Husband had grown up in Oxford and knew all the stories connected with Minster Lovell Hall. It was a place you didn’t visit and you crossed yourself if you went past on the road… He wasn’t too keen on visiting.
The first time I visited was several years ago on a glorious sunny day. We were the only visitors and I wandered round the ruins. In places I could feel a sense of deep melancholy descend on me. Move a few steps and this lifted. It was most peculiar. It wasn’t just me, daughter also felt the same. Husband’s only comment was “Now you know why I didn’t want to come…”
This time, it was a misty rather murky morning, definitely atmospheric. However there were no ghosts. Perhaps the two girls having a picnic by the river, the young man taking photographs and the dog walker had scared them away.
The ruins of Minster Lovell Hall are in a lovely setting on the slowly flowing River Windrush. The remains of the great hall and solar still stand to nearly their full height and still have traces of wall plaster. They are reached through a vaulted archway with carved bosses. There are traces of the NW and SW towers. The rest are just foundations.
The land was granted to the Lovell family by Henry I. The manor was briefly held by Hugh de Despenser, a favourite of Edward II during the infancy of the third Lord Lovell. The seventh Baron, William Lovell, demolished the 12thC house and rebuilt it between 1431-40, with a splendid manor house set round a courtyard. After Francis Lovell fought on behalf of Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth, the estates were seized by the crown. In 1602 it passed to Thomas Coke but the family abandoned it in the mid 18thC in favour of Holkham Hall. Most of the buildings were dismantled and used for building stone.
In the farmyard next to the Hall is a dovecot. This isn't open and you have to peer over the wall at it.
And now for the stories connected to the ruins….
In the 18thC, workmen found a skeleton in the basement, seated at a table with a book, pen and paper with his dog at his feet and a cap laying on the floor. The bones crumbled to dust before their eyes. This prompted the story that Francis fled to Minster Lovell after Bosworth and hid in secret chamber known only to an old and trusted servant who brought him food and drink. When the servant died suddenly, Francis starved to death.
Minster Lovell Hall is also one of the places associated with the story of the Mistletoe bough.
The ruins are also said to be haunted by a night in shining armour on a white charger.
Another story relates that one of the Lovells came to Minster Lovell where he fell for his brother's wife and, in his jealousy, shot him. The widow refused to have anything to do with her brother-in-law, and drowned herself in what is now known as the Lady's Pool. The enraged brother burnt down the house. When workmen tried to demolish the ruins it is said that their axes broke.
Are they true, who knows. Visit and see if the ghosts appear for you….
The Hall is open daylight hours and entry is free. It is unsigned, but is next to the church which is signed at the eastern edge of the village. There is a small wooden sign ‘to the church’ at the road junction where there is some parking. The road is signed as unsuitable for motors. It isn’t. What they really mean is there is little parking at the end by the church and turning may be a problem. The Hall is reached along a well made path through the church yard and down three steps. This means access for anyone with a wheelchair is difficult.