The ghost stories associated with Loftus Hall

It was a couple of factors that set me thinking of Loftus Hall and the ghost stories attached to it. The first one was when looking up a map of the local area and the big estates which met in the parish some years ago. The estates in question were the estates of Butler, Fitzwilliam and Tottenham, and it was the name of the last estate that reminded me of Ann Tottenham and her haunting of Loftus Hall. Loftus Hall is situated on the Hook peninsula in south County Wexford and is even today a lonely enough place. Let us try to think what it was like in olden times when there was no electric light, very few people passing or visiting the hall, with the sound of the moaning wind sweeping about the house on a winter night. The stories of the haunting of the hall are many but the main story concerns the appearance of the once beautiful Ann Tottenham.

This mansion, built on the wind swept Hook peninsula, came into the possession of the Loftus about 1601. Ann was the daughter of Charles Tottenham who had made a name for himself when he rode to Dublin and entered the House of Parliament in his mud spattered boots and clothes to record what proved to be the casting vote against a measure that would have put the Irish Treasury thousands of pounds in debt. He was married twice and by his first marriage he had two daughters, Ann and Elizabeth. Elizabeth married and after some time Charles married again, and his second wife and daughter Ann continued to live at Loftus hall.

Ann soon found that her stepmother was anything but kind to her and eventually forbade her to have the few friends she had visiting the hall. This meant that what was now a very beautiful young woman lived a very lonely existence.

It is a well known fact that the south Wexford coast is one of the most dangerous stretches of water around the Irish coast and as a result many a ship ended her sailing days either grounded on the shore or shattered on the rocks near the coast. Sometimes members of the crew reached the shore and sought shelter in the houses near where they struck. Sometimes they moved inland and were given shelter from the storm until the weather improved. This also applied to travellers on their way to the coast.

Now whiter the man involved with Ann in our story was coming from the sea or not we will never know, but on a stormy winter night there came a loud kicking at the door of Loftus hall and when the door was opened a stranger stood there and asked for shelter. He was invited in and at breakfast the next morning proved to be so interesting a person that he was asked to stay and rest for a few days. This he agreed to do and during his stay he fell in love with Ann and she with him. The story goes that he asked Tottenham for her hand in marriage and was refused. He was asked to leave, which he did and Ann never saw him again.

This is where there are two versions of the cause for Ann’s break down in her state of health. Some say that she felt so heart broken over losing her lover that she lost all interest in living and eventually lost her reason and was confined to the Tapestry Room until she died. After her death her spirit haunted the hall and appeared almost every night. The local parish priest was eventually sent for and is supposed to have confined her wandering apparition to the tapestry room.

The second version of the story is that after her lover leaving Ann discovered that she was pregnant and when she told her father he flew into a rage and had her confined to the tapestry room when visitors came to the house. The story goes on that she died on the birth of her baby after her father had refused to allow a doctor to see her. Some time after her death strange stories began to be told about the house. When guests came some of the party would be put in the tapestry room to sleep. They would be awakened by a weight pressing on them, or the clothes would be pulled from the bed, or they would hear the sound of a dress sweeping the floor. Many guests left in a hurry.

On one occasion the people in the house were awakened by the cries of a servant who was sleeping in the room. When they got him to tell them what happened he told them that he had awoke to see a woman in white with a fierce expression on her face standing beside his bed. When he started to call out she disappeared into a closet at the end of the room, or her coming down the stairs and of her appearing in other parts of the house. Although there are other stories told of strange happenings and sights at Loftus hall, one or two even state that the devil himself appeared in different forms at different times, this is the main story.

The ghost of Ann was seen around the hall for several years until about 1668 when the Tapestry room was turned into a billiard room and the closet at the end of the room demolished. A lot of rebuilding has been carried out since then and different people have used the hall including nuns at one stage. Still the stories go on, perhaps it would take from the place if Ann left it. Still if she is still there, may the day come when she shall rest in peace.