WWW.SHROUDEATER.COM - John H Ingram on William Doggett

Source Material:

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Collin de Plancy

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The Source:

John H Ingram:
"The Haunted Homes and family traditions of Great Britain"
Gibbings & Company, London, 1897

The reason why we have put John Ingram's version of the William Doggett story on this page, is the fact that more recent authors have tried to turn Doggett into a vampire. So it may be of interest to compare their claims and stories with the original tale and find out how much such a story as Doggett's can change over the years. If you want to learn more about William Doggett, you can find it in our section of "vampire cases" under the heading of "Tarrant Gunville".

Eastbury House":

Eastbury House, Tarrant Grenville, near Blandford, owing to the galaxy of famous names surrounding its story, must take a prominent place among the haunted homes of the country. Its career as a residence was short but brilliant. It has been celebrated both in prose and verse by poets and prosateurs, and, for the space of three lustra or so, was the glory of Dorset. Thompson introduced it in his Seasons, in "Autumn." After alluding to its "green delightful walks," "where simple nature reigns," he alluded to its more artificial beauties, and apostrophizes them thus,

The grandeur of thy lofty dome,
Far-splendid, seizes on the ravished eye,
New beauties rise with each revolving day ;
New columns swell ; and still the fresh Spring finds
New plants to quicken, and new groves to green.
Full of thy genius all ! the Muses' seat :
Where in the secret bower, and winding walk,
For virtuous Young and thee they twine the bay.

George Bubb Dodington (afterwards Lord Melcombe) of Diary fame, whose seat it was, and in whose secret bowers and winding walks he and "Night Thoughts" Young were to be so pleasantly arrayed by the Muses, made Eastbury a meeting-place for the wit and literati of the day. Young, Thompson, and Fielding were among the crowd of notables, who enjoyed its pleasures. The last resided at Eastbury some time, and thence dated some of his works. In later days it was visited by Beckford, and its ruins were celebrated in verse by Samuel Marsh Oram, a local writer, of some temporary if transient repute, who died at the early age of twenty-six.

Eastbury was begun by Bubb Dodington in 1718. The future Lord Melcombe had projected the house and grounds on a scale of great magnificence ; but when little beyond some less important out-houses had been completed, the work was discontinued, and for six years everything remained at a standstill. Eventually the building was resumed and carried on at an enormous expenditure - the total outlay up to 1738, when the house was completed, being stated as one hundred and forty thousand pounds, a far higher sum at that time than now-a-days. The park and grounds were laid out on the same magnificent scale as the house, no expense being spared ; trees half a century old, and some tons in weight, were transported bodily from distant woods and replanted at Eastbury.

In 1763, a change came over the scene, and Eastbury House was destroyed even more rapidly than it had been created ; all the rooms were dismantled, and the splendid furniture scattered to the winds. Twelve years later the ruin was consummated, the house being pulled down, and the beautiful and costly materials disposed of ; one wing only was left in naked grandeur, and that still exists, but let in tenements to the day-labourers of the Farquharson estate.

It is little to be wondered at, says Miss Billington, to whom we are chiefly indebted for this account of Eastbury, that a place possessing so chequered a history should bear the reputation of being haunted. The ghostly legend attached to the house is said to be firmly believed in by the inhabitants of Grenville and its neighbourhood, and is to the following effect. Lord Melbury advanced considerable sums of money, vaguely spoken of now, says Miss Billington, as "many thousands", to his steward William Doggett. The greater part of this loan Dogget is said to have parted with to a brother, who got into "difficulties" and was utterly powerless to repay it. In course of time Lord Melcombe required repayments of his money, and Doggett, unable to comply with the demand, was reduced to great extremity.

"I am not aware of the exact date at which this took place," says Miss Billington, "but it must have been during the destruction of the house, as the only expedient Doggett could find to meet his liabilities was to appropriate some of the building materials and sell them on his own account. Shortly before Lord Melcombe came down to receive his money, Doggett's courage failed ; probably he had a much smaller sum with which to repay his master than he owed ; he could not pay him, and, therefore, shot himself.

"It was in a marble-floored room that Doggett committed suicide, and it is said the stains of his blood are still visible. I was told propos of this," says our correspondent, "that the blood-stains of murder or suicide are ineffaceable.

"Since this tragedy, Doggett's ghost has lingered about Eastbury, and the tradition is that, headless, he drove about the park in a spectral coach and four driven by a coachman in livery. No doubt," is the lady's reflection, "the troubled spirit derived a bitter satisfaction from contemplation of the decayed grandeur of the once proud house, now reduced to scarcely a shadow of its former grandeur. But it is many years now since the apparition has made itself visible, though the taint of ghostly inhabitation still clings to the remaining wing of the house. On dark nights, when all else is still, mysterious movements are heard, the doors open and shut unaccountably, pointing to the interference that the troubled spirit has not yet served its term of earthly wanderings.

"It may not be inappropriate to add," remarks Miss Billington, "that about forty years ago, the old church at Grenville was pulled down, and a new one erected on the same spot : the contractors, wishing to fulfill their undertaking as cheaply as possible, caused the old vaults to be destroyed and their brickwork utilized. The old man who told me much of this story, said it fell to his share to pull Doggett's vault to pieces. They found the self-murdered man's body in fair preservation, and the course of the bullet from the jaw through the head was distinctly visible. The old man described him as 'a short ginger-haired man.' His legs had been tied together with a broad yellow ribbon, which was fresh and brightly coloured as when it was buried. My informant added that he had abstracted a piece of the ribbon and a lock of the hair, which he had kept as curiosities for many years, and much regretted that he had not got them still to show me."

And thus Eastbury, with all its much-vaunted magnificence, the palatial home of the vivacious Bubb Dodington, and the erstwhile staying-place of Fielding and Thompson, of Young and his famous contemporaries, is know only now as having been the house where a fraudulent servant committed suicide !

Comments and page 2009 by Rob Brautigam - NL - Last changes 14 February 2009
Photo "Kensal Green Cemetery - London" 1979 by Rob Brautigam

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