The Haunting of Epworth Old Rectory
It is said that in this grand building something sinister lies. During it’s earlier years as the Wesley home the family are reported to have been terrified by an horrific ghost which left them fearing for their families lives.
In the 1700s it was said that inexplicable banging and other loud noises was a precursor to the death of a loved one, and while this wasn’t the case for this family, letters sent by them at the time certainly make their torment sound as if it is completely in earnest.
The servants of the house were the first to hear the strange noises in the attic where their living quarters were in 1716. At first the claims were dismissed by the family as rubbish but soon the younger girls of the family began hearing the racket too. Over a matter of months the bangs and groans grew louder and much more frequent until even the rector and owner of the house, Samuel Wesley began to hear the noises and fear for the safety of his family.
Letters to John Wesley, one of the sons who was away studying at the University of Oxford, from his sisters related the events and have been kept ever since. Stating that after the noises and bangs grew, objects began being thrown across the room by an invisible hand and sometimes the younger girls were pinched when nobody was in the room.
Eventually Samuel Wesley became sick of the haunting and it’s said that he went into the children’s nursery and confronted the ghost, shouting: ‘You shall leave these people alone!’, but this was to no avail.
In March all the noises and events ceased as suddenly as they had started and the family believed that the ghost was that of ‘Old Jeffrey’, a caretaker for the house who had died a couple of weeks before the haunting began.
Since the haunting stopped it has been reported that some people have heard the bangs and groans coming from upstairs but never to any more extent than that.
The old rectory is of great historical interest so unfortunately it’s very difficult to wander around it without a tour guide. Luckily for me there were only two of us on our tour plus the tour guide so we got a very personal experience of the building.
As the old key turned in the lock and the grand front entrance door swung open, we were greeted with a cool breeze from the inside of the house, in comparison to the lovely hot weather outside. Having been told all about the Wesley family who built the house and occupied it for many years, it was time to be shown the secrets of the house.
The downstairs of the building is bright and airy and feels altogether untroubled, however, having mounted the grand ‘main staircase’ the upper floors were altogether a different story. Although the main bedroom and study were bright rooms, when I entered the nursery there was a completely different atmosphere. Despite the window looking out onto fields, the sun certainly wasn’t shining in this room. The temperature drop in the room made me wish I’d brought a jacket, and the gloominess of the room didn’t help. Although I didn’t know it at the time, this was apparently ‘Old Jeffrey’s’ favourite haunt in the house when his behaviour was at it’s worst. Nothing much else happened in this area of the house but then we mounted the ‘back stairs’ to the servants quarters in the attic.
The main attic room was artificially lit by spotlights and display cabinets and this is where our tour guide told us the story of ‘Old Jeffrey’. This room was, predictably, the coldest in the house and we stood shivering, but not just from the cold. Out of the corner of my eye I saw first one of the spotlights dim and then brighten again. By the time I turned to find out what had happened the light was back to normal and I put it down to my, admittedly, over active imagination. The guide carried on speaking and I tried to put it out of my mind. As I was looking at the tour guide the same thing happened again. And again. Quite soon more of the lights were flickering too and adding to the atmosphere. The culmination of this incident happened when most of the lights in the room, whether in the display cabinets, spotlights or ceiling lights were flickering wildly, until they stopped as suddenly as they had started.
We asked our tour guide if this was just for effect. She told us she didn’t know what was happening. We left the room pretty quickly and exited the building into the warmth and safety of the sunshine soon after!
Whether this was an electrical fault, someone playing games or just Old Jeffrey, we never found out but it certainly spooked me enough to make sure I won’t be going there again any time soon.
The History of Epworth Old Rectory
The Old Rectory in Epworth is probably best known as the place where John and Charles Wesley grew up. These men were two brothers who are largely credited with forming Methodism.
The building was originally constructed for the boy’s father Samuel Wesley in 1709 after the previous rectory had burnt down some years before. The Queen Anne Grade I listed building was later extended during the Victorian period and has always been a rather grand structure.
The residence housed the rectors of St Andrew’s Parish Church until it was no longer required and was bought by the Methodist Church in 1954. This was so that it could be used as a museum and place of interest for the public with the title ‘The Old Rectory – Home of the Wesleys; despite many families having lived in the building between the Wesley’s residence and the Methodist Church buying the building.
The building remains to this day a museum, open to the public. The Methodist Church’s current plans are to restore the property so that it looks how it would have looked in the 18th century as the home of the Wesleys.