A VISIT TO PLAS TEG
Listed as one of the most haunted houses in the United Kingdom the Jacobean mansion Plas Teg was built in 1610. Our visit on a hot Sunday afternoon was certainly memorable. Our first observation was the eerie quietness as we stood in the shade of surrounding trees; not a bird was heard and the sound of any traffic on the main dual carriageway seemed to dissipate into the air before reaching the grounds. A Victorian glass hearse by the back door in the gardens set a sinister feel for the rest of the visit. As we approached the large white front doors and ascended the steps a light placed in one of the windows brought to life the dancing cobwebs which hung thickly around the inside window pane. The scene brought to mind the Munster’s’ home at 1313 Mockingbird Lane.
We walked up the steps and apprehensively knocked on the door which was opened to us by a lady with long strawberry blonde hair, dressed in black. She was Cornelia Bayley, antique dealer, interior designer and owner of the mansion. For the past 20 years she has lovingly restored the three-story Grade 1 listed building to its original decor. She smiled at us warmly and led us through to the dining room where we were asked to wait for the tour to begin. Green silks decorated the walls from ceiling to floor; a large dining table stood the length of the room, decorated with authentic crockery covered in dust. Paintings adorned the walls; I was immediately intoxicated by this fascinating place. Our group were directed down some narrow wooden steps and in to the kitchen to begin the tour. The smell hit me when I first walked in; a musty thick atmosphere. It was here we met Bert our tour guide, a charming 90 year old gentleman who has been a friend of Cornelia’s for several years. He told us the history of Plas Teg and some stories along the way. Thieves once stole a long list of items including Turkish carpets, bibles and guns. They were caught and sentenced, “hence no Turkish carpets have disappeared from the mansion since” he chuckled. He was a lovely man, passionate about and devoted to the building which he frequented over many years; even during a period when the place was derelict after the Second World War. He only once missed a Sunday afternoon tour when he had to go into hospital. Enthusiasm shone in his pale blue eyes and made his face look much younger than his 90 years. I admired how vivid his memory was, being able to recall all known facts to us. It seemed that he lived and breathed his beloved Plas Teg.
Sir John Trevor (the second son of John Trevor of Trevalyn), built Plas Teg in 1610. He was a court administrator and was knighted in 1603. He “accumulated several impressive official posts and perquisites including: stewardship of the royal palaces of Windsor and Oatlands, Surveyor of the Navy and holder of the Newcastle coals monopoly, receiver of the customs of the ports of Chester and Liverpool. He was also MP for Bletchingly from 1597. Plas Teg was the sophisticated country seat for lavish entertaining. Sir John died in 1629 and his wife Dame Margaret died in 1643”. Sir John Trevor II, a loyal parliamentarian then owned the building during 1645, “when parliamentarian troops sacked the building on General Brereton’s invasion of Flintshire”. (Plas Teg, Hope Welsh Cultural History website)
Sir Trevor II brought in the infamous “hanging Judge Jeffreys” who was renowned for sentencing merciless hangings. In all his years he only let approximately 5 people walk free. He even sentenced children as young as 5 years old for the pitiful crime of stealing an apple! Lists of the names of those unfortunate souls fill thick heavy books too numerous to carry.
We entered Judge Jeffrey’s room. In here I felt a nervous feeling in my stomach, an anxious impending feeling. Bert later explained that this was the “waiting room” where the condemned waited to be led into the adjoining room to their fate and where we were now being led to see a small room with painted pink walls. The atmosphere in here felt sickly and oppressive. Bert explained that this was thought to be the hanging room. A four poster bed stood in the centre of the room and the trap door used to be in the corner at the foot of the bed. Bert told us of an unsettling experience a guest had during one night. As he climbed into bed on the left side, the right side of the bed sunk at the same time. “Needless to say the guest was out of that door and running down the road gone!” Bert chuckled.
As we walked out of Judge Jeffrey’s room, Bert hobbled along on his walking stick out of the room closely followed by the group. At the foot of the stairs he caught his stick on the carpet and fell. He was quite badly shaken up and bleeding from his nose, he looked frail as he sat on the stairs shaking. A member of our group went to get help. The Chairman of the Cheshire Paranormal Society, John Millington called an ambulance to take Bert to hospital. John explained to us that Bert had been advised to stop the tours as he was too old and frail but it seemed to me that his love of the place and devotion for it kept him going; though sadly on this occasion Bert missed his second Sunday afternoon tour.
John carried on with the tour showing us the staircase which was built with timber from the Spanish Armada given as a gift to Plas Teg; in those days however if anyone took as little as a plank from a ship they would be executed for it. On the landing stands Napoleon’s seat.
We continued into the drawing room. The walls were draped in pink striped silks depicting the originality of the room. Grand balls and weddings were held in this room. A painting of Medusa by Rubens hung above the large stone fireplace. At some point in history witchcraft was practised here; 2 pentangles etched into the stone each side of the fire grate were believed to protect against evil spirits; however to quote Bert’s words “they didn’t work, they got in anyway.” John explains that the person who was responsible for these practices would have been chastised. Two children are reputed to haunt this room, by playing with the piano and harp strings. As I stood by the door I felt a light touch on my right arm.
We were then led up some more stairs to the bedroom corridor. John tells us that this corridor is active with paranormal happenings. On occasions footsteps can be heard walking up the stairs but no one is there. At this point we all heard footsteps on the stairs and looked around us to find that no one appeared.
The building used to be a mental institution for a short period. Women who were expecting a baby out of wedlock were kept here during the 1920s and 1930s. After giving birth, mothers had to leave their children at the sanatorium then either return to be accepted back by their families or face a bleak future alone to strive to make a living. The women and children were kept in the cradle room. Black metal bars covered the window outside, a stark reminder of how these women were kept as prisoners. A basket style wooden cradle by the fireplace holds a tragic story; three sets of twins have died in the cradle and it was in this room that one girl in the group felt her hair being pulled and a tingling sensation in her arms.
The panelled room was the bedroom of Sir Trevor II and is reported to be the most haunted room in the building. I stood by the door while John explained how, in this room objects move. A sance was once carried out causing the heavy oak table to lift and stand on one leg. For some reason as John was talking I kept looking at the door. He then explained that the door is frequently slammed shut. A loud tapping noise 1, 2, 3, emanated from the foot of the bamboo framed bed. Only I and one other girl seemed to hear this and we looked at each other quizzically. It was in this room where Sir Trevor died following an accident on his horse and trap. Enraged with jealousy after an argument with his wife, he rode his horse and trap around the courtyard in circles, in his maddened state, forcing his favourite horse to go faster and faster when the trap overturned; taking his horse to the ground and breaking its neck. Sir Trevor was badly injured and taken to his room where he lay dying for three days. Doctors would have done all they could for him, no expense spared.
The adjoining bathroom has a lead bath which looked more like an object of torture than for washing in. At the bottom of the bath is a section for a fire to be lit to keep the water warm. Of course, in those days people were not aware that the lead in the baths contained poison. A mirror stood in the corner of the room next to the bath. It used to be placed by the door where I stood which was noticeably cold, however on numerous occasions the mirror would be found on the floor in the mornings, so it was moved to the other side of the room where it seemed happy to stay.
Plas Teg is certainly not a place for the faint hearted especially if you are a sensitive type of person. Some people have visited and not felt any kind of unexplained sensations or noises yet John Millington explained to us that he has stayed in every bedroom over a period of a couple of weeks and cannot explain the strange noises he hears. As we were leaving and about to descend the staircase I felt that there was someone behind me and heard a soft a..hmm in my left ear. Was I in someone’s way I wonder?
www.gtj.org.uk Plas Teg
Welsh Cultural History website
BBC News Wales North East Wales website