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Lynne contacted me a little while back to see if I might be interested in her ghostly tales. There’s really no need to ask me; of course I was!

Lynne is a social worker and writer, with a love of historical buildings, She uses her work to inspire her writing. The stories are from outside of Wiltshire and the one Lynne is going to tell us of today is of a place called Margells, in Branscombe, Devon. We’ll come back to the others in a later blog as there is plenty to say to you about this very old building, just by itself.

The Landmark Trust’s website says of the building:

Margells was originally a hall-house, open to the roof and probably built in the late 15th century. The frame is a very early construction, the cruck coming at first floor level. There would have been a sleeping gallery at first floor level reached by a ladder type stair, probably from the sitting room side using the rounded door, which now goes into the painted bedroom.

I did find some information about the hall being built on the site of a thirteenth-century monastery. The two downstairs rooms are the remaining rooms of the original. This is an interesting point to bear in mind, as the story unfolds.

Lynne’s Story of Margells

‘My mother loved the village of Branscombe in south Devon. She had known it since her teens with her sister, Betty, in the 1950s.

Betty had a boyfriend, Terence, and he lived in a cottage called Margells at the top end of the village. It is a medieval house, reputedly built by a priory, and it was used for their staff when they were on retreat.

It is a glorious, ancient building with 16th century wall paintings, thatch for a roof and thick stone walls. Terence told mum that the place was haunted. He said, ‘I used to hear a strange sort of chatting every night before I went to sleep. It sounded like half chatting, half singing, an unusual sound I couldn’t identify. I thought it was my elderly gran who lived with us muttering in her sleep. Then my gran passed away and the sound continued. A visitor said she had seen a monk coming down the stairs, in a dark colour robe with a bloodied bandage around his head. I realised what I heard was someone chanting, saying his prayers with a rosary, as people do.’

Fast forward thirty years or so, Terence had moved and gone on to work at the local auction house, Potbury’s. Mum and her sister had both married and settled in London and had two children each, one of which was me. Margells had been sold to the Landmark Trust, a charity that repairs unusual buildings then rents them out for holidays.

Terence’s story stuck with the women and their love of the village never wavered. Once their children had grown up and their household duties eased, they decided to rent the place for a short stay.

At this point I ought to describe my mum and aunt. They both inherited the strong woman genes that my grandmother had. Both were like Margaret Thatcher. Not politically (they were firmly on the side of the working person and voted Labour) but in terms of manner. If someone offended them they would very quickly put them right in no uncertain terms. They firmly did not believe there was any such thing as ghosts, and if discovered, they would pretty soon send them packing.

So, they arrived at Margells one autumn day for a short stay and found the place just as beautiful as it always had been. They marvelled at the thick ancient walls, loved the old thatch and could not believe that the wall paintings were still there. They found the place comfy and homely. But things soon changed.

The front door was heavy, and would knock, as if it was a visitor, but when answered there was no-one there. Sounds came from empty rooms. Mum said it sounded like a party was going on in the front room. They could hear people laughing and chattering and the clink of glasses as they cheered each other, or perhaps made a toast. But when they opened the door, the room was completely empty and silent. Whilst standing in the kitchen one day, mum heard a sound like a whip flicking between them and landing on the floor. Footsteps in the unoccupied parts of the house were a daily event, going upstairs or downstairs or across empty rooms.

But this didn’t deter the women. They were puzzled, irritated, curious as to what was causing these noises, but they weren’t going to let anything hinder their holiday. They’d been planning this for years and no 600-year-old monk was going to stop them enjoying themselves. Until their last night.

They had decided to sleep in the twin-bedded room, moving from the other bedrooms to be together. This room was the one with the magnificent medieval painted wall. They both said, when they entered it they had an awful feeling of oppression, as if someone just didn’t want them there. But they ignored it as it meant they could sleep together, so they stayed, not intimidated at all by any spiritual occupants.

Both were snuggled up ready for sleep when snoring started. Loud, persistent, snoring. Each thought it was the other but neither woman said anything. It stopped them sleeping though and over time that irritated my aunt.

‘I wish you’d stop making that noise and let me get some sleep!’ My aunt grumbled to my mum.

There was silence for a while then mum answered. ’I’ve been lying here wishing that would stop too!’

Both realised that the sounds they had been hearing weren’t random sounds carried from other houses, but a deliberate, concerted, attempt to get them to leave.

Mum said, ‘If you stop that noise we’ll leave tomorrow and never come back!’ And with that the noise stopped and both women managed to sleep, albeit with a chill going down their spine.

The next morning, they were as good as their word and left. Both agreed they had witnessed other worldly events, their minds changed totally as to the existence of ghosts. But they did feel that the spiritual resident did not want any company, he did not wish them ill. Whatever had led him to have such a troubled existence as to be unable to rest, they didn’t know.

But all he wanted (and they felt because of the strong snoring it was male) was to be left alone with his memories without being troubled by holiday makers. They didn’t feel he wanted to spend as much of his existence as possible on his own. And in that the duo were happy to oblige him and they left the next morning.

I asked mum if she would go back there and with hesitation she said yes. I don’t think it was the price that made her hesitate or the promise she had made to the occupant, more that there was something there that she didn’t understand and wasn’t quite sure how to deal with it. But frightened of it she most defiantly was not.

She never forgot that holiday and kept up her interest in the paranormal to the end of her days, eagerly asking old house occupants if they had ever witnessed anything. She loved to listen to the stories I would collect on my days visiting old houses, as I liked to do.’

I really enjoyed Lynne’s story and I hope you did too. It reminded me that, while I’ve only heard of a few of Devon’s ghost stories, Branscombe rang a bell. I realised I had another ghost story of an old pub there, The Three Horseshoes, told to me a few years back. You can read it here:

This also reminded me I had previously purchased a local Branscombe zine, published in 1996. I think I found it on eBay or somewhere similar. It was a trove of local ghost stories, and by chance, there are several accounts of ghostly encounters from Margell’s! What luck!

So, just to add to the story above, here are some more ghost stories of Margell’s, with credit given to Ghost Stories From Branscombe, The Branscombe Project.

Mr Lee stayed at Margells, his grandmother’s house, and was just falling asleep when he heard what he thought was his grandmother singing. He thought nothing of it.

He went away to war (I assume World War II), and on his return, he was just dropping off to sleep again when he heard the singing again. He remarked to his grandmother the next day and she told him it must have been ‘the singing monk’.

Rita Saunders tells the story of her uncle who had lived there. A heavy clock often fell from a high mantlepiece but never broke. It was always when no one was in the house and it never broke.

The middle bedroom is haunted by a monk, and if the bed is in the right spot, you may drop off to sleep hearing the chanting of a monk. He has been seen going up and down the stairs.

Feelings of something ‘swishing’ past you are not unusual, and it happened to two guests downstairs and then later to two ladies upstairs in the house. It could not be attributed to a draft or from a chimney. Constant tapping on the floor kept a couple of guests awake that night.

On another occasion, chatter and laughter was heard coming from somewhere in the house, despite people checking that it is not anyone going down the street and the house being empty.

Betty Sutton calls the monk Fred. She says that while he isn’t seen, his presence is felt. If he likes you, he will sing to you, but only in the middle bedroom. He swishes by visitors, particularly by the fireplace where he baked his bread. You will hear the tapping and footsteps of an evening. Betty had been visiting the house for over thirty years and she claimed the monk was nothing to be worried about. He was friendly.

Margells in 1978

Yet another account from 1978 tells of a ghost walking the bedrooms between 1 and 2.30am. There were tappings on the wall and footsteps. Apparently, the visitor’s book has plenty more stories, too.

I did have a little look at the reviews, and there is no one complaining of ghostly activity. Plenty of people moaning that there aren’t enough lights or any WiFi (which is the point of Landmark Trust property) as is always the way on review sites!

And that wraps up the ghost stories of Margells. It’s actually quite charming to think that this friendly monk is still there going about his daily business, singing visitors to sleep at night. Sleep well, my friends!


Given all these stories I probably won’t be thinking of having a holiday there but, good news everyone, if you do fancy staying there, you can! Here are the details:

If you want to find out more about the history of the building, you might find this interesting:

I must extend my thanks to Lynne Pardoe for sharing this story with me. The next one will be in a blog later this year so keep checking in regularly. You can find Lynne and her writing here: 


Don’t forget, I’m always on the lookout for spooky and weird stories from Wiltshire and beyond. If you have a tale you would like to share I’d love to hear from you. Contact me via Twitter (or X as we are supposed to call it now) or here.

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