A medieval Cumbrian hotel, whose resident ‘ghost’ is currently having the exclusive use of the castle in the way normally only enjoyed by wedding parties, family groups and businesses, is appealing to Cumbrians to help identify who she is, having realised it has been calling her by the wrong name for possibly centuries!
Langley Castle Hotel, located seven miles from Hexham, has regularly had guests and staff claim to have seen a grey lady, sobbing uncontrollably as she heads to a window and jumps.
The legend, for a good 100 years or more, is that she is Maud – the widow of the knight who built the castle in 1350, Thomas de Lucy. It has been suggested Maud flung herself from the window in question, having learned of her husband’s death in battle.
But when others began to claim Maud was Thomas’s daughter, and with time to delve into history more deeply during social distancing regulations, Langley Castle decided to enrich its daily Battlements Tour information with some other facts and figures, prior to reopening when social distancing ends.
That time-travelling exercise has discovered that Maud was indeed Thomas’s daughter. However, she married twice, firstly to Gilbert de Umfraville, Earl of Angus and Baron of Prudhoe, and then to Henry Percy, First Earl of Northumberland. That means she did not take her own life after the death of her first husband and actually died before her second husband, making the tale of Maud being the sobbing widow seemingly inaccurate.
Langley Castle’s research has also thrown up a hitherto unknown fact – that Sir Thomas also married twice. Whilst his first wife, Margaret, died before him, so again could not be a grieving ‘ghost’, the death of a second wife, Agnes de Beaumont, is shrouded in mystery. There is a possibility that the ‘ghost’ is actually Agnes and not Maud!
Langley Castle is looking to Cumbria for answers for a few reasons. It has discovered that the de Lucy family originally came from Egremont in Cumbria. Sir Thomas, who was born in Copeland according to records, built the castle having earned riches in the French wars. He is said to have been a favourite knight of King Edward III’s having distinguished himself at the Battle of Crecy, where his reward was 40 sacks of wool. Langley Castle is said to have been built to protect his family against the Scots. He died the year after the castle was completed, in 1365. Meanwhile, his first wife, Margaret, was born in Egremont.
But more notable still is a St Bees connection. In 2010, an Osteobiographical investigation, sought to identify St Bees Lady, buried together with St Bees Man in St Bees Priory Church. Although St Bees Man had previously been identified back in 1981 as Anthony de Lucy, Sir Thomas and Margaret’s son, the identify of St Bees Lady, buried some decades after Anthony, was unknown. The award-winning investigation deduced that St Bees Lady was Maud de Lucy, sister of Anthony de Lucy.
The name of Agnes de Beaumont did come up in the resulting report and, according to the researchers, Agnes was related to King Edward III. Again, however, the report said there was no information as to where and when she died, adding to the mystery.
“We now realise we have an exclusive-use guest, with free rein to wander around our castle, whether she fancies a rest on a four-poster, a spa bath or a swing on our chandeliers, and we haven’t a clue who she is,” says executive general manager, Margaret Livingstone-Evans. “We would like some help from Cumbrians who may know more about the de Lucy family, given the de Lucy family’s Cumbrian roots and clear emotional attachments to the area around St Bees.
“Our grey lady’s identity can definitely be said to be a grey area. We are just hoping some genealogy experts can tell us whether this is actually Agnes, as staff – some working here for over 30 years – have always called her Maud!”
There is now some speculation as to whether the grey lady may finally check out of Langley Castle, if her true identity is finally revealed.
“Perhaps she’s just been hanging on for her rightful recognition,” adds Margaret. “If she is Agnes, she seems to have been wiped from most historical records, so we’d like to get to the bottom of it all. If we do, perhaps she will finally rest.”
More information about the castle’s rich and colourful history can be found at www.langleycastle.co.uk