The Whispering Gallery
About Dalston Hall
Before we get to Dalston Hall Ghosts, here’s some background. Dalston Hall dates back to Norman times. At night the towers are floodlit which brings out the orange in the sandstone walls. The hotel is approached up a drive through the trees. Look out for the ghost of the Victorian handyman as you drive up at night; he has often been seen in the grounds.
If you are coming to Dalston Hall, or ghost-hunting in Cumbria in general, I would recommend Rob Kirkup’s Ghostly Cumbria
The History of Dalston Hall
The current facade of Dalston Hall is actually the most modern part of the building – dating from 1899 – and it hides a more ancient heart. The difference between the daylight outside and the subdued dimness inside is notable; all around dark wood panelling makes the place intimate and yet strange. Passing into the hotel from the reception, you go by the stairs and into the Manorial Hall. The hall dates from around 1500. An inscription reads:
“Iohn Dalston Elisabet mi wyf mad ys byldyng”
The letters are in Gothic script, and curiously written in reverse.
Above the Manorial Hall is a gallery. It’s here that the oldest ghost – known to the staff as Lady Jane, can be seen. She appears in Tudor dress and may well be one of the family actually called Dalston who owned the Hall for many decades.
Off the Manorial Hall to the left an old wooden doorway opens onto a staircase. Near the bottom of the stairs is a heavy iron gate which dates from the time the hall was first built. From what is today the back of the hotel, the two ancient towers are plain to see. This staircase spirals, up worn stone steps to the top of the left tower.
The stairs come out in what is now the honeymoon suite complete with a four poster bed. The walls are the original stone and the windows cut through blocks three feet thick. This tower is even older than the Manorial Hall and dates from the early Middle Ages when it was a pele tower put up as a defence against the Scots.
The Honeymoon Suite is not haunted but it is atmospheric enough despite that. If you climb past its door up the stairs, you emerge onto the battlements and from them you can get even higher to the top turret. From here you look south to the Lake District fells.
Going down again, on the ground floor there is a small library which serves as a lounge for residents. On the same corridor, there is also a cupboard for hanging coats. When the back panel of this cupboard was removed during renovation it revealed a staircase going up to meet a blank wall.
From this floor the staff can go down to the extensive cellars that wind like a rabbit warren underneath the hotel and almost travel in time from modern plaster, Victorian bricks and medieval stone. There are storm drains down here and when the rain is heavy the cellars flood.
Dalston Hall Ghosts
More than one of the porters have heard noises from the cellars when making their rounds in the depths of the night. It has been described as the sound of wooden barrels being manhandled and rolled around. But, wooden barrels have not been used for a long time at Dalston Hall. In 1997, during the daytime the noises were heard and one brave fellow called Richard actually went down to investigate. He said he saw the figure of a man, but losing his nerve, he turned and came back up again. He asked the receptionist who the other fellow was. The receptionist told him that he must be mistaken; there was definitely no one else down there.
After I had interviewed the staff at Dalston Hall, I came across another account of the ghost in the cellar in Liz Linahan’s book, The North of England Ghost Trail. She refers to a workman renovating the Hall in the 1960s who met a man in the cellar who helped him by handing him tools. Needless to say the man vanished. It could have been the same spirit, but I’m pretty sure that this was the same man, though Richard wasn’t apparently aware that his ghost in the cellar had been reported so far back.
Room 4 is said to be haunted by a poor maid who threw herself from the pele tower above. It has an original fireplace with inglenooks to either side. A female member of staff and her partner stayed there one night but both had difficulty getting to sleep. She told me that she had a strong feeling of a presence in the right hand inglenook – as if someone were watching them both while they slept.
One guest came down in the morning and asked to be moved from Room 4. She said that she woke up to hear her dog growling at the door. It kept growling on and off all night, though there was no one to be seen. She said that she herself had begun to feel a presence in the room.
In 1996 another guest awoke to find a lady sitting on the bed next to him. She spoke to him but her voice came from somewhere behind him, not from her mouth. He couldn’t afterwards remember a word she’d said, but had not been frightened at all during the experience.
There are also sounds of things being dragged over wooden floorboards in the night. Yet, these days there are no wooden floorboards – all the floors are carpeted.
Room 12 is perhaps the most interesting. It has half a bathroom. It is difficult to see from inside, but if you go outside the Hall and look into the bathroom window, you’ll see that the room has been cut in half and divided with a false wall. Though the faded decor of the closed off half is visible from outside, there’s no way to get to it without knocking a hole in the wall.
Room 12 has a lovely view of the gardens, perhaps the best view of any room in the hotel. It also has a four poster bed. People who have slept in the room – not everyone but a significant number over the years – have complained of being woken by girls’ voices whispering. No one has said that anything untoward happened, they sound as if they are just having a giggly time. The trouble is – there’s nobody actually there.
Liz Linahan reports that in October 1996, the candles used for the medieval banquets held in the Manorial Hall were seen by staff to flare up by themselves. During the same month, glasses were heard to smash in empty rooms, and were found broken a good distance from the shelf they had been stacked on; pint glasses rose into the air on their own; the library windows were discovered flung open and the night porter reported the sound of planks banging together.
In October 1997 the telephone system went haywire and all the phones began to ring at once. When they were answered, there was no one there, yet they kept ringing every ten minutes until they stopped as mysteriously as they’d begun. Lights also flickered on and off and the fire alarm system reported fires that had not occurred.
This was surely the Dalston Hall Ghosts at work!
Related Post: THe COTEHILL HIGHWAYMAN GHOST
And if you go, you’re going to need a camera. I have three cameras but my favourite at the moment is the Sony α6400