Interviews

The overlooked story of the Bruce Castle ghost

According to the Bruce Castle Museum’s curator, Lady Constantia lived ‘a sad life’, reports Miriam Balanescu

For over 300 years, there have been strange sightings around the grounds of Bruce Castle – “strange wailing noises”, a shadowy figure in the top window of the tower, the clock seeming not to chime at 1am.

The mystery of Lady Constantia, the wife of the late Lord Henry Coleraine, has spawned hundreds of tales and myths since she died in the late 1600s.

It is said that, following an abusive relationship with her husband, Constantia died by suicide, also killing her unborn child.

Ever since, locals have claimed to have witnessed strange events in the grounds of the castle – from unexplained happenings, to eerie shadows. To this day, local groups – including the Bruce Castle Museum – hold ghost walks telling Constantia’s story around Halloween.

HCP spoke to Deborah Hedgecock, curator of Bruce Castle Museum, about her often overlooked story.

She said: “Like most women of the 17th century, the sad life of Lady Constantia Lucy of Bruce Castle is not as well documented as men. A lot of what we know has come down through stories told about her, including the most famous story of her ghost, which reportedly haunts the building.

“Constantia’s story can be read about in lots of ghost books about London, stemming from the fact that great mystery surrounds her life and death. The story goes that Constantia’s husband Henry, 2nd Lord Coleraine, grew tired of her, banishing her to the top of the house and locking her in the small room under the clock. It is said one night Constantia was so unhappy she jumped off the balcony killing herself and her child. No record of her burial can be found and certainly there is no mention in All Hallow Church’s parish registers, although they completely cover this period. And so Lady Constantia has become the ghost of Bruce Castle and it is said she can be seen at the window at night in November.

“I am often asked if I have ever seen Constantia. Having worked at Bruce Castle for a long time, I have not personally encountered her ghost – although I have met a number of visitors over the years who have said they have felt a presence, possibly that of Constantia. Over 60 years ago, one past staff member kept a record of all sorts of unexplained happenings at the museum – from strange sounds or costume dummies inexplicably falling over.

“For people interested in the supernatural, apart from the story of Constantia there is still plenty to see at the museum, such as our exhibition of extraordinary paintings by Beatrice Offor, who drew on mystical themes in her work. You might want to explore the museum to find out what a witch’s bottle was or see what objects one family left bricked up in their chimney, out of superstition.  We also have lots of activities coming up for families during the October half term holidays, including some great spooky Halloween fun.”

For more information on events and activities at Bruce Castle Museum, visit https://www.brucecastle.org/whats-on


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