Monday, 3 February 2014


TAMWORTH, more than most other English towns, is blessed with many ghoulish and ghostly legends, dating back in time immemorial.

No-one knows if there is any truth in them, but they are probably based on actual happenings in our wonderful history.

Visitors to the Castle and members of staff who work there very often tell of inexplicable goings on – a sudden chill in the air; the sound of moving furniture in empty rooms; fleeting glimpses of spirits floating across rooms and passing through thick, solid walls; poltergeist activities and many more stories that make people's hair stand on end.

But there are two ghostly legends that are told more often than any others.

One favourite story relates to a young, beautiful woman, dressed in white.

It belongs to the legendary tales of King Arthur and the Round Table.

It is said that the young lady was captured and imprisoned by an evil knight, Sir Tarquin, who was an enemy of Arthur.

After a while the lady fell in love with her captor, although he did not reciprocate her feelings.

Then King Arthur despatched noble Sir Lancelot to deal once and for all with Sir Tarquin.

He challenged the miscreant to release the young maiden, but Sir Tarquin refused and a sword fight ensued in Lady Meadow, whereby Sir Lancelot dealt a fatal blow to his adversary.

On learning of Sir Tarquin's death, the young lady was inconsolable and climbed to the battlements of the Tamworth fortress, threw herself to the ground and was killed.

The legend says that her voice can still be heard on certain nights, wailing her despair to the four winds from the top of Tamworth Castle.

Poor old Lancelot! The story does nothing to enhance his reputation as a chivalrous knight, famed for saving damsels in distress.

Sadly, the tale, although a good one, holds no credence.

All King Arthur stories are legends about pre-Saxon days when, as far as we know, there were no castles or battlements in Tamworth, nor have there been any signs that any ever existed.

Tamworth's most famous ghost story dates back to the 9th century, when a lady called Editha, (not to be confused with St. Editha of St. Editha's church), established a nunnery in Polesworth, known as Polesworth Abbey.

It survived and flourished, even though this area suffered repeated invasions from Viking marauders, who often targeted places of worship for their spoils of battle.

When, in 1066, King Harold was defeated at the Battle of Hastings, William the Conqueror shared the lands and properties of the vanquished among his nobles.

It was his Champion and personal friend, Robert de Marmion, son of William de Marmion of Normandy, who was granted the fortress at Tamworth, among other estates.

Robert immediately instigated the building of a stone keep in the fortress, probably using slave labour, Tamworth men and boys, to haul the large stones from the quarry to the top of the mound.

It was the beginnings of the Castle you see today and the Marmion's tyrannical rule over the good folk of Tamworth.

He and his extended family remained stewards of the Castle for over 800 years.

Most of the Marmions were despised by the local populace, as in the time of their tenure, through plagues, fires and famine that hit the town, they rarely lifted a finger to help the people. But they were never hesitant in taking men from the town to fight their battles.

On his acquisition of the Castle, Robert de Marmion did nothing, or very little, to endear himself to the people.

Much worse, he fell foul of the law and with the church as, seeking more land to enrich himself, he expelled the nuns from the abbey at Polesworth and 'acquired' the place for his own personal use.

Having been turfed out of their home, the nuns sought refuge in a convent at Oldbury, near Atherstone.

The legend says that one night, shortly after their expulsion, Robert was visited by Editha in a dream.

She had apparently risen from her grave and made her way through the castle walls in order to haunt him.

Dressed as a veiled nun, wearing black and with a crozier in her hand, she admonished him for his treatment of the nuns and whacked him hard with her crozier.

She said that unless the nuns were returned to their rightful place, he would suffer a violent, torturous death.

The apparition scared the wits out of the noble baron, so much that, looking for a shoulder to cry on, he confided with his friend Sir Walter de Somerville about the dream.

Sir Walter noticed how shaken the baron was, but could not console him.

Robert de Marmion died in 1101.

It is said that he went to his grave still harassed by nightmares caused by the visitation of Editha's ghost.

In common with most ghost stories, there are variations to this story.

Another version says that it was the Champion's grandson, the third baron Robert Marmion, who expelled the nuns and whom Editha visited in 1139.

It also states that it was he who allowed the nuns to return to Polesworth Abbey.

In a document that still exists today, written by the fourth baron, Robert de Marmion, it states that his father gave the nuns the abbey at Polesworth as a gift.

This, of course, is a gross misrepresentation of the truth.

In fact the Marmions were returning to the nuns their own property and restoring their rights to them. This document epitomises the unpleasant attitude of the Marmion family.

Even though the third baron had complied with Editha's wishes, he was still to suffer a violent death, being killed in Coventry in 1143.

Apparently to this day, Editha, often seen in her black robes, still walks the floors and passes with ease through the solid walls of Tamworth Castle.

I regard myself as a somewhat sceptical man who doesn't believe in ghosts.

But ask me if I would spend a night alone in Tamworth Castle with just candles for company – not on your life!

Story: TamworthHerald

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