Civil War Ghosts in Dead Man's Walk
26 February 2021 (Updated 8 September 2021)
Dead Man's Walk is a pathway just to the south of Merton College, Oxford.
It was originally the route of Jewish funeral processions, but today is most associated with one of the most famous hauntings of the English Civil War.
Sir Francis Windebank, Royalist
Francis Windebank was the second son of Sir Francis Windebank of Bletchingdon Park near Oxford. When the Civil War broke out, Windebank supported the King and was made a Colonel in the Royalist army.
The newly-married Windebank and his wife were attending a ball at Bletchingdon Park when the house was attacked by Parliamentary forces. Windebank surrendered, perhaps to protect his wife and young child.
The Parliamentary forces allowed Windebank return to Oxford, only for him to be tried by a Royalist court-marshaled. He was sentenced to be executed by firing squad.
The sentence was carried out outside the town hall against a wall abutting Merton College. Loyal to the end, his final words were "God Save the King".
Sir Windebank's ghost
Francis Windebank's ghost is said to be seen walking the length of Dead Man's walk, although apparently he can only be see above the knee due to the level of the ground level having been elevated since the 17th Century.
According to an alternative tradition Windebank was actually shot in the Fellow's Garden at Merton College, this time by Cromwell's men, and his ghost is said to walk the garden and nearby hallways of the college.