1843-1917. Lionel lived at the Rectory with his wife Marianne Emily Rebecca Foyster born Mary Anne Emily Rebecca Shaw on 26th January 1899, whom he married on 22nd August 1922 and their adopted child Adelaide [Barbara Alice Tower, daughter of Alice G. and Seward W. Tower both deceased] (born 20th March 1928, West Sackville, New Brunswick, Canada), she was the youngest of seven children adopted by the Foysters. She was left in a convent in Braintree upon the death of Rev. Lionel Foyster. Marianne was the only daughter of William S. Shaw of Magheramorne, Belfast and Annie Elizabeth Woodyatt, whom he married on 22nd February 1896. The Foysters lived at the Rectory from 16th October 1930- October 1935. Marianne had been married previousl to her marriage to Lionel Foyster, to a man named harold Gifford Greenwood whom she married on 8th June 1914 in Scotland and they went to Ireland in November of that year, where her name becomes 'Marianne'. After the death of Lionel Foyster she married Henry Francis Fisher on 23rd February 1935; and later again she marries Robert Vincent O'Neil on 11th August 1945. Marianne died on 18th December 1992.
The Rev. A. C. Henning was appointed minister of both Borley and Liston Churches on 13th march 1936. At the end of 1938 (December) the Rectory was sold to a Captain W. H. Gregson and on 27th february 1939 Borley Rectory was destroyed by fire.