Gosforth Hall

Gosforth Hall Hotel, Gosforth, Cumbria


Gosforth Hall was built in 1658 by a local gentleman called Robert Copley. Copley is recorded as having lived in Gosforth in 1653, but in another house. He was obviously a bit of a cheapskate, because he wouldn’t pay the Royal Herald for his own coat of arms, so he made up one which can be seen in the modern bar area. The Hall looks old from the minute you enter the Renaissance gate posts. The floors are uneven, the doorways low and there is a fantastic stone spiral stair case.

One strange thing which you will encounter climbing the stairs is a font. It is a modern font and what it is doing there, I was unable to find out. In the wall of the staircase is a stoup for holy water. There is also a priest’s hole which leads down from Room 11 to the fireplace in the bar. In the 17th Century in England, it was difficult, if not illegal to be a Catholic. There was great suspicion of ‘popery’ and there were of course Catholic martyrs, killed by the Crown for their faith.

It might well be then that Robert Copley and his wife Isabella were Catholics and they had to be very careful about revealing that fact. Room 11 has a large, old four poster bed and it is here, that surprised guests have woken in the night to see a ghostly figure sitting near the priest’s hole. He or she is very indistinct but some guests have reported that he looked like a monk, or a friar in a religious habit.

There is another tradition, which may well be true that Copley, as we have said he did appear to be careful with his money, built that upper stories of Gosforth Hall out of the timbers of ships wrecked on the nearby Irish Sea coast.

Legend has it that these timbers groan with the spirits of those poor souls who drowned when the ships went down, or who lasted as long as they could, clinging to the flotsam before finally breathing their last. Paul emailed me about this.

He used to own Gosforth Hall and he said that in Room 11 there was an alcove where the original family chained up their retarded child. He and his wife both heard the clattering of chains in that room, followed by a dragging sound under the doorway. Staff have heard children crying in the room.

This so affected the owner before Paul that he became mentally ill, and installed a font. That explains that oddity! He also said that the story about the rocking chair was made up for the local paper.In the early 1990s there were lots of contractors in this part of West Cumbria building the Thorp Reprocessing plant at Sellafield, staff working at the Hall at that time have told me that many of those staying in Room 11 reported small but odd things happening to them. 

There have been other reported ghostly happenings at the hall, and it was recently covered by an investigative reporter called Julie Morgan on the local Whitehaven News. She didn’t see the ghost, but she reported that locals had been talking about a chair that has been seen more than once gently rocking by the large Jacobean fireplace in the lounge area and the sound of footsteps in unoccupied rooms upstairs. There is also a face that appears at the upstairs windows, somehow suspended in mid air as it peers in at guests. 

One lady who had worked in the kitchen at Gosforth Hall told me that on many occassions, pewter tankards would unhook themselves from where they hung in full view of everyone and fly across the bar.The manager at that time, Diane Morgan, moved into the hotel in early 1998. She told me that there is an old gentleman who wafts through the small bar area. She hasn’t seen him herself, but her staff have.

Her only ghostly experience so far was when she and one of the staff were cleaning the bar one morning in early summer. Suddenly there was a gust of very cold wind through the bar area. The maid looked up at Diane in surprise. The doors and windows were closed and it was a mild, if not hot, day. There was no other explanation than the spirit making its way through the bar. 

For some reason there is no room 8 in the hotel. The numbering jumps from 7 to 9. One story has it that the ghostly monk is looking for room 8, which of course he will never find….

Gosforth Hall is an old Jacobean building on the unspoilt western edge of the Lake District National Park. It is situated on the outskirts of the pretty village of Gosforth at the jaws of Wasdale, one of Lakeland’s most magnificent valleys. 

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