The above painting of Ramsdell Hall dates from the 1890s. The face seen is not in the painting, of course, but was captured by a camera flash. Here now is the legend of Ramsdell's ghost, which has been seen, and who I think it might be.
Legend has it that Ramsdell Hall is haunted by the ghost of a daughter of one of its owners. Two suitors were fighting a duel on the lawn, and she ran out of the house to stop them from fighting. In doing so she was killed by a rapier. If the duel actually took place—and duels did happen—it is worth surmising who the young lady might be.
William of Ramsdell's six daughters are all accounted for. His father Edward had only one daughter, William's sister Ellen, and the Williamsons’ era would be too late because it is said to have taken place in the early days of Ramsdell.
This brings us to the youngest daughters of Doctor William Lowndes, the man who commisioned the building of Ramsdell. Mary and Elizabeth. The sisters of Edward Lowndes and aunts of William of Ramsdell. Both would be of marrying ages during the first few years of Ramsdell Hall ... the early 1760s. I haven't found records of their lives thereafter whereas, William's eldest daughter, Frances, was safely married in 1776
In the years between its completion and Edward starting his family, there are a few years not accounted for. Who was living there? Presumably William remained at Old House Green with his wife Isabella and their family. Edward, in his early thirties, most probably was living at Ramsdell, eventually joined by his bride Mary in 1767.
Did any of his three sisters move there too? Or his younger brother John. It’s a very large house for a batchelor. With Old House Green just a few minutes walk away, Edward's siblings must have spent time there during Ramsdell's first decade.
Mary would be about twenty-two and Elizabeth twenty in 1760, which is the considered time that the Hall was completed. These are my candidates for the ghost—or at least the young lady killed in the duel. A search of the family graves at Astbury might tell us more and solve the mystery.
In my novel, "Ramsdell Hall", I give the nod to Mary but it could equally have been Elizabeth. If a daughter of the Hall was killed during a duel, there are no other contenders. Here is an extract from the novel ... Mary's death.
He continued gazing out of the window. It was becoming increasingly difficult to see what was happening because of the change in the light, but what he was witnessing could only be a duel—a duel at dawn. There was no other explanation; and he knew immediately what this meant, and what was about to happen.
He turned away—for he could watch no longer—and moments later it was all over. With tears in his eyes, he returned to the window and saw what he didn’t want to see. The two figures were now crouching over a third who lay, motionless, on the grass. A rapier lay next to her. Both men looked as devastated as if they were the one stricken on the grass. He could hear anguished cries coming from them while the woman remained silent. He didn’t need to work out what they were saying or what had happened. He knew only too well, what he had seen and he made the sign of the cross. He was not a Christian, but it was something he instinctively did at such moments.
He felt as much empathy for the two young men as he did for the woman they both loved. He lit one of the candles nearby and returned to the window. She still lay there, and the men remained next to her—beside themselves with grief for what they had done. He left the room, descended the stairs, and in a moment was among them.
“It was an accident!” one of them cried. “She came between us. We did not know she was there. There was nothing we could do!”
Chris took Mary in his arms and kissed her on the cheek, where she had kissed him minutes earlier.
“It’s all right,” he said, comfortingly, to the distraught men who looked as white as ghosts.
“It’s no one’s fault. Love does the strangest things to us. Mary forgives you both. Please believe that.”
He held her closer and wept tears of his own. He had never before realised how beautiful she was, how young she had been.
He stood up slowly and carried her into the house. He laid her on the bed and sat by her side, holding her hand. He thought of his first meeting with her, at the concert, and the night after, when she had told him not to fear death so much.
“But a stop along the way,” she had said and now she was starting a new part of her own journey. He continued to hold her hand and to gaze at her there, where earlier he had lain. She looked to be in peace, but he knew it was only temporary. Soon she would wake up to the horrors of that dawn. He wanted to be there for her then, just as she had been and would be for him.
“She is truly lovely,” said Irene who had joined them. She sat by his side, putting her hand on his shoulder, as he continued his vigil. “One day this will be me and then it will be you. And Mary will be with us both.”
“Yes that is a beautiful thought,” he replied, “I feel sad, and yet I do not. There is so much light here.”
He turned to look at Irene who, like Mary, had never looked lovelier. Slightly older he thought but still the same, sweet soul that he had first set eyes on in front of her easel.
“We will stay with her as long as she needs us,” said Irene. “Then we will let time take its course.”
How long they sat with Mary was hard to say. It seemed like hours but it was probably less. She had told him not to fear death so much, and her words began to make sense in the early hours of that morning. He gazed at the flickering candle. It was a family tradition of his, to keep a candle lit, for those who had passed over. The candle of remembrance always burned bright in his home. Mary’s candle filled the room with the warmest, softest light he could ever remember.
He left Irene alone with Mary and crossed to the window. It was Irene’s time now to be with Mary. They had known each other long before he had arrived that June afternoon. Now both he and Irene were guests in her time. She had allowed them to share in her personal tragedy. Their lives were linked forever.