Monday, January 12, 2009

The Lawford Family Connections with Lawford Hall



Lawford Hall at Lawford in Essex

There are two Lawford Halls. One is at Long Lawford, near Rugby and the other at Lawford near Manningtree, Essex.

This is a photo from Geograph of the Hall at Little Lawford near Long Lawford, about which there is a fanciful story about ghosts to be found on an American website about Rugby. The relevant passage reads:

"Not far from England's Rugby lie the ruined remains of Lawford Hall, where a family ancestor who had lost an arm during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I was known as One-Handed Boughton. After he died, his ghost was said to have appeared from time to time, riding across the neighboring grounds in a coach-and-six (a coach drawn by six horses), scaring the villagers out of their wits.

A room in Lawford Hall which had been preserved as his bed-chamber was reputedly haunted. No-one could sleep in it, and none of the locals would work in it. The family finally decided to lay the ghost. The website describes the ceremony, which, it says, took place about 1754:

"Twelve clergymen were assembled, each bearing a lighted candle, all of which went out except that held by Mr. Hall, erstwhile Rector of Harborough Magna. He immediately laid the ghost by conjuring it into a bottle, corking it tight and throwing it into the pond [in a clay-pit opposite the Hall].

"Around 1810 an old glass bottle was discovered in a pond near the site of Lawford Hall. It passed into the possession of Mr. Allesley Boughton Leigh of Brownsover Hall who was happy to allow it to be seen, but the cork has never been drawn.

"Sir Francis Skipwith tells us that on a visit to Lawford Hall and enquiring into the possibility of fishing in the pool opposite he was politely deterred by Sir Edward Boughton on the grounds that he could not consent to disturbing the spirit of his ancestor... May God have mercy on us all."


[For a much longer and more dramatic version of this story, click this link to the New Zealand Otago Witness 1872. (With thanks to Damien Kimberley of the Coventry Transport Museum]

There is no evidence that any Lawfords actually lived at this Lawford Hall, though we don't know who actually built it.

The Hall at Lawford in Essex is more interesting for us as it actually had the family coat of arms over the door until about 1994. I saw them there on a visit, but on enquiring about them more recently, I was told that they had been moved inside as protection from the weather. This house, which was built sometime early in the C18th*, was owned in 1866 by TW Nunn, according to plaque on the wall of Lawford Church, and was inherited or bought by the Nichols family some time in the late C19th - according to the present family's daughter, who lives in one wing. Indeed there are gravestones in the churchyard of both John Nichols (1859-1939) and Robert Nichols (1893-1944)- both of whom have interesting entries in Wikipedia. But the coat of arms - if my memory is correct - means that it was indeed originally owned or built by one of our line of Lawfords, and likely a member of the Drapers' Livery Company, as the same coat of arms appears on the ceiling of one of the main rooms at the Drapers' Hall.

*A correspondent has recently pointed out that Lawford Hall may be also called Lawford Place, built by a family called Bridges. A note on the Tate website dealing with  Bridges family portrait is instructive, but suggested no connection with the Lawford family.

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