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Shipton Court

Shipton Court

Exorcisms and suspicious deaths at Shipton Court

26 February 2021 (Updated 4 January 2024)

The picturesque Shipton Court was described on its sale in 1913 as ‘a perfect specimen of the Elizabethan period’. But the idyllic looks of the Court conceals a dark history of hauntings and mysterious deaths.

A failed exorcism?

In his classic 1973 survey of British hauntings, the fabulously-named Anthony D. Hippisley Coxe gives a brief yet tantalizing mention of an exorcism that is said to have taken place at Shipton Court at some undisclosed date in the past.

Almost no details are provided, other than the fact that the room in which the exorcism took place was then sealed up, and the location of the room was lost. The sealing of the room is an odd detail. If the exorcism was a success, why was there a need to seal up the room? Are we to assume that the exorcism was a failure and the room was deemed too haunted to be occupied?

Illustration of Shipton Court by John Preston Neale

Illustration of Shipton Court by John Preston Neale (1780–1847)

Shipton Court was originally built in the early 17th century and has undergone numerous restorations and alterations over the years. The building was converted into separate apartments in the 1970's but today appears to be being offered as a single 12-bedroom rental property.

It's entirely possible, even likely, that the sealed room could have been unsealed during one of the many alterations. Could one of the modern-day renters of the house be unknowingly dwelling in the famous sealed up exorcism room?

An unexplained death at Shipton Court

In the year 1843, Shipton Court hit national headlines after the mysterious death of Thomas Sinden, butler to the then-owner, Sir John Chandos Reade. Sinden's death was originally put down to an accidental fall down a flight of stairs, but in the weeks after Sinden's burial, local tongues began to wag and the finger of blame was pointed at Reade.

Sir John Chandos Reade had served as High Sheriff of Oxfordshire, but had developed a reputation as a violent drunkard. At around 11:15pm on 28th May 1843, the servants bell had been rung, summoning Sinden to Sir Reade's bedroom. A loud noise was heard shortly after, and when Sinden stumbled back into the servants quarters he was badly injured and bleeding from an injury to his head. He gave no explanation as to how he received his injuries beyond saying that 'one blow did it'. He died from his injuries a few days later and was buried on 1 July at St Mary's Church, Shipton-under-Wychwood.

Shipton Court, Shipton-Under-Wychwood

Shipton Court at Shipton Under Wychwood Credit: Photo: Rod Allday, via Geograph.org.uk

However, a week later his body was disentered so that an inquest could take place after Sinden's wife made accusations that Sir John Chandos Reade was responsible for her husband's death. Mrs Sinden claimed that Reade had lashed out at her husband in a drunken rage, but other servants at Shipton Court testified that their master had been sober on the night of Sinden's death. Sir Reade's footman Joseph Wakefield went even further, stating that it was Sinden who had been drunk on the night in question and had likely fallen downstairs of his own accord.

Thanks to the testimony of his staff, Sir John Chandos Reade was cleared of any wrongdoing, though it is hard to see his own servants as impartial witnesses, given that they would surely have lost their jobs if they had pointed the finger of blame at their employer.

Sir John Chandos Reade died 5 years later. If eyebrows had been raised by the events of 1843, they would surely have shot through the roof when it was revealed that Reade had changed his will before his death, disinheriting his family and leaving his estate to the footman whose testimony saved his bacon, Joseph Wakefield!


  1. 'Haunted Britain' by Anthony D. Hippisley Coxe (ISBN:0330243284)
  2. The Mysterious Death at Shipton Court (www.thewychwood.co.uk)
  3. Reading Mercury, Saturday 8 July 1843