THE DARRELLS OF LITTLECOTE
Littlecote House in Wiltshire, now a Warner’s hotel (those with very long memories might remember it as a sort of theme park/tourist attraction in the 1980’s) is considered to be one of England’s most haunted houses. Amongst the many spooks that haunt its halls is a burning baby, said to be the spirit of a child murdered by Wild William Darrell, the master of the house in the 1570’s, who supposedly threw an illegitimate infant into the fire directly after its birth. (He was later said to have been killed by falling off his horse when the baby’s apparition appeared before him–he then became a ghost himself.)
Whether any part of the legend is true or not (and there’s some evidences parts of it are), there were certainly Darrells living at Littlecote house long before Wild William or the Tudor/Elizabeth mansion we see today–back in the late medieval period.
One of its residents at that period was Margaret Beaufort. No, not THAT Margaret Beaufort but the ‘other one’, who also had a notorious son called Henry. She was the mother of Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham. Daughter of Edmund Beaufort, second Duke of Somerset and Lady Eleanor Beauchamp, Margaret first married Humphrey Earl of Stafford, son of the first Duke of Buckingham (also called Humphrey) and produced Henry and another son (Humphrey again!), whose ultimate fate is unknown. (He was taken into Elizabeth Woodville’s household and made a Knight of the Bath at the same time as Henry but references to him vanish after that–presumably he died young.)
Humphrey Stafford was badly wounded at the first battle of St Albans and never seemed to fully recover. He died a few years after the battle, possibly of plague, possibly through effects of his injuries, making Henry the heir to his grandfather’s title at the tender age of 4/5.
Margaret soon remarried, to Richard Darrell of Littlecote. They had one daughter, Margaret (Henry Stafford’s half-sister), who married James Tuchet, 7th Baron Audley. James was one of the commanders in the Cornish rebellion against Henry VII in 1497. He was captured, along with the other leaders of the rebellion, and executed on Tower Hill on June 28.
Although now a hotel, Littlecote House still allows non-residential visitors to look around the gardens, several of the interior rooms rooms, and visit the amazing Roman mosaic that lies within its grounds. Look for the sign that says ‘day parking’ and park there for access.