The strange events which took place at the old manor house of Hinton Ampner between the years
1767 and 1771 constitute one of the best observed and most carefully checked ghost stories on
record. After studying the reports of the various independent witnesses, there can be little doubt
that something took place at Hinton Ampner which cannot be accounted for by natural events-a
haunting which has its echoes right down to the present century, even though the old beghosted
manor, being long destroyed, is no more.
The fact that the these events took place during the eighteenth century should not deter us,
or make us think we can doubt the reliability of the accounts which have come down to us. On
the contrary, the period of the story should make us take it more seriously than if it had taken
place in almost any other century.
The eighteenth century was the Age of Reason. People were superficially religious, and
certainly not superstitious. Materialism was the creed of most educated people. There was less
belief in ghosts then than there is now.
The Georgian lady who set down the chronicle of this strange haunting at first steadfastly
refused to accept that she was living in a haunted house. She plainly did not believe in ghosts,
and when her servants came to her with weird stories of the eerie goings on in her house, she
scornfully dismissed them as the superstitions and fears 'to which the vulgar minds of the lower
classes of people are so prone.'
She was to learn very differently, and finally be driven from the house by the terror of the
unknown forces she at first despised and disbelieved in.
Hinton Ampner is a tiny Hampshire village which lies just off the main road between
Winchester and Petersfield. The old manor-house was built in the 1620s during the reign of
James I by Sir Thomas Stewkeley, Bart. It was a comfortable through not a large manor-house by
the standards of the day, and the Stewkeleys lived there for about a century.
In 1719 Miss Mary Stewkeley, the eldest daughter of Sir Huge Stewkeley, married
Edward Stawell, the younger brother of Lord Stawell. As the latter had no children, Edward was
the heir presumptive to the title.
On her father's death, Mary inherited the property. Her younger sister, Honoria, came to
live with them at Hinton, and after Mary's death in 1740 the attachment was such between
Honoria and her widowed brother-in-law that she stayed on at Hinton, thus causing a great
Stories told by the servants at the manor spread throughout the district. They told not only
of an immoral relationship between Stawell and his sister-in-law-incest no less, as the law did not
permit them to marry-but also that a child had been born in consequence of their criminal affair.
Worse, it was even whispered that the body of the child had been 'done away with.'
No one knows for sure whether there was any truth in this story, which spread like
wildfire through the gossiping countryside, and which had a remarkable echo half a century later.
It certainly seemed that the sad and disturbed spirits of the two lovers remained behind after their
deaths to haunt the scene of some tragic and terrible happening.
In 1742 Edward Stawell's brother died and he inherited the title. He continued to live at
Hinton Ampner with Honoria, who died in 1754. The following year Lord Stawell died of a
stroke. He was fifty-six and the date was 2 April, 1755.
Shortly after his death his ghost was reported to be seen in the house 'dressed in a drab
Hinton Ampner Manor and the estate now passed into the hands of the Hon. Henry Bilson
Legge, presumably as part of a marriage settlement, for he had married Lord Stawell's only
daughter, Stawell's only son having died at Westminster School at the age of sixteen.
The Legges came to Hinton Ampner for only a few weeks every year for the shooting
season, and the place was looked after by three old family retainers, who lived there, and who had
indeed lived there all their lives. They were Thomas Parfait and his wife Sarah, who had been
coachman and housekeeper respectively to Lord Stawell, and had been with the family for forty
years, and Elizabeth Banks, a housemaid, also an old family servant.
Legge died in 1764. His widow later married the Earl of Hillsborough, who apparently
did not want Hinton Ampner as part of the price of marrying the lady. Nor did he desire to use
the place, so she decided to let it furnished.
It is here where the heroine of this haunting comes into the story. She was Mary Jervis, a
well-born young lady whose father was Swynfen Jervis, Solicitor to the Admiralty and treasurer
of Greenwich Hospital, a man of some importance in London. Her brother, Captain John Jervis,
R.N., who also had an encounter with the Hinton Ampner ghosts, was the brilliant naval officer
who became the Earl St. Vincent-one of the most illustrious names of the British Navy. As
Admiral Jervis, he led the Fleet to the great victory of the Battle of St. Vincent, at which Nelson
served under him.
Mary Jervis married William Henry Ricketts, of Longwood, Hampshire, in 1757. He was
a wealthy merchant whose affairs frequently took him to the West Indies. Mr. and Mrs. Ricketts
had three children, and in January, 1765, they rented Hinton Ampner from Lady Hillsborough
through the Hillsborough steward, a man named Sainsbury.