Weird Norfolk: Outwell’s haunted house with a host of ghosts

Norfolk and Norwich Archeological Society visited Beaupré Hall in 1932.

The Norfolk and Norwich Archeological Society visited Beaupré Hall in 1932. - Credit: Archant Library/Local Recall

Our story today concerns one of Norfolk’s long-lost country houses, a manor tragically destroyed when it fell into disrepair: a hall filled with spirits. Beaupré Hall Manor in Outwell took its name from the fine meadows that surrounded it and had been established as far back as 1066 when a knight of St Omer (de Beau-pré) accompanied William the Conqueror’s invasion of England.

The Hall was once an imposing 16th century house built by the Beauprés and enlarged by their successors the Bells. It survived for centuries until trouble began to befall the building in the 20th century: a gale in 1915 severely damaged the hall and a chapel had its roof torn off. By 1923, architectural writer Christopher Hussey had grave concerns for the hall and its requisition by the RAF in the Second World War was the final straw. Despite being listed in 1947, it was too late to save the hall and following a fire in 1953, a last ditch attempt was made to save Beaupré by offering it to the National Trust…the attempt failed and the hall became a ruin. In the 1950s, barrack huts left behind by the RAF were used as accommodation blocks for students on the Holidays with Pay Scheme run by the government: more about this, later.

In the History of Wisbech and Neighborhood, During the Last Fifty Years - 1848-1898 by Frederic John Gardiner, there is a vivid description of an unusual guest at Beaupré Hall.

“There are some 30 or more rooms in the house, quaint and old in their arrangement, and the corridors are almost like a labyrinth,” it reads.

“Many of the rooms are panelled, and one especially, with double doors and windows, shows signs of the panels having been possibly used as a hiding place for valuables.

“Another of these panelled rooms has the reputation of being haunted, and tradition says that the bed in this room for many years was made every day, but although the room was supposed to be unoccupied, every morning the bed was found to have been slept in by someone — by whom was an impenetrable mystery.

“Nevertheless the servants dared not omit to make it regularly, lest its mysterious inhabitant should take to wandering about the house.

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“It was also a superstition that any one passing the gates after midnight would see a row of carriages drawn up, with headless coachmen!”

In the Eastern Daily Press of September 9 1939, an article recounted some of the stranger tales associated with the troubled hall.

“There is a strange legend associated with the main entrance to Beaupre Hall, a picturesque Norfolk home amid fascinating old-world surroundings at Outwell on the western border of the county,” it read.

“When the moon is full on the last night of any old year the decorative eagles which crown the gate pillars are said to leave their exalted posts and bathe in the river opposite, which borders the road and separates Norfolk from its Cambridgeshire neighbours.”

The piece was illustrated by a photograph of the Norfolk and Norwich Archaeological Society whose members were in Outwell on a day trip. Famed for its 16th century stained glass which depicted the family tree of the Hall’s owners, the group toured the building, the oldest parts of which dated back to 1500. They were told that ‘blood stains’ on the paving stones of the hall “…may perhaps be explained by the dampness of the soil beneath” which of course also means it may not.

Norfolk and Norwich Archeological Society visited Beaupré Hall in 1932.

The Norfolk and Norwich Archeological Society visited Beaupré Hall in 1932. - Credit: Archant Library/Local Recall

In The Bedside Companion for Ghosthunters written by Ingrid Pitt in 1999, the story of two of the students who stayed at Beaupré Hall in the 1950s is included. A couple, after stealing away from their hut for a romantic tryst, saw something strange on the battlements.

“Standing, shimmering in the moonlight was the indistinct figure of a woman. She appeared to be dressed in a long, flowing white robe,” the story reads.

“She walked slowly towards them and Joe felt an aura of sadness push out towards him. He snatched a glance at Pamela. She was obviously seeing the same thing as he was. He wanted to run, but the figure was between him and steps leading down to the ground floor.

“Pamela began to cry. Later she claimed that it wasn’t through fear or anything like that, she just felt uncontrollably sad. Without warning, the spectre vanished.”

More than 20 years later, when Joe was in King’s Lynn, visiting, he returned to Outwell and asked in a pub about the hall and the White Lady: he was told a sketchy story about the daughter of the house who never recovered after her father sent her lover to fight in a battle overseas only for him to be killed.

By 1963, a new housing estate was built in the grounds of the house – a photograph shows new bungalows overshadowed by the ruins of the hall which itself was later demolished to make way for more housing. The only trace left of this once magnificent hall is reflected in the name of the road on which the housing estate stands: Beaupré Avenue. Whether the ghostly residents still reside in Outwell is a matter for current residents to confirm or refute.

For more Weird Norfolk stories click here.

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