The ghost of Burton Agnes Hall and more, with Dr Emma Wells

Technically, this week’s site is two properties in one, both replete with historical significance but equally impressive for far more. The oldest part is what was known as Burton Agnes Manor, and dates right back to the late Norman period, of which the lower vaulted chamber remains today, though continued in use right into the 17th century. The more notable property, however, is the Elizabethan-era Hall, constructed between 1598 and 1610 by the Welsh Griffith family who came to Staffordshire back in the medieval era before moving to the old manor house in 1457 and heavily refurbishing the original property.

Yet it was the notable Sir George Griffith who made the greater impression—first by receiving a knighthood in Calais at the Field of the Cloth of Gold and, continuing his success as one of Henry VIII’s chief men, was appointed to the Council of the North, based in Kings Manor in York after which he decided upon a home nearer to his workplace. Burton Agnes was the perfect fit.

It was his son, Henry, who then transformed the hall into the Tudor Renaissance marvel we see today, using the skills of the accomplished Robert Smythson, who is regarded as the nation’s first true architect (and responsible for other masterpieces including Longleat House, Wollaton and Hardwick Hall).

The next incumbents were the Boynton family who continued to add their artistic and architectural flair right up until Marcus Wickham-Boynton, who was High Sheriff of Yorkshire in 1953 and Deputy-Lieutenant of the East Riding of Yorkshire. Marcus conducted a great restoration of the house, particularly the Long Gallery, and collected an abundance of art, bronzes, porcelain, and rare furniture. It was he who gifted the hall and its extensive 42-acre grounds plus further agricultural land to the trustees of a registered charity established specifically to see Burton Agnes endure for this and future generations.

And as it’s spooky season, visitor beware, you may be in for a scare: these majestic confines are said to be roamed by the ghost of Katherine (Anne) Griffith, who died at the Hall in 1620 after being brutally attacked and left for dead when returning from visiting friends.

Books by Dr Emma Wells

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