Hergest Court, found in Kington, Herefordshire, was once a fine home, but it is but a “shadow” of its former greatness. However, its decline appears appropriate when one considers the history of the building and of its owner.
Many people believe the building haunted. Sir Thomas Vaughan (see Friday’s post) came to reside at Hergest Court in the late 1400s. At that time (Think “War of the Roses” and its aftermath.), the house was a grand one. Unlike the image we had of Vaughan in the previous post, Haunted Britain says he was known as the Black Squire or Black Vaughan.
We do know that Vaughan switched his allegiance to the Crown from the Lancastrians to the Yorkist leaders. As reported in Friday’s post, Vaughan was decapitated by Richard III. Others believe he fell at the Battle of Banbury in 1469. The decapitation tale is the one that leads us to stories of ghosts and bloody hounds.
The tale goes that when Vaughan lost his head, his faithful black bloodhound set up a great howl before scooping up the head and run off to Hergest Court with it. Thomas Vaughan’s body was buried in the family vault at Kington’s church. However, without his head, Vaughan’s ghost transformed into a black bull that roamed the district, accompanied by the bloodhound.
Because of the times, many feared the ghost enough to refuse to go about their daily business; therefore, twelve priests were summoned to conduct an exorcism.(Keep a straight face during this next explanation!) The priests managed to reduce the ‘Black’ spirit to the size of a blow fly. They then imprisoned the spirit in a snuff box, before burying it under a heavy stone slab on the bed of the lake at Hergest Court.
Whoops! The priests forgot about the black hound. The Black Dog began to find its way into the local folklore. What made the tale hang on was the fate of the Vaughan family, which finally died out in the 19th Century. According to those who have too much time to think on these things, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle once was a guest at Hergest Court. Instead of fearing the tale, the genius of Conan Doyle brought the tale to Devon, making the tale of the Black Dog into one of his most famous tales “The Hound of the Baskervilles.”