Wenceslas_Hollar_-_Bramber_Castle_2

TAKING ANOTHER LOOK AT THE BRAMBER CASTLE LEGEND

The recent communication from Margaret Abbey has reawakened my interest in the legend of Bramber Castle. Every so often, the story appears in one of the local papers or free magazines but there has never been the slightest evidence to prove any of it actually happened. At the end of my article from 1992, I posed a couple of questions: ‘Who was Herbert Erredge and when did he write his ‘history’ of Bramber Castle, and secondly, did Lord Hubert de Hurst and Lady Maud actually exist? If they did not, then the legend of Bramber Castle is pure invention’. Unfortunately, nothing has changed to alter my view, although I think I now have a better idea of why the ‘legend’ evolved and the reasons behind its creation.

Since writing her letter to the LONG website, Margaret has now succeeded in tracking down a copy of the article which appeared in the Shoreham Herald on 25 December 1953. This is what it says:

Is it Lady Maud wailing for her walled-up lover?

Several times during the past few weeks policemen in the Steyning area have returned to the station with harrowing reports of a ghostly high-pitched wail, heard shortly before midnight while patrolling streets in the southern part of the town.

 Policemen on the beat in Maud­lin-close, Kingstone-avenue and Roman-road, have all heard the sound of a woman’s voice singing or wailing. The phenomenon lasts a couple of minutes and always comes from the direction of ruined Bramber castle, about a mile away.

The first policeman to hear the wail was persuaded by his col­leagues that it was his imagination. Later, however, a Steyning and a Beeding policeman were on duty together and they both heard the sound.

 One police officer, interested in Bramber’s history, recently made an off-duty search of Bramber castle, but he found no trace of a ghost. He believes the voice to be that of Lady Maud, wife of Lord De Hurst, owner of the castle at the end of the fifteenth century.

When De Hurst found that Lady Maud was being visited by a lover, De Lindfield, he threw De Lindfield into the dungeon. Keeping him alive on bread and water, De Hurst gradually imprisoned his enemy behind a brick wall, laying a new line of bricks every day. Lady Maud did not know the whereabouts of her lover, but one day she followed her husband to the cell and heard the voice of De Lindfield moaning and praying.  Next day Lady Maud was found dead in bed.

 Police do not, of course, officially believe in ghosts, so there will be no authorised ghost hunt. But members will continue researches in their spare time. In addition an article about the phenomenon will appear in the next issue of Parade, quarterly review of the West Sus­sex Constabulary.

The funny outcome, as Margaret revealed, was when they later discovered that the wailing was ‘a lady up the lane’ who was calling her cats in!

The legend itself has all the features of a typical Gothic horror story:  an elderly Lord of the castle with a young wife in a loveless marriage; the dashing visitor to the castle – the hapless ‘William de Lindfield’ – who immediately falls for her; the start of a passionate affair when the old man is struck down with gout. The outcome, inevitably, is that Lord Hubert discovers the affair and decides to do something about it. He sets up a trap for Lindfield in the ‘pleasure house’ in the grounds where the two young lovers would meet during her husband’s indisposition. On a chosen evening prior to their rendezvous, his sister purposely delays Lady Maud by engaging her in conversation. Whilst Lindfield is waiting for her, Lord Hubert releases a trap door he has installed at the pleasure house which causes him to fall into a vault below. He then proceeds to brick up the vault’s entrance so that Lindfield is left to starve to death. Maud supposedly dies from grief soon after when she discovers the fate of her lover. For those of you who have never read the original version of the story in Erredge’s booklet ‘The History and Legend of Bramber Castle’, this is the essential plot stripped of all its literary pretensions.

Supposedly, during the English Civil War, in Erredge’s words: ‘when the pleasure house was pulled down – after the pleasure gardens had been destroyed by troops of the Parliamentarians when the castle was attacked – a skeleton was discovered crouched in a corner, the head resting upon the hands, the elbows on the knees – the mortal remains of William de Lindfield’.  A nice piece of melodrama, but hardly likely, bearing in mind that the castle was already in a fairly ruinous state. The evidence from a series of drawings dating to 1635-6, attributed to John Dunstall senior, shows that the castle was in no fit state to be used in any military capacity (Fig. 1).

Fig 1 This extract is taken from the drawing by John Dunstall senior, dated to 1635-6.

Fig 1 This extract is taken from the drawing by John Dunstall senior, dated to 1635-6.

The south wall of the 80ft high keep has fallen down, leaving the other three sides open to the elements whilst most of the surrounding walls are in various stages of collapse. It is thought that the castle ceased to be inhabited from the mid-15th century,  after which many of the stones and flints were slowly robbed over the centuries to use as building materials and to repair the roads. In fact, even as far back as 1586, the historian Camden was saying, ‘instead of a Castle there is now a heap of ruins’ and it is probable that the building slowly began to fall to pieces. The Parliamentarians would have had little reason to pull down an uninhabited castle, although the church was apparently seriously damaged in a ‘skirmish’ fought in 1643.

I have always wondered when Erredge wrote his ‘history’, and was surprised to recently discover that it was first published as long ago as 1867. Herbert Edward Erredge was a journalist and son of Brighton historian John Ackerson Erredge who wrote an acclaimed history of Brighton, published in 1862.[1] He was presumably commissioned to write his history of Bramber Castle by an enterprising publican, Andrew Ledigo, formerly of the Albany Tavern in West Street, Brighton who had taken over the White Lion Inn in Bramber on 6 August 1866 from James Potter and was tenant of the Castle Grounds. After the opening of the railway station in 1861, a golden opportunity arose to fully exploit the potential of tourists to the area and Ledigo seemed determined to make Bramber the number one destination for day-trippers from Brighton. Erredge’s new history was very much a part of his scheme to attract as many visitors as possible. The following advert appeared in the Brighton Gazette; this one was copied from the edition of 1 August 1867:

img113 (2)Around 1871, the name of the White Lion Inn was ‘rebranded’ by its  landlord as the Castle Hotel, doubtless to reinforce the identity of this new ‘mediaeval’ tourist destination. (Fig. 2). Ledigo organised the castle grounds as a type of Victorian theme park to appeal to all ages, and the Gazette fully backed him with his new endeavours:

 . . . nowhere, within a day’s journey of Brighton, can the pic-nic party be held to greater advantage than Bramber. Here, amidst the venerable ruins of the Castle, young and old may luxuriate, the young may trip the light fantastic toe and the old may enjoy their gossip, whilst rural sports of all kinds can be freely indulged in. Close bye is the White Lion Inn, the proprietor of which, Mr Ledigo, lately of the Albany Tavern, Brighton, is also tenant of the Castle Grounds. We have witnessed his ability in catering, either for large or small parties, and can speak in the highest terms both of ‘mine hoste’ and ‘hostess’.[2]

Fig 2 Old postcard depicting the Castle Hotel, formerly the White Lion Inn until re-named in 1871. The Castle can be seen in the distance.

Fig 2 Old postcard depicting the Castle Hotel, formerly the White Lion Inn until re-named in 1871. The Castle can be seen in the distance.

 A museum of curiosities, created by Walter Potter, son of the previous landlord of the White Lion, was promoted as another must-see attraction. Born in 1835, Potter was a self-taught amateur taxidermist and created some elaborate tableaux of stuffed small animals and birds, the most famous of which was his “Original Death and Burial of Cock Robin”, inspired by a book of stories which belonged to his younger sister. He later added some much more unusual exhibits like two-headed lambs and four-legged chickens which fascinated later generations of children. I remember visiting the museum with my brother in the early 1970s, but we found the stuffed animal displays distasteful and unappealing. It was definitely of another era. However, the Victorians loved it and it became a very popular attraction for visitors, so much so that in 1866 it had to be moved from a summer house in the hotel garden to its own purpose-built facility.

Victorian popular taste was, in many ways, very different to our own, as evidenced by the popularity of taxidermy and the success of Potter’s museum. The Victorians also had a deep fascination for the supernatural, which greatly influenced their literature. The Victorian ghost story often operated on two separate levels, entertainment and cultural commentary. The rise of Spiritualism also had a profound effect on peoples’ attitudes towards the supernatural and created a fascination with ghosts and phenomena which had no viable explanation. Andrew Ledigo had an ancient castle within his domain, but one which was lacking in visible attributes, apart from a solitary monolith, the lower levels of its domestic apartments and a long section of its encircling curtain wall.

Fig 3 Early 20th century postcard showing the solitary remaining wall of the keep, still standing some 76ft in height.

Fig 3 Early 20th century postcard showing the solitary remaining wall of the keep, still standing some 76ft in height.

Centuries of stone robbing had reduced the splendour of the Norman castle to a sad ruin, but although it was still worth visiting, Ledigo wanted to exploit other ways to get people there, one of which was to turn it into a leisure park. He would have been well aware of the Victorian fascination with ghosts and the supernatural, so he also decided to embellish the history of the castle as a place where terrible things had happened. The idea of ghosts added a new element of excitement to his ‘leisure park’ and would have greatly appealed to swathes of his Victorian visitors. In other words, the Bramber Castle legend was specifically created for the purpose of enhancing the attractions which the castle had to offer, part of Andrew Ledigo’s unashamed commercialisation of the ancient site.

This is where Herbert Erredge comes in. Ledigo also had a printing works in Brighton and probably knew the Erredges before he embarked on a new career as a publican, which started in 1861 when he was granted a license to take over the Albany Tavern. In the mid-60s, Erredge was an enthusiastic young reporter, then in his early twenties, who was already showing his talent as a writer for the Brighton Observer. By 1881, he was night editor of the Gazette and a much-respected work colleague. I can only think that after taking take over the White Lion Inn at Bramber, Ledigo asked his friend to write a History of Bramber Castle which would include some interesting ‘legends’ to enhance the text. In a review of the book in Erredge’s paper, it alludes to this:

History of Bramber Castle

Fig 4 Early 20th century copy of Erredge’s booklet, priced 6d.

Fig 4 Early 20th century copy of Erredge’s booklet, priced 6d.

(Brighton: A.Ledigo, Portland Street)

Mr Herbert E. Erredge, the son of one well known as Brighton’s historian,the late Mr John Ackerson Erredge has, we are now convinced, at considerable pains, compiled a history of Bramber Castle, which is now before us, in a neat, pamphlet shape. Our young author traces the history of the Castle from the time of the landing of Ella the Saxon in 477. From this deep dip into antiquity, he passes on to tell us how the Castle fared in the time of the Conqueror, then of its owner, William de Braose, who fell a victim to the ruthless King John, and so on, through the troublous times of the Edwards and Henrys, interspersing what might otherwise be dry detail, with anecdotes and legends, – one of the latter being especially ‘thrilling’, depicting as it does a wife’s infidelity, and the ‘bricking up’ of the gay Lothario by the injured husband, within the dungeons of Bramber.  In addition to this, our author also gives us a short ‘Political History’ of Bramber, which will be found very interesting.[3]

Quite forcibly, the author concludes:

Visitors to Bramber must not fail to do two things. They must visit the White Lion, where Mr Ledigo (the tenant of the Castle Grounds) will supply them with every creature comfort, and they must obtain from him Mr Erredge’s interesting ‘History of Bramber’. At 6d a copy, Ledigo, also the publisher, benefitted financially from the sales of the booklet, which probably sold in considerable numbers.

The Bramber Castle legend seems to have absorbed elements from some of the more horrific acts of violence committed against the de Braoses, previous owners of the castle. For instance, William de Braose, 4th Lord of Bramber was initially a favourite of King John, but they later fell out when William failed to pay him rent owed on land in Ireland.  William was lucky to escape to France with his life, but his wife Maud (c.1155-1210) was not so fortunate. Maud had unwisely slighted the King by accusing him of murdering his nephew, Prince Arthur and after being seized in Scotland, she was moved to the dungeon of Windsor Castle with her eldest son.  They were apparently given only a bacon and some oat bread to sustain them and then left to starve to death. When William heard the news, he is said to have died of a broken heart.

John seized the castle at Bramber and supposedly spent some time there, although he eventually restored the property to William de Braose’s son Giles, Bishop of Hereford in 1215. Giles died the following year and was succeeded by Reginald, his younger brother, who died in 1222 and passed the property to his son, another William. But this William was to suffer a humiliating death at the hands of Llewellyn, Prince of Wales, having been suspected of a criminal passion for Llewellyn’s wife. He had been caught in Llewelyn’s chamber with his wife Joan (incidentally, a daughter of King John) and for his treachery he suffered the indignity of a public hanging on 2 May 1230.  When taken together, these unfortunate stories contain all the essential elements found in the Bramber Castle legend – illicit love, jealousy, forced imprisonment, cruelty and a prolonged and nasty death – and they undoubtedly gave Erredge much of the inspiration he needed to create his ‘thrilling’ legend.

Erredge’s characters in the legend – Lord Hubert de Hurst, Maud of Ditchling and William de Lindfield – have less than convincing names and are obviously invented. He also refers to Maud as Maud Willmott, which is interesting in itself, because later in the book he recounts the story of Charles II’s escape after the Battle of Worcester, when he passes through Bramber disguised as a servant on his way to Brighton. The person who has planned the escape and is one of the escorts with Colonel Gunter is none other than the flamboyant Lord Wilmot and I believe this is more than just a coincidence. It is difficult to know if Erredge had any qualms about mixing fact with fiction, but certainly his fictitious names and the elaborate embellishments of his Victorian Gothic horror story make it fairly obvious that this is pure invention, although certainly entertaining.

Fig 5 Another early 20th century postcard showing the view towards the castle from Bramber High Street, a scene still familiar today.

Fig 5 Another early 20th century postcard showing the view towards the castle from Bramber High Street, a scene still familiar today.

A man of great drive and energy, Andrew Ledigo took on the White Lion in Bramber and pushed the commercial exploitation of the Castle to new heights. For many years, it had been promoted as an ideal location for pic-nics and the previous landlord James Potter had already started to boost customer numbers with his own ideas, one of which was to enable his son Walter to set up a museum in the pub garden for his displays of stuffed animals. But Ledigo took it much further – sadly, though, he was not to reap the benefits of his endeavours because he died suddenly on 26 August 1868 at 41, Newhaven Street in Brighton, the house of his mother. He was only 33. He was succeeded as landlord by Henry Kelcey, who was responsible for the name change in 1871.

Erredge was also to die young – at his death in 1886, he was only 43. When he began his career, he was an apprentice at the Brighton Observer when his father, John Ackerson Erredge, was Editor. He passed through all the departments of the business, from the printer’s boy to the editorial chair. His final illness had been very painful and had extended over three months.

A quite uncanny finale is that a ‘real’ member of the Linfield family had a direct connection with Bramber Castle when they actually bought it! This was Albert Linfield of Littlehampton, who purchased the castle and grounds when they were auctioned by the Duchess of Norfolk in 1925. He presumably would have known of the legend, but whether it had any sort of beguiling influence over his decision to buy the castle is unknown. At the very least, the story may have amused him. Albert was also a director of the family building firm in Littlehampton (James Linfield & Sons, Ltd) and may have viewed the purchase as a possible business opportunity to develop some of the land for housing. However, this was probably unlikely and it never happened; his intentions were undoubtedly honourable and intended for the common good.

The following is the report of his purchase in the Worthing Gazette for 23 September 1925:

SAVED FOR THE PUBLIC ENJOYMENT:  MR ALBERT LINFIELD’S ENTERPRISE.

 Though the instrumentality of Mr. Albert Linfield, who is well-known as a member of the local firm of builders, and who is President of the Littlehampton Rotary Club, the historic castle at Bramber is to continue to be open to the public. In conjunction with Mr. W.  A. Carter, formerly of The Gables, Bramber, and now a resident of Steyning, Mr. Linfield purchased the Castle and grounds at the sale at Steyning on Wednesday.

 Within the last few days, as was announced by Mr. Newland Tompkins, the Auctioneer, the Castle has been scheduled by His Majesty’s Commissioners of Works under the Ancient Monuments (Amendment) Act as a property which cannot be demolished or be structurally altered without the Sanction of His Majesty’s Office of Works. In the “lot” submitted for auction there are comprised 12 acres, 2 roods, 33 perches, let at a rental of £7O per annum.

 A petition against the sale of Bramber Castle has been forwarded to the Duchess of Norfolk from residents of Steyning district, and Her Grace had expressed her regret that it was in the market and that she had to part with old family traditions.

 At the sale, the property rapidly advanced from £1,000, at which it was put in, by bids of £250, to £2,500, and then reached £2,750 by slower bidding. A final bid of by Mr. Linfield secured the property for him for £3,000. The solicitors concerned were Messrs. Holmes and Beldam, of Littlehampton and Arundel; and the agent to the trustees of the Duke of Norfolk (Mr. G. P. Tyrwhitt-Drake) was also present.

Fig. 6 Advert from the West Sussex Gazette - Thursday 02 April 1936

Fig. 6 Advert from the West Sussex Gazette – Thursday 02 April 1936

Albert dutifully looked after the ruins and enabled the castle grounds to remain open to the public. He built a tarmac road up to the entrance and charged 2d as an entry fee. The Kemptown Brewery remained as the sitting tenant and the teas continued, with the occasional funfair. A model railway was installed in the 1930s as a new attraction for children . Albert died in 1941, and after the war, in 1945, his son Herbert Roy Linfield put the property up for sale, with its 12.5 acres of woodland, for £3,500 and ownership passed to the National Trust. They remained the custodians of the castle until the 1970s when the management passed to English Heritage.

As something of a footnote, I recently found an old article from 1928 about some recent excavations at the castle. It was the final paragraph which caught my attention:

 ‘At the western end of the excavations is a small room which is at present a mystery. It is only six feet square, and as far as one can ascertain, it had a space under the floor of an unknown depth. On the ground level of the rest of the excavations there are in­dications which show where the floor joists rested, but it is not easy to explain the space under the floor. Was it a larder, or, as some have suggested, an oubliette?[4] Against the latter argument is the objection that there is no indication, at any rate at the present, of the disposal of the bodies consigned to oblivion here. It is hard to imagine how they could have been got rid of, as the usual arrangements allowed for the conveyance of the bodies to the moat or the river. On the whole the oubliette theory is not very sound, but it is quite feasible that a storeroom of sorts existed here.’[5]

Could this have been…. no, surely not, I have already decided there is no truth in it. How could I possibly doubt it now? Pure fantasy ….

END NOTES:

[1] John Ackerson Erredge, The History of Brighthelmston, or Brighton as I View It and Others Knew It, (1862)

[2] Brighton Gazette, 29 Aug 1867

[3] Brighton Gazette, 12 Sep 1867

[4] The Oubliette – or the ‘forgotten room’ – was a tiny, vertical shaft which was often only large enough for an individual to stand up in – they wouldn’t have been able to crouch down, to kneel, to sit, or perhaps even to turn round in it

[5] ‘Bramber Castle and Recent excavations’ by Col. HC Evans in Sussex County Magazine, Vol, 2, 1928, 390

2 thoughts on “TAKING ANOTHER LOOK AT THE BRAMBER CASTLE LEGEND”

  1. Bramber castle is closely linked to the original 12th Century Knepp castle and the De Braose family who governed both as part of the fiefdom of Adur. It’s evident that after the De Braose family was imprisoned at Windsor Castle for his criticism of the King he was pardoned and released but only after his family had died in captivity. Upon his return the decline of the castle started due to his disinterest. There are so many stories I have been told or read about who and what lived or owned Bramber it’s only since reading about Knepp some sense is made of the ownership and use of the castle and its grounds.
    This has also sparked in me questions of how much of the Horsham area was within Lindfield ownership and stewardship

    1. Thanks for your comments, Stewart.

      I believe Knepp Castle was, in fact, one of the defensive garrison forts which were built by William de Braose to protect the wealden route to the north, but it later had a second function as a hunting seat. The solitary remains of the keep, a single wall some 11 metres high, 9.5 metres long and 2.5 metres thick, with a surviving doorway, can still be seen from the side of the A24 near Dial Post.
      Once the population had been successfully subjugated by their new Norman masters, the importance of these castles declined and the de Braoses presumably spent more time on their vast estates in Wales. They were probably kept on simply to supply a bolthole to the de Braoses and later the Mowbrays in times of strife when they needed somewhere to hide from their enemies. Not surprisingly, they eventually started to deteriorate and fall down, exacerbated by the theft of building materials by the local population.
      After murdering William de Braose’s wife Maud and their eldest son at Windsor Castle, and the subsequent death of William in exile, King John restored the family’s lands to their son Giles, Bishop of Hereford in 1215. This was more of a political move on John’s part as by now he realised how seriously he had undermined the trust of his barons. In his book, Sidney Painter (The Reign of King John, Baltimore 1949 pp. 249-50) describes the quarrel between the King and de Braose as ‘the greatest mistake John made during his reign’ as the king had demonstrated his capacity for cruelty. His barons were genuinely shocked and alarmed at John’s behaviour, which was a key factor leading towards the baronial rebellion towards the end of his reign.
      As for the Linfield/Lindfield families who have lived in the Horsham area over so many centuries, the majority have worked on the land as modest yeomen, husbandmen and agricultural labourers. An interesting exception were the Linfields of Horsham, owners of the Coolhurst estate, who thrived during the 18th century and may have descended from a wealthy family of merchants established in Suffolk. One theory is that they descended from a member of the family who was ‘burnt out’ during the Fire of London in 1666. This is an area of the family history which requires further research.

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