Another sad little ghost is that of William Hoby, the boy who blotted his copybook. He
was a son of Sir Thomas Hoby, whom Queen Elizabeth I appointed Ambassador to France, and
Elizabeth, one of the five brilliant daughters of Sir Anthony Cooke of Essex, and who was tutor to
the young and ailing King Edward VI.
The Hoby family lived at Bisham Abbey, near Marlow, Bucks, once owned by Henry
VIII, who gave it to Anne of Cleves, from whom Sir Thomas Hoby acquired it.
Poor little William showed none of the brilliance of his parents, and he was so nervous
when he was doing his lessons under the eagle eye of his clever mother that he always made ink
blots on his copybook. Lady Hoby was a brilliant French scholar who could write verse in Latin
and Greek, and the fact that her small son not only did not take after her intellectually, but could
not even keep his work free from blots and inkstains, annoyed her beyond reason. One day she
completely lost her temper with him, and beat him so hard and so long that the boy died.
Bisham Abbey is now haunted not only by the mournful William, but also his mother,
majestic and penitent in coif, weeds and a wimple. Lady Hoby glides through the corridors of the
Abbey and along the banks of the river, for ever wringing her hands, as though trying to wash
away the blood of her small son. Other reports say that she is washing her hands in blood.
In the nineteenth century a number of badly-blotted copy-books were found hidden behind
the wainscoting in one of the rooms at the Abbey. One of the books had ink blots on almost every
line, and it is thought that this is the one that belonged to William.
In 1946 Bisham Abbey was taken over by the Central Council for Physical Recreation,
and it is used by athletes who go there for training. More alterations were being made to the
Abby in 1964-65 in order to build a gymnasium and hostel for students, when it was hoped that
more papers would be discovered to throw additional light on this colorful legend.
Child ghosts are sometimes accompanied by the ghosts of older people, in many cases the
mother. Watton Abbey in Yorkshire sheltered both monks and nuns in medieval times. Their
vows of chastity were reinforced by a wall separating the two communities. The ghost of a
headless nun, believed to be that of the beautiful Elfreda, who committed the unforgivable sin of
getting over the forbidden wall, falling in love with a monk and having a child by him, still haunts
the ruins of Watton Abbey. In the seventeenth century the Lady of Watton and her child were
murdered by Roundheads, and their ghosts also haunt the ruins of the Abbey. It is not unusual for
ghosts of different times to haunt the same place, and it would be interesting to know what, if
anything, they think when they encounter each other.
Perhaps the best known of Yorkshire's many hauntings can be seen through a window in
Holy Trinity Church, Micklegate, York. The window in question has four divisions of stained
glass, and a strip of plain glass about two inches wide separates each division. Through this
window, sometimes in broad daylight, a hooded robed figure, apparently female, has been seen
passing from north to south, and then returning across the window again, this time with a child.
The woman wears a long, trailing and transparent robe, and her approach is heralded by a bright
light. When she is alone, she glides rapidly by the windows, but when she has the child with her
she takes a little longer. They stop for a brief moment at the last pane but one and then vanish.
Many stories have been told to explain these ghosts, and one account recalls the plunder of
the convent attached to the church by a party of soldiers during the reign of Henry VIII. Thomas
Cromwell was the king's instrument in the dissolution of the monasteries and convents, which
were a source of wealth to Henry, whose ego-mania had brought him inevitable money troubles.
When Cromwell's men burst into the convent at Micklegate, they were faced bravely by the
Abbess, who told them they would only enter her convent over her dead body, and that if they did
kill her, she would haunt them for the rest of their lives and that her ghost would haunt the defiled
convent until a new holy building took its place. Undeterred by her words, Cromwell's men slew
her in brutal fashion. A terror-stricken child hiding in a corner witnessed the barbarous death of
the Abbess, and was dealt with in similar manner.
Many believe the Abbess haunted the convent until it was demolished, and that she is the
hooded figure who still haunts Holy Trinity Church accompanied by the ghost of the child who
was killed so barbarously with her.
The ghosts of a woman and her babe in arms have long haunted the churchyard and millstream
of Ebbw Vale in South Wales. People who have seen her say that she is clad in misty
white and cradles her precious bundle in her arms, walking lightly but steadily along the path by
the mill stream, looking neither to right nor to left. The stream bends near a bridge and here the
phantoms disappear briefly, to reappear on the other side, the woman still clasping the ghostly
child in her arms. Finally the ghostly pair come to the churchyard on the other side of the village,
pass through the closed gates and walk a short distance up the path leading to the church, where
A sad and truly Victorian legend is linked with this ghostly mother and her babe and their
unsuccessful attempts to get to the alter of the church at Ebbw Vale.
They say she was a pretty Welsh country girl who had an affair with the son of a wealthy
farmer. The young man's name was William, and at first he was quite serious and honorable in
his intentions. The girl was much in love with William, but William's father had other plans for
his son and wanted him to marry the daughter of a sea captain.
The young man's desire for the pretty dark-eyed Welsh girl was aroused and his intentions
became debased to those of mere seduction. But the girl was virtuous and refused to give herself
to the hot-blooded young man except in marriage. So intent was he on getting his way with her
that William conceived as plan of going through a form of illegal marriage with her. This the
innocent girl fell for under a pledge of secrecy, and thus William got what he wanted.
At first he visited the girl regularly at her home, much to the indignation of her father,
whose reproaches she endured with fortitude, for she believed that she was William's wife in law
and before the sight of God, and that the day was not far distant when she would be accepted as
Soon, as was only to be expected, William tired of her, and began to visit her less. His
manner towards her changed, and he was cold, even cruel to her. In vain she pleaded with him to
let the world know about their marriage, but he told her that his father would disinherit him if he
found out. One day he told her that it was finished and that he did not want to see her again, and
he left her before she had been able to tell him that she was expecting his child.
When her child was born, her father threatened to turn her out of the house for the disgrace
she had brought upon him. She was forced then to break her promise and tell him about the secret marriage.