Wymering Manor House is the oldest house in the city of Portsmouth – also reputedly the most haunted!
The music room
I became involved with Wymering Manor Trust in 2014 – a mere four years in the vast historical time line – this Grade 11 listed building was first recorded in 1042 when it was owned by Edward the Confessor; passed to William the Conqueror after the Battle of Hastings and is mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086.
The current house is Elizabethan although the cellar is Saxon and believed to be part of a smuggling route from nearby Portchester Castle. There are rumours of ghostly monks and a nun with bloody hands appearing on the stairs but I have to say though I’ve always felt safe when conducting tours and spending time in the Manor. I’d like to think any ghosts keep a wary eye on us but are secretly pleased that our love of the Manor means it’s being used publicly and we love it there as much as they do.
The Great Hall
Some of them we refer to by name – Reckless Roddy who apparently took advantage of a new bride when her husband was out was murdered on his unexpected return; his horse is said to gallop through the lane late at night. And then there is twenty seven year old Elizabeth Harrison, a Ladies Maid, who was shot in the face with a blunderbuss during a neighbourhood dispute in 1772. Her murderer was spared hanging – being literate he was considered more important than her – his left thumb was branded with a red M for ‘Murderer’ but he lived to a ripe old age.
Elizabeth Harrison’s grave
Her grave lies in Wymering Churchyard opposite the Manor – you can still make out some of the story on her grave stone which is visible from the window she was probably looking out of when the disturbance first began. Many people say they can see the shadow of a face looking out of that window in the moonlight when they pass by at night.
Fast forward to the twenty first century. The Manor was nearly lost forever after the collapse of timber in 2006 and reverted to Portsmouth Council who tried to sell it off in 2010, but it failed to make the reserve price. Wymering Manor Steering Group was created in 2006 and in 2012 Ben French was asked to look at business planning and strategies in order to take the building over from the council.
Another view of the Great Hall where Tom Ingram kindly lit the fire today to keep us warm!
This happened January 2013 when the group became Wymering Manor Trust. Heritage Lottery Funding was applied for which was sadly turned down in December 2017. Battered but undeterred, we are now evaluating our options.
We’d like to create a grass roots funding campaign so we can repair the house ourselves – and looking on the bright side – minus the red tape! We currently host plays; murder mystery nights; ghost hunts; heritage open days; tours and May and Christmas Fayres. We have big plans for the future! Torchlight Heritage are creating regular Heritage Crafts workshops; a supper/pudding club using artisan foods; Regency dancing – Jane Austen style – Georgian afternoon teas – who knows? Maybe using plants and flowers grown in our own gardens.
The wonky upper staircase
Thanks to a grant from the Hampshire Garden Trust much of the garden has been redesigned befitting a grand Elizabethan Manor. The perimeter now boasts a yew tree hedge planted partly by yours truly. It’s wonderful to think we’ll have made our mark on the Manor’s history.
How can you get involved?
We always welcome new members and usually meet every other Saturday morning to clean and maintain the site. We often pop croissants and pastries in the oven and have a heart-warming lunch and chat in the cosy kitchen before we leave. If you could offer any handy skills all the better! The place just gets under your skin. We’re like a second family and have such fun. Why not come and join us?
The window we think Elizabeth looked out from when the disturbance began.
Contact Wymering Manor Trust on Facebook where you can also find maps and lots of other useful information. Tell them Helen sent you!
All photos are copyright Tom Ingram and used with permission.