Spooky season is fast approaching and Oxford is home to plenty of sinister stories of hauntings and spirits.
Matilda was the daughter and heir of Henry I, though her claim to the throne was challenged by her cousin Steven and fourteen years of war over the crown followed. In 1142, Matilda was trapped inside Oxford Castle by the enemy and after three months they started to run low on supplies. In a desperate attempt to escape and dressed all in white before climbing out her window, descending the tower and fleeing across the frozen river. Matilda’s spirit has been spotted many times since, often dressed in a white cloak. Her spirit really frightened a new guard during the prison days who spotted the ghostly figure entering an off-limits area and raised the alarm, though all prisoners were accounted for.
King Charles I loved the city of Oxford so much it seems that his ghost likes to visit. He was at the centre of the English Civil War between royalists and parliamentarians, leading to his beheading in 1649 after being found guilty of treason. His ghost has been spotted in a couple of locations around the University of Oxford, sometimes without his head.
Colonel Francis Windebank was another who met a gruesome end during the English Civil War, though he was executed in Oxford. He hosted a ball at Bletchingdon Park in an effort to raise people’s spirits during the conflict, though it is thought a Parliamentarian spy snuck and Cromwell’s army attacked. Windebank surrendered in attempt to protect his friends and was then forced to defend himself to the King at the Royalist base in Oxford. He was sentenced and executed against the town wall. He now haunts the site, known as “Dead Man’s Walk”.
In 1610 George Napier was executed at the gallows that are now part of Oxford Castle & Prison after being found guilty of treason. He was sentenced to the gruesome death of being hung, drawn and quartered. After his body was quartered, the pieces were displayed on the gates of the city. His family managed to find most of his remains, though they never managed to find his head. It is rumoured that the spirit of George Napier rides around Oxford on a phantom steed searching for this missing piece.
Looking for something spooky to do this October? Our annual Ghost Fest is back! Book your place to our Spooky Tours here (if you dare!): https://www.oxfordcastleandprison.co.uk/ghost-fest/