The Borley Rectory Hauntings

borley rectory

In the mid-1800s, a large Victorian house located in the village of Borley, England became the focal point of very unusual paranormal activity. The abode was built near Borley Church in 1862 by Reverend Henry Dawson Ellis Bull. One year after its construction, the building was named Borley RectoryΒ and Bull moved in. Twenty years earlier, a prior rectory had caught on fire and was destroyed; coincidentally enough, the new rectory also caught on fire in 1939 and was subsequently demolished.

While Bull resided in the new house, he added a wing to accommodate his very large family (fourteen children). The Church he worked at is said to date back to the 12th century and is known for a monument that covers the resting place of Mary I of England‘s council, Sir Edward Waldegrave, as well as its topiary walk. At the time, Borley was a rural community made up of several farmhouses, hamlets and the remains of the old town hall, which was once the seat of the Waldegrave family.

Centuries earlier in 1362, a monastery for The Order of Saint Benedict was built. Some in the area whisper of a gruesome story that tells of a monk who had an inappropriate relationship with a nun from a nearby convent. When their affair was discovered, the monk was hastily executed by the order while the nun was placed in an opening in the convent walls and buried alive with brick and mortar.

Hauntings and sightings

Dating back to around 1863, locals who visited Borley Rectory had reported hearing footsteps within the house. While at the residence, they were accompanied by Bull and his family, yet heard footsteps originating from an area, either upstairs or in a nearby room, where no one else should have been.

Decades later in July of 1900, four of Bull’s daughters described an encounter with what they thought was the ghost of a nun; possibly the same one we mentioned earlier who was entombed alive in the convent’s brick walls. The spirit was seen at twilight about 40 yards away from the Borley Rectory.

borley rectory ghost

Image Credit

Regarding the incident, Harry Price, a paranormal researcher, said:

“They tried to talk to it, but it disappeared as they got closer.”

Organist and author Ernest Abrose stated in his book, Melford Memories, that the Bull family had seen an apparition on not just one, but several occasions. Others who lived in the area claimed to have witnessed “a phantom coach driven by two headless horsemen.”

When Borley Rectory became vacant in 1928 after the Bulls had either moved out or passed away,Β a reverend named Guy Eric Smith and his wife moved in.

According to Price’s book, The End of Borley Rectory:

“Smith’s wife, while cleaning out a cupboard, came across a brown paper package containing the skull of a young woman.”

“Shortly after, the family reported a variety of incidents including the sounds of servant bells ringing despite their being disconnected, lights appearing in windows and unexplained footsteps.”

Smith’s wife also stated she had seen a horse-drawn carriage after the sun had set one night.

The Smiths decided to leave the home, relocating elsewhere in July of 1929. Lionel Foyster, a cousin of the Bulls, dismissed warnings that the house was haunted and moved into the rectory with his wife and adopted daughter in October of 1930. According to Price:

“Foyster wrote an account of various strange incidents that occurred… [which] included bell-ringing, windows shattering, throwing of stones and bottles, wall-writing and the locking of their daughter in a room with no key.”

borley rectory wall writing

Image Credit

Marianne, Foyster’s wife, told him she had been thrown from the bed and their daughter, Adelaide, was assaulted by an unknown entity.

Foyster had conducted two exorcisms in Borley Rectory, but each ended in failure. He reported that during his first attempt, a baseball-sized stone struck his shoulder out of nowhere. Five years later, the Foysters left the village of Borley due to Lionel’s ill-health.

Photos of Borley Rectory

Below are some pictures of the house before it was demolished in 1944 (Images and captions from:

borley rectory tennis match 1896
Borley Rectory showing a tennis match in 1896.
borley rectory exterior front drive
A view of the ‘front’ door showing the bricked-up window that was blocked as people in the road could see the family at dinner. The Bull girls invented the idea that it was bricked up to stop the ghostly nun from peering in.
borley rectory from nearby church tower
Borley Rectory as seen from the church tower.
borley rectory monkish figures in dining room
The ‘Monkish figures’ in the dining room fireplace.
borley rectory drawing room
Borley Rectory’s drawing room in 1890.
borley rectory interior main staircase
The main stairs. A stove was inserted to warm this area of the house.
borley rectory upstairs landing outside blue room
Upstairs landing outside the Blue Room.
borley rectory east view before the fire
East view of the rectory before the fire.
borley rectory after fire
Borley Rectory soon after the fire.
borley rectory demolition
Borley Rectory during its demolition.

Main image credit: The Foxearth and District Local History Society

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