A haunted 16th Century stately home was blessed by a priest yesterday before it is turned into a state-of-the-art children’s activity centre.
Sprawling Condover Hall, a Grade I listed Elizabethan building, has been plagued for decades by ghostly figures, gray ladies, eerie footsteps and doors mysteriously closing themselves.
The property is believed to be cursed after an innocent butler was framed and executed for the murder of his master.
Reverend Michael Gillions carried out the religious blessing – designed to calm evil spirits and bring peace – in rooms where children will sleep and eat.
Condover Hall will open next April as a high-tech residential and activity centre providing room for 500 school children every week.
Priest Gillions, 73, of the Parish Church of St Andrew & St Mary, Condover, Shropshire said: ”Because Condover Hall is so solid there is a sense of security which I hope will be reinforced by this blessing.
”When the children arrive they will be struck by the grandeur of their surroundings, the wealth and the history that lie behind it.”
A spokeswoman for school trips provider JCA, which is rebuilding Condover, added: ”We will be doing everything in our power to ensure that any possible hauntings are eradicated from Condover Hall.
”We have a team who are currently working on refurbishing the building to turn it in to a children’s residential and activity centre.
”But it is important to us to reassure people that despite the past hauntings and sightings, the venue is blessed and safe for both children and staff.
”There is a huge amount of history to a place as beautiful and well-built as Condover. We want to make sure that’s a virtue.”
The butler was executed by the testimony of Lord Knyvetts son who had secretly stabbed his father to death and then blamed it on the butler.
Stumbling down the stairs of the basement, Knyvett is said to have reached out his bloodied hand leaving an imprint upon the wall that defied any attempts to wash it away.
No matter how hard the work, it would simply reappear. Later the hand-print had to finally be chipped out of the brick, rumour has it.
As he was hung from the gallows, the butler is believed to have said: ”Before heaven I am innocent, though my master’s son swears me guilty. And as I perish an innocent man, may those who follow my murdered lord be cursed.”
As no heir to Condover Hall has prospered since the butler’s unjust death, locals believe the butler’s curse still affects Condover Hall.
Many visitors to the hall since have reported seeing a grey lady.
JCA purchased the house as part of a plan to build a residential educational facility for school children.
When completed it will have the largest ropes course in the UK and will have children’s activities such as abseiling, buggy building, circus skills, fencing and parachuting.
When completed it will have a state of the art high and low ropes course and will have children’s activities such as abseiling, buggy building, circus skills, fencing and parachuting.
Condover Hall is steeped in history with earliest records describing the Saxon village of
Condover as a rural manor, forming part of the estate of Roger De Montfort, Earl of Shrewsbury.
The mansion house, as seen today, was built for Thomas Owen, purportedly by Walter Hancock, a distinguished Shropshire mason from Much Wenlock.
In 1947 the Hall was acquired by the RNIB which opened the first school in Great Britain for blind children with handicaps.
The property was then bought by the current owners who, after an extensive refurbishment programme, ran it as a school for the last four years.
JCA will offer courses at Condover Hall which focus on enjoyable outdoor learning for primary school children in year 4 (eight years old) and above covering many areas in the National Curriculum.
The new Government supports that every young person should experience the world beyond the classroom and have some hands on experiences.
It will feature themed rooms in main building including the ‘Laser Room’, ‘the Wizard Room’ and the ‘Dance Studios’.
Janie Burt, Managing Director, JCA commented: ”JCA is delighted to have purchased this incredible historic property and the team is very excited about the upcoming development.”
The centre will appeal to primary school groups within a 100 mile reach of Condover Hall. This will include the cities and towns of Liverpool, Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Coventry and Worcester.
The planned opening of JCA’s new flagship site is in April 2011. A four night trip will start from #156 per child.