I say this with nothing but affection but, for me, Rugeley is the creepy capital of Staffordshire. Never mind the drama of the Moorlands with its mermaids or our fancy phantoms from the Civil War here in Lichfield. If you google, ‘What is Rugeley famous for?’, the answer is a murderer. If you google, ‘What else is Rugeley famous for?’, the answer is another murder. I may return to these infamous events at some point but for now it’s one of the town’s lesser told stories I want to share as further paranormal proof of my bold claim.
At the turn of the 19th century, William Hewitt was a young man who had recently entered into the employment of a titled gentleman at Ravenhill House. Hewitt recalled how the house and its grounds were scenic in summer but that come winter, it turned into a dark and dismal place with scarcely a light to be seen. The owner would disappear for months at a time and it was during one of these absences that speculation that a spectre had been spotted in the area arose. The ghost was first seen at the top of Redbrook Lane, by a man returning from a night at his local and two nights later, another man returning home from the pub was startled when the supposed spook sprang out at him. Several more appearances of the apparition followed to the point that there was genuine sense of fear in the community with many people choosing not to venture out after dark.
One group of residents decided that they weren’t afraid of no ghost and took to patrolling the streets at night. One evening, a gang of twenty men headed to the shadowy spot where the ghost had been known to materialise but there was no sign of the shade to be seen and over the next few weeks sightings subsided. Then, one night, Mr Hewitt was returning from Rugeley town with two friends, when they caught sight of something white standing in the gateway to Ravenhill House. One of them lashed out at it with a stick and it fell to the ground with a very earthly thud. In proper Scooby Doo fashion, the friends pulled the white sheet from the now prostrate phantom but before they could reveal its identity, they noticed a considerable amount of blood on the sheet. Finding themselves in the unusual position of thinking they’d killed someone who until two minutes prior they’d believed to already be a ghost, they panicked and ran off. A few days later, Hewitt, Fred and Shaggy heard a rumour that an employee of Ravenhill House was in bed with a nasty crack on the head, having apparently caught his foot on the carpet and fallen downstairs. Yes, that’s right. The butler did it and what’s more, he would have got away with it too if it wasn’t for those meddling kids.
The irony here is that Ravenhill House did actually have a genuine ghost, as far as any ghost can be genuine. An apparition of an elderly woman dressed in blue was witnessed by residents and guests on several occasions, her main haunt being a chair in the drawing room as, like all ladies of a certain age, she enjoyed a nice sit down. The lady in blue was such a feature of the house that when Harry Thornton drew a map of the house in the 1980s, based on information supplied by Major T. Gardener, whose parents lived in the house from 1920 to 1936, she was included albeit it as the ‘Grey Lady’. Perhaps she, or possibly Major Gardener’s memory of her, had faded over time.
Sadly, Ravenhill House was demolished in 1993 with its final moments captured in a series of photographs which can be seen on the Staffordshire Past Track site here.