This fifteenth century manor house sits a couple of miles from Kington, and originally had a moat. It underwent some alterations over the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries
The house was owned by the Vaughan family for generations, and many legends surround a ghost who is still apparently haunting the house to this day – “Black Vaughan”, whose identity is a tad hazy. He may have been Sir Thomas Vaughan who was killed in 1469, or perhaps the Sir Thomas who was a traitor to Richard III and was subsequently beheaded.
The most likely theory is that it was the Thomas Vaughan who was killed 26th July in 1469, fighting for the Yorkists in the battle that was fought at Danesmore near Edgecote in Northamptonshire ; he was taken prisoner and beheaded at Banbury in 1469 aged 69 years with his body being taken back to Kington to be buried.
Unfair Nickname of Black Vaughan Perhaps
Legend has it that he was rather vile, but there is little to suggest that this was so and in fact the nickname might merely have referred to his dark colouring.
The wife of Thomas was Ellen the Terrible, who thought nothing of sending an arrow through the heart of her cousin, John Vaughan, during an archery meeting as retribution for the murder of her brother.
There are many dark and horrible stories of the evilness of Black Vaughan, who apparently changed his appearance at will and frequently turned up as a bull – scaring the living daylights out of women on a regular basis, more bizarrely he was thought to turn himself into a fly to spook horses. The black dog that was his companion was thought to have been the ghost of Sir Thomas’ own dog, and it was this story that many believe inspired Arthur Conan Doyle to write the Hound of the Baskervilles after he stayed at Hergest Court. This remains speculation as there is no proof.
Attempts were made to exorcise the ghost of Black Vaughan, including a mass ceremony performed by 12 local clergymen who claimed to have captured Vaughan’s spirit and sealed in in a snuff box which was subsequently weighed down by a stone in Hergest Pool. It didn’t seem to work because people still claim to see him in his bull form to this day.
The Black Dog of Hergest
Thomas Vaughan’s faithful dog is said to have haunted Hergest and members of the Vaughan family down the generations, and the belief grew that it’s appearance signalled a death. I have recently been contacted by David Richarde, an ordained bishop of the Knights Templar, a gentleman who is descended from the Vaughans through the female line and who related his own tale to add to the hauntings……..however intriguingly this took place not in Hergest or Kington, nor even this country.
In 1994, we purchased a spectacular piece of woods and river, situated on an ancient Ojibwa trail, in the upper peninsula of Michigan, US.
We built a rather interesting home, that drew attention, as well as local authorities, which included the building dept. Not knowing that two inspectors had come to the property, while we were out, many times, I went in to get a permit (finally) to build. Taken to the building supervisor’s room, I took a seat. On the supervisors desk was a 12×12 picture of our “illegal” structure, a round straw bale house, which struck me as odd. As I began filling out papers, the supervisor came in and sat down to finish out the permit.
I asked him about the picture he had. He says..”Oh, this guy, these people, are in violation, and this is kind of an office memo. They are rather infamous around here!”
Thinking to myself….’oh no, do I say something’? finished out paperwork and paid for permit. All good. But could not let it go, and told him the house was mine. His demeanor changed to one of astonishment, and some angst. He goes, “ What, what(?) ..we went out to enforce violations there, and took a picture the last time. But dude, you’ve got a giant black wolf dog there at your door! Two of us would not get out of the car!”
I explained we had no dog, and the guy got angry. Now, it seemed like we may get fined, while paying for permit. He insisted it was there, and I was full of baloney. We talked for several more minutes, and he let me off the hook on a fine.
This was within the first year of living on the land along the “Yellow Dog River”. For 25 years now, this black wolf dog has been seen by many others, has protected the property, even as we have left it, for other homes, for months at a time. We leave the house unlocked, driveway open, with nothing ever bothered, touched, or molested.
Many more sightings have been relayed to us, about this monster animal, that stops people from trespassing. To date, none of us has ever directly contacted this animal, this spirit animal. It is not malevolent towards us, but seems to be sentinel to this spot, on the river, on an ancient Ojibwa trail. Not so oddly, many more strange and magical events have occurred.
Anyway, the Vaughn family seems to have a connection to this “hound”, to this day.
Bay Mare Stolen from Hergest Court in 1818
The following advertisement appeared in the local paper in 1818:
“Five Guineas Reward…………Stolen or strayed on Wednesday night the twenty-eighth of October 1818 from Hergest Court near Kington, Herefordshire, A BAY HACKNEY MARE, aged, near fourteen hands high, cut tail, blind on the left eye, several saddle marks, a large mark from the girth on the near side near the fore leg and is thought to be in foal; shoes marked I.W and a heart. Whoever will give information of the said mare, if strayed, shall be handsomely rewarded for their trouble and all reasonable expenses paid; and if stolen, upon conviction of the offender or offenders, shall receive the above reward of FIVE GUINEAS by applying to Mrs. Spencer of Hergest Court.”
Now, this of course was a considerable sum of money to offer as a reward and given that the mare was old, half blind and marked from previous injuries, I can only assume that either the foal she was carrying was by a superb stallion, or that she was very dearly loved indeed.
Thomas Price (Tom the Navvy) steals from Hergest Court
In 1847, Thomas Price who was better known in Leominster as Tom the Navvy, was dragged before the courts by Superintendent Humphrys, after being apprehended on suspicion of stealing from John Price of Hergest Court on the night of 30th June. He was alleged to have taken £11 in gold and silver, but because John Price didn’t turn up at court Thomas was ordered to be discharged.
Nothing changes does it!
Hergest Court Household and servants 1871
|James Price||42||Farmer of 404 acres b. Kington, Herefordshire|
|Thirza Price||37||Wife b. Birmingham|
|Hannah E. Price||17||Daughter b. Kington, Herefordshire|
|Eleanor Price||16||Daughter, b. Kington, Herefordshire|
|John James Price||13||Son b. Kington, Herefordshire|
|Thomas James Price||10||Son b. Kington, Herefordshire|
|Alice Martha Price||5||Daughter b. Kington, Herefordshire|
|Hannah Roberts||70||Mother in Law, b. Gloucester|
|Thirza Elizabeth Purcell||17||Visitor b. Warwickshire|
|Ambrose Bowen||39||Farm Servant b. Brilley, Herefordshire|
|John Jones||26||Farm Servant b. Old Radnor, Wales|
|James Watkins||18||Farm Servant b. Eardisley, Herefordshire|
|Thomas Bowen||18||Farm Servant b. Kington, Herefordshire|
|Charles Kettle||13||Farm Servant b. Kington, Herefordshire|