Dame Armine le Strange of old Hunstanton in Norfolk

Picture (c) by John Ashley Photography

The Le Strange family came over from France in 1100 and their ancestral home was located in Old Hunstanton, known as the Old Moated Hall. The head of the family is always the Hereditary Lord High Admiral of the Wash and may claim possession of anything on the beach or in the sea for Ďas far as a man can ride a horse or throw a spearí.

In the 1930s the famous German long distance swimmer Fraulein Mercedes Gleitze swam from Lincolnshire to Norfolk. It is said that when she came ashore at Old Hunstanton the then Squire stepped forward and advised her of this right and claimed her as his legal property. It is not known what the Frauleinís response to this was .But that is another story. 

This tale deals with one of his ancestors, Dame Armine le Strange. She became successor to Hunstanton Hall in Old Hunstanton when her brother Sir Henry died without issue. One of Armineís favourite possessions was a Persian rug, which had been a gift from the Shah of Persia, which she brought with her and placed in the drawing room of the hall.

On her deathbed Armine made her son promise that the rug would remain in its place in the drawing room and, further, that if it were removed she would return from her grave to haunt the house. However, upon returning from the funeral the son looked at the now slightly moth-eaten rug and instructed his servants to remove it from his sight and place it in a wooden box, nail it shut and place it in the attic.
Now you would think at this juncture that the results of this action would be that the unfaithful son would be haunted by his dead mama as he justly deserved, having gone back on his promise to her, but this was not the case. Yet the curse was passed down generation to generation. It was not until some 80 years later that the then new mistress of the house, Emmeline le Strange, came across the box during her explorations of her new home.

She instructed her servants to prise open the box only to find to her disappointment, that the box contained just an old mouldy rug. However, wishing to be a good housekeeper, she decreed that the carpet should be cut up and she herself would take her horse and distribute the pieces to the needy (it must have been a big rug, exact dimensions are not known). It was dusk when Emmeline returned to the hall and lights had been lit in all the windows as was the custom.

As she came up the drive Emmeline felt she was being watched, and glancing up at one of the first floor windows observed a woman, all dressed in grey, glaring down at her. The similarity between the lady's features and her husbands was very apparent and Emmeline assumed that a relation of her husband's had come to visit.As her husband was absent on business she hurried into the hall, assuming that the angry countenance of her visitor was caused by the fact that she had been kept waiting upon the newly wed mistress of the hall. Though, when she enquired of her servants who the visitor was and what refreshments had been made available to her, she was told that there was no visitor nor had there been any thoughout the day.

Being young and still a bit unsure of her new position, Emmeline decided to wait until her husband returned, where upon she relayed the story of the angry visitor to him. On hearing the details of the woman, her husband realised that the description matched that of his dead ancestor Armine le Strange. He also remembered the family curse concerning the Persian rug, and questioned his wife on her activities for that day. He was horrified to hear what his wife had done with the carpet pieces and insisted immediately that all the pieces should be collected and returned forthwith, but his wife refused to agree.

That night husband and wife were woken by the sounds of footsteps outside their door, but upon investigation found no living person to account for them. Yet as soon as they blew out the candle the steps resumed. The next day Emmeline retraced her steps and retrieved all the rug pieces and even had her seamstress sew them back together after a fashion.

However it appears that Armine was not appeased and continued her nightly haunting, making a thorough nuisance of herself, and this she continued throughout Emimelineís lifetime. Unfortunately Hunstanton Hall, despite surviving two bad fires, was converted into flats, though residents say that a spectre of a lady, all dressed in grey is sometimes seen drifting around the grounds near to the flats.  There are many monuments to the Le Strange family in the church at Old Hunstanton.

                    (c) by John Ashley Photography