The Ghostly Monks of Charney Manor
13 December 2023
The picturesque 13th-century manor house at Charney Bassett was once a grange for Abingdon Abbey, and it seems that some of its former monastic occupants still haunt its corridors.
A conference of spirits
Charney Manor has been a Quaker-run retreat and conference centre for over half a century, and a number of visitors and staff have claimed to have had brushes with the supernatural during their time there, most often in the form of ghostly monks.
A woman visiting in 1976 was sitting alone in the Solar, a room in one of the building's oldest parts, when a man dressed in monastic robes entered the room. His cowl was pulled over his face, making it difficult for her to see him, so she was surprised when he approached her and asked her to change to a different chair. She complied, but instead of sitting, the enigmatic figure turned and walked out of the room! It wasn't until the woman recounted the bizarre incident to manor staff that she discovered she'd had a run-in with the otherworldly.
This is the only report of the ghostly monk of Charney Manor actually speaking to anyone, but there have been a number of other sightings of figures who match the description given by the women. The ghostly activity seems to be concentrated around the Solar and the chapel next to it, though villagers have long reported sightings of spectral monks walking around the gardens of manor.
Who is the ghostly monk of Charney Manor?
In his book The Veiled Vale, Mike White speculates that the figure could be the ghost of fourteenth-century monk Robert of Glastonbury. Robert was known to have been banished to Charney Manor by the Abbot of Abingdon, who told Robert to use his time at Charney Bassett to reflect and show penetence for his sins. However, Robert passed away shortly after he arrived at Charney Manor. Could Robert still be walking the halls and grounds of Charney Manor, seeking the forgiveness he did not have time to find in life?
The ghost is also known as William, a nickname bestowed upon him by a woman who encountered him in the church. Following her experience with the ghost, the woman claimed to have randomly opened a nearby sixteenth-century bible and her finger fell on the name 'William,' which was later adopted as the ghost's nickname. Mike White brings out a little issue in this story: the name William does not exist in any of the books of the Bible!
Other legends of Charney Manor
There are a number of other strange local tales told about Charney Manor. One of these concerns the balls that sit atop the grand gate posts at the end of the driveway, which according to a local belief, move of their own accord when the nearby church clock strikes midnight. In one version of this legend, the mischievous balls are said to jump off their pedestals and swap places, although as the balls are identical so this would be hard to prove or disprove!
According to another version of this story, the balls are said to roll themselves all the way around the walls that surround Charney Manor. Mike White points out that this story may have been confused or combined with another somewhat more alarming local legend concerning a headless woman who is said to dash around the walls of the churchyard at the stroke of midnight. The identity of this woman is sadly not mentioned.
- 'The Veiled Vale' by Mike White (Two Rivers Press, 2016, ISBN: 9781909747173)