I’m just home from a fleeting trip to Hampshire, to visit Basing House, near Basingstoke, which was host to Richard II and his retinue in the 14th century. The building started life as a Norman castle, became a great Tudor house that was reckoned the largest in England, and was finally blown to bits by Cromwell after a siege. The remains are on a hill above the valley of the River Loddon, and are quite exposed. English weather being what it is, my sister-in-law and I were treated to a sudden squall – belting rain, gusts of wind that blew my new umbrella inside out, and so on. But when we descended into the valley again, the air became still, warm and muggy. Such a difference. Quite odd really.
We saw the wall and site of a later house, the whereabouts of which were investigated by Time Team in 1999, and then returned to the gift shop/ticket office area, which is situated in one half of the great medieval barn that survived Cromwell’s attentions. The other half of the barn is shut off from the shop, and has been left in its original state. It’s huge, shadowy and atmospheric. Everything echoes inside, and what with the still air and mugginess outside, it made us feel quite unsettled.
To lighten the moment, my sister-in-law called out in best Most Haunted style. “Is there anyone here?”
There was a rumbling, crackling noise from the roof, then a man’s voice boomed out loudly. The sound echoed everywhere, and we couldn’t understand a word because we took to our heels, almost falling over each other! Neither of us knew we could still move that fast. We stopped outside to look back, and realised it was a recorded ‘guide’ from a loudspeaker set up by the rafters! The girl in the gift shop had switched it on for us.
When we told her what her timing had done, she said that there really was supposed to be a ghost in the barn…well, he/she visited annually, but I don’t know if the hauntings were in early September or not!
Well, it was a very funny moment, and we all laughed about it afterwards, but for a few seconds there, we thought we’d made contact with the ‘other side’!
The aerial view is from https://www.adventureballoons.co.uk/photopage/north-hampshire/basingstoke-ruins and the view of the barn interior is from the Hampshire Cultural Trust link above.