Appuldurcombe House. Ghosts of the Isle of Wight, with Margo Williams.

One ghost-hunter's theory is that ghosts are 'atmospheric photographs'. Emotionally intense moments imprinted into an environment. This may be true, but on a bigger scale, can it explain a curse?
Photo image of Appuldurcombe House, Wroxall. Isle of Wight.
Appuldurcombe House, Wroxall. Isle of Wight

House of Treasures and Ghosts

Appuldurcombe House is a must-visit on the mystery tour of the Isle of Wight, a genuinely haunted house. Ghost-hunters and paranormalists have attempted to piece together the clues to the identity of its ghosts; especially the female often seen wafting down the staircase into the library.

Who she is, is a mystery. But there are clues.

Fall of the House of Worsley

For centuries, Appuldurcombe was the grand palatial home of the Isle of Wight Worsleys. A fabulous house of treasures. An obelisk pierced the skyline above; mock castles adorned the landscape. Capability Brown himself dug its gardens.

A house designed to impress; and so it does magnificently even though it is little more than a ruined shell.

Some Wroxallers and Godshillers whose lowly job was to do unpleasant things in service to inconsiderate others consoled themselves by staring at the lightning ravaged obelisk on the hill above. However bad a burden a day might be, money ultimately cannot solve everything. What good is power and riches if you know disaster will strike sooner or later?

Many believed the Wight Worsleys and their home were cursed.

Most Haunted island

Appuldurcombe House. A Short History

What stood here before the Norman Conquest, no one knows. Post 1066 the site belonged to Montebourg Abbey; resident here was a prior and two monks, until its dissolution in 1414.

By 1423 the entire estate was bestowed by sweet Henry VI to a London-based community of Nuns Minoresses of Saint Clare, who in turn leased it to wealthy Sir John Leigh, whose daughter Ann married James Worsley from Lancashire.

Illustration of King Henry VIIIth visit to Appuldurcombe after death of beloved wife jane Seymour.
King Henry VIIIth visited old Appuldurcombe House after the loss of beloved wife Jane Seymour.

Captain Worsley and Quarr Abbey

Summer 1540, two years after his visit to Appuldurcombe King Henry VIII terminated the employment of his lawyer Thomas Cromwell, on Tower Hill. Henry chose his worst alcoholic axeman for the job then offered Worsley jnr the vacant position of Captain of the Isle of Wight.

And a mission, to break up and sell off everything that belonged to Quarr Abbey.

For two hundred years or so the only social-services provision was provided by the Isle of Wight's popular abbey. It housed a market, offered medical services, loans; low-cost housing and employment among the poorest and the richest island gentry. It offered consolation and buried the dead.

No one knows how people adapted when it's doors shut and Captain Richard offered the island needy their only options by order of the King: work or death.

First begging for food offence resulted in physical harm, second worse; a third conviction for vagabond begging ended life. Anyone caught poaching on a noble's vast estates, not good at all.

Quarr's closure shocked the island. And doubtless someone contacted God for help.

Quarr Abbey. Ghosts of the Isle of Wight.

How the Curse Happened

Amateur cursologists suspect the trouble started when Captain Richard was appointed to sell off the abbey's valuables. No one knows what happened to the Church plate, or the gold adorning the decorated tombs of its founder Lord Baldwin and his family. Or what happened to their bodies.

Mills the Southampton-based merchant who purchased the abbey site earned some blame from history, but Captain Richard acquired something unexpected.

In Godshill's fabulous Griffin Inn, some storm-wracked nights when the fire crackles cosy and a lightning flash tears open the sky. That's the moment, someone says the supernatural ill-will came from good Lord Baldwin himself.

1567 Worsley's sons were lost in a gunpowder explosion in the old gatehouse, gifting their estate to uncle John and his son Thomas, whose death in 1604 passed the estate onto Richard, second of that name.

Sir Richard the Second lost an eye early, nearly lost the other in a cushion fight. Then lost his life at the premature age of thirty-two and was buried beside his daughter in All Saints' parish church in Godshill.

Photo image of the haunted library. Appuldurcombe House, Wroxall Isle of Wight.
The haunted library. Appuldurcombe House, Wroxall Isle of Wight.

New House. Old Curse

1690 the Appuldurcombe estate was inherited by Sir Robert, who demolished the old Tudor mansion and built this Corinthian building with projecting pavilions. Its cornices, pilasters, balustrades and ornaments are made from Portland stone.

Unfortunately, the project cost him everything, and when tragedy struck and his two sons died, Robert Worsley had neither the resource or will to complete all he planned for the park, and when he died the house passed again to cousins of the family, and finally into the care of Sir Richard in the year 1768.

Exploring the haunted Isle of Wight

Sir Richard the Last

Sir Richard, seventh baronet Worsley, was rewarded by King George III with the office of Governor of the Island. At the height of his career, with the proposed marriage in 1775 to the deliciously lovely and deliciously wealthy Miss Seymour Fleming, he thought he had more than any man dare desire.

At last a Worsley named Richard proved the curse had blown itself out.

Following his divorce seven years later, Lady Worsley headed north and Sir Richard left the country.

Years passed, collectables and marbles displaced by war and revolution parcelled up and transported home from abroad until Sir Richard tired of tour. Returned to make his family seat a fitting setting for his treasures.

For reasons best known to himself he dropped that idea, abandoned everything to gather dust, and moved into a cottage beside the sea. Sir Richard Worsley, third of that name and last of his line lost everything: son, wife, career, reputation and the will to continue the family name. He died in 1805.

The Ghosts of Appuldurcombe House

Paranormalists with an interest in family history attempted to piece together the clues to the identity of the ghostly female in the library, and wonder if she is a Worsley or a Pelham.

Following Sir Richard’s death in 1805, Appuldurcombe House was inherited by niece Henrietta whose marriage to Charles Anderson Pelham, Earl of Yarborough, brought into his family the Worsley treasures; plus something else, unexpected.

Yarborough is fondly remembered as a liberal-minded nobleman who maintained a splendid hospitality at Appuldurcombe. Founder and first Commodore of the world-famous Royal Yacht Squadron for many years, the coroner noted with sadness that he died 'somewhat suddenly' on board his yacht Kestril, off Vigo on the 5th September 1846 aged only 55.

1855 the second Earl Yarborough decided to sell off the estate. The house, grounds and museum contents were auctioned, though the finest of its pictures were taken up to London to the Yarborough's home, and the title 'Baron Worsley of Appuldurcombe,' pondered upon.

1856 keys of the house passed out of the family.

Image of letter to the editor of the Isle of Wight Observer about a discovery at Quarr in January 1857.
Letter to the editor of the Isle of Wight Observer about a discovery at Quarr in January 1857.

News of an unexpected discovery soon after at Quarr was not noticed, for there was no resident Worsley left on the island to note the coincidence reported in the Isle of Wight Observer, during Wednesday January 7th, 1857.

Lord Baldwin surfaced.

Vengeance of the Lord

Of course, given the passage of time since Richard Worsley entertained the king here at Appuldurcombe, death, disease and bad luck are bound to occur; and notions such as curses can seem like coincidence combined in the mind of the superstitious.

Other great old houses still shelter the living, but this does not. Nor, like old Quarr Abbey, will it ever again. The house next became a College for Gentlemen, then a home for Benedictine monks ready to build a new abbey at Quarr. And then when soldiers were billeted in its rooms during World War II a huge bomb blew out the roof and windows, and with them any serious hope of restoration.

Curse, What Curse?

Obviously it is coincidence. How can a man, however wealthy and powerful but dead for many hundreds of years cause such a chain of consequence while mouldering in a tiny stone box 10 miles away? It doesn't seem possible. No one, especially not the long-deceased has that intensity of influence.

Some ghost hunters believe ghosts are atmospheric photographs, moments so intensely traumatic, those emotions imprint into the electromagnetic environment. And there may be some truth to that explanation for some forms of ghost.

Can that happen on a bigger scale? It probably is a fair assessment that for countless vulnerable Isle of Wight residents Quarr's closure was a trauma on multiple levels. Big enough to imprint into an entire island. Even irritate God?

However, whatever affects the living seems not to trouble the dead. For Appuldurcombe's ghost seems content; sometimes even responds to ghost hunters' presence. She is not an atmospheric photograph. Miraculously still lives in the ruin, though for her it is no ruin; nor is she alone.

Thank you for your company on this short tour of Isle of Wight mysteries and haunting. If you would like to know more about Margo Williams' investigations at Appuldurcombe and other matters of life and death, read this book. Now available from Amazon.

Book cover link to purchase Ghost Encounters Life and Death.
Now available in ebook and print from Amazon
Useful Links

Appuldurcombe House

Sir Richard Worsley