|Gosfield Place - Circa 1811|
The below story and other accounts were discovered at diverse internet sites on researching the ghostly history of a now overgrown former country park which was created as an ornamental folly at the now demolished estate of Gosfield Place.
Before I share the ghostly account, here is some history.
The park was designed by Humphry Repton in 1811. Gosfield Place, the seat of the Sparrow family, was built as a Georgian classical house in 1800 then rebuilt in 1865 as a larger French influenced house. It was demolished 1924-5.
|Gosfield Place - As re-built in 1865 and demolished 1924-25|
All that remains today is the lake and an ornamental baroque style bridge which was constructed in 1865, and despite surviving with some missing ornamental metal panels it is regarded as a rarity of it`s type and is listed as a protected historical structure.
|The surviving bridge from 1865|
`Around 15 years ago I was carp fishing a local estate lake called (deleted) with two friends. There were many rumours surrounding the old estate and the hall that once stood on the hill overlooking the lake.
All that remained were the foundations and a large ornate iron bridge that crosses one end of the lake to the driveway and the road situated about half a mile away. The lake was and still is typical of many estate lakes, shallow, big lily beds, boggy around the margins, surrounded by big old gnarled trees and extremely broody.
|The lake today - overgrown and neglected|
Rarely did anyone fish there alone, they couldn't explain why, just never did. To fish there was at night was never heard of that is why when we decided to do so we went as a threesome, considering that two of us would not be enough if something happened.
Arriving at around 8pm it gave us enough time to set up before darkness fell at 9.30.
I choose to fish from the centre of the old dam wall, Ted sixty yards to my left in the corner with Len around a hundred yards to my right on the field bank. It was agreed that we would fish until around 1am and depending on results either pack in or continue until breakfast time.
By the time the sun had dipped behind the hill our baits were in position and we sat back to enjoy our first cup of tea and smoke of the session. It was a nice warm evening and everything was right with the world even the fish looked like they may feed as they mooched in and out of the lily beds and sending up huge frothy bubbles from the silty lake bed.
As darkness begun to fall a little light but cold breeze sprang up from no where, just chilly enough to make you lift the collar of your shirt and shrug the shoulders. Even more strange was that it seemed to come from a dense wooded area which kissed the edge of the lake and ran back up the hill to where the hall once stood.
By 11pm it was pitch black and glancing to my right I could see by the glow of Len's roll up (hand rolled cigarette) that he was making his way towards me. "Not much happening round there" he said as he arrived at my side "I'll try off the dam too" "so will I" said Ted who had arrived at my other side.
There we sat for the next hour just 25 yards apart with nothing happening on the fishing front. Filling the kettle and lighting the stove culminated in a take on my right hand rod and the strike was meet with a heavy, slow moving and as yet unseen force.
Rising to my feet to apply some side strain I felt the uncontrollable urge to look around whilst at the same time a loud splash rang out across the lake as a big fish leapt clear of the water, the rod arched over and the clutch gave line, then all fell slack whatever it was probably a large carp had come adrift.
By now my companions stood beside me and as we discussed what had happened we became aware of a great presence descending around us. Hard to describe it just felt heavy, dark and very sad.
Now the three of us were well seasoned anglers spending much of our time fishing after dark, often alone. This was something else, something we had never experienced before or since, thank god. "I think I'll call it a night" I said "feels like a storm coming" the others agreed and said we would stop for a pint on the way home, then it happened.
From out of nowhere a scream rang out, a scream so loud that you couldn't think straight, we froze to the spot and reached for our torches, they didn't work, three torches and not a glimmer between them.
The scream turned to a wail still loud and one long note drowning our voices as we tried to speak. We knew what each other were saying and within a minute all tackle was retrieved, line bitten through, stuff just grabbed as we stumbled our way along the field bank towards the iron bridge. the old driveway and the sanctuary of the car.
The wail followed our every footstep growing neither louder or quieter, Ted was the first to reach the bridge and as he set foot on it all fell silent, very silent, painfully silent. I reached for my torch and yes it worked, so did the others, we looked at each other in disbelief but dared not utter a word, what could be said? And if we spoke would the screaming start again, no we just looked then continued on the long walk to the car.
How many times I looked over my shoulder, I would be guessing but it was a lot and the same went for the other two. We didn't stop at the pub and drove home in silence, in fact it was more than a week before we spoke about it and then only for a minute.
Last July was the first time I returned to the lake. not to fish you understand just for a look, Sarah was with me and upon seeing the lake she said that she didn't want to fish there nor even walk around it. She knew nothing of what had happened but she sensed all was not well for even during a sunny July afternoon there lay a strong presence and an atmosphere that all was not well.`
Further accounts were discovered of fishermen `driven off` at night by a bad presence, and one account of a wailing voice. Even during the day people have occasionally felt uncomfortable, which could be a feeling of the sheer neglected despondency of the site. One felt that `eyes` were looking from the nearby woods, which I can concur with a visit there a number of years ago. Although on my second visit it just felt benign.
Whether these are merely `tall tales`, or even a fox wailing at night, there are more than one account of this forgotten corner of Essex.
Today the lake is being overtaken by invasive weed, and part of the lake area is given over to a gun club with warning notices posted.
Whatever tragedy befell this area is not known, but an ominous shadow of the past pervades over the lake and it`s borders.
Story, photographs and research : Chris Halton