Dudley Castle - and its Ghostly Inhabitants

Penny W-TStarred Page By Penny W-T, 7th May 2013 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL http://nut.bz/37-0bsmw/
Posted in Wikinut>Travel>Europe>England>The West Midlands & The Peak District

When you are visiting the Black Country borough of Dudley, it is essential to visit the town's castle and search for the often unseen inhabitants of the town.

Exploring the Castle

Dudley Castle is one of those prominent outlines that dominate the skyline for miles around the town. The Castle occupies a hill top on the edge of the modern town, and its grounds have for many years provided a home for Dudley’s zoological gardens.
The Castle, now a ruin, dates from the 13th century and the Keep and Tower are still open to the public. During the reign of Elizabeth I the castle belonged to the Earl of Leicester, and she is reputed to have visited there during her liaison with him. The Round House in the zoo grounds is the original lodge to the castle.

Searching for Ghosts

Have you ever seen a ghost? Ever had a prickly feeling on the back of your neck when shopping in Dudley? If so, there is a good chance that you may have encountered a ghost, because, as with all castles, it has its share of ghostly happenings and resident ghosts are still thought to occupy the shell of the building.
Such ghostly occurrences presented the local Tourism office with a unique opportunity, and they have been operating Ghost Tours of the town and castle since 1993. The Ghost Tour concept was the brainchild of Keith Cheetham, who, in 1993, was the Black Country Tourism Officer. Working with him at that time were Lynne and David Thompson who were the first tour guides for this programme, having been working at the Castle providing history tours for the local schools. During this research I discussed the tours with them.
“We had four days to familiarise ourselves with the route around Dudley town that the Tour would take” recalled David, “and the locations at which ghostly happenings had been identified.”
“There were about 20 different stories to recount to the Tour group” added Lynne “so we had to be sure where each event occurred.”
The Tours were designed as walking tours and lasted for 90 minutes. The route covered back streets and alleyways around the town centre, beginning at the Station Hotel and terminating in the grounds of the Castle. “At that time the route covered St Edmund’s church, Green Man alley, the Blue Coat school, King Charles House, the Malt Shovel pub, the Town Hall, Priory ruins and even the Police station was a feature, or at least the pub opposite to it, and finally into the Castle grounds and the zoo” David explained.

Regular apparitions in the Castle and Town

David recalled the famous ghosts who reside in the Dudley environs – The Grey Lady in the Castle ruins and the Girl in the Brown Dress who roams the zoo grounds. The Grey Lady is the one who has been seen most frequently through the years, in parts of the castle. There is a very long history of sightings and weird experiences both within the castle walls and within the wider expanses of its grounds, that make you stop and consider just what, or who, might be using the castle as their ‘home’.
Another regular sighting is the ‘girl in a brown dress’. She is always seen in the grounds to the back of the castle, and she is carrying a candle. The story is that she was one of a family who lived in cottages on the edge of the castle grounds and she is still searching for a relative who was lost in an accident in the mines that were being worked at the side of the castle. The relics of these mine workings can still be seen, which would explain why this poor girl is still desperately searching for her relative. Whether this was her father, brother or lover is not clear, but the tragedy has caused her to wander for centuries.
Other well known local characters included Theophilus Dunn, a renowned Black Country character who still wanders around the Station Hotel; Nathaniel Fowles who died during the 19th century cholera epidemic and haunts the graveyard; together with the ghostly monks who have been seen frequently in the Priory ruins.
The Malt Shovel pub has its own ghost on the site, the ‘Blue Boy’, a lad who had been killed by his brother from a blow with an axe. twenty years on, and these tours are still talked about as a popular feature of Dudley’s tourism programme

Development of the Tours

The Tours proved very popular, gripping the imagination of the local public, and for the first few seasons were held on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings from 7.30pm. They were often oversubscribed, with other tours having to be slotted in to accommodate all the interest.
“We always had around 30 people to guide around the route” commented Lynne, “and I always kept to the back of the group to ensure no one was lost on the way.” Was there perhaps a possibility of being abducted by one of the ghostly apparitions who regularly ‘appeared’ to the groups as they progressed?
In recent years one of the cleaners at the Castle site has been alarmed to see the legs of a suit of armour walking around, without any other parts of the body being seen” David laughed, “and that’s not part of the tour material.”
Another modern sighting rumoured in recent years was said to be by a police officer, one of a party investigating a reported break-in to the castle grounds one evening. One of the officers climbed the Tower to get a more strategic view over the grounds. The officer on the ground actually saw two people on the tower and asked who had been found up there when the officer came down. He had seen no one on the tower with him. I think if that had been me in the Castle grounds that night, it would have been the last time I would have gone there.

Frankenstein Connections?

An interesting fact that may not be widely known, but which nevertheless could have some validity revolves around James Whale, the film Director, who was born in the Black Country. He went on to direct the Frankenstein films, which today have cult status amongst film fans. He was a regular visitor to Dudley’s castle where he spent much time drawing and painting. There has been some discussion over the years as to whether Dudley Castle was a direct influence on the cinematic images that were produced within these films to represent Frankenstein’s castle.
These days the castle offers a range of educational opportunities for schools to take groups onto the site, which has been used for a variety of events, including open air productions of Shakespeare’s plays in the shell of the castle. Could be a fitting backdrop to all those plays like Macbeth, or the fantasies like Midsummer Nights Dream or Twelfth Night where Shakespeare introduces ghostly happenings. So whether all of the occurrences are fact, fiction or instances of ‘second sight’ may not be clear, but it does give Dudley a ruin with a reputation.

Tags

Black Country Locations, Ghost Stories, Historic Sites, Tours

Meet the author

author avatar Penny W-T
Published articles on education themes, travel, history and writing techniques. Written a book on WW1 - Gallipoli, and travel books. Run a marketing network for small businesses.

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Comments

author avatar Delicia Powers
8th May 2013 (#)

wonderful...I love ghostly stories, being from Maine we have a rich history of such stories...great read and page, thank you Penny...

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author avatar Penny W-T
8th May 2013 (#)

Thank you Delicia, I may well have more ghostly tales to tell as we too have a rich history of such things in our old stately houses and castles.

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author avatar Eileen Ward Birch
8th May 2013 (#)

I believe in spirit/ghosts, but some of the people who claim to make contact are to be looked at very sceptically.

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