The Ghosts of Berry Pomeroy



The Castle's Place in History

In addition to the fame of its two ghosts, Berry Pomeroy also boasts a rich history that visitors can explore. Although no one knows for sure when the castle was built, it is assumed by most writers that Ralf de la Pomerai had the castle built in about 1066, near the manor of Beri given to him by William the Conqueror. Because the de la Pomerai family originally lived in Normandy, they initially acted as absentee landlords. But later on, when the de la Pomerai family occupied the castle, it served as a place of protection from the raging War of the Roses. In 1549, Thomas Pomerey signed the ownership over to the Lord Protector, the Duke of Somerset. The reason for this, says Derryck Seymour, a descendant of the Duke of Somerset and author of the book Berry Pomeroy Castle, was probably that Pomerey was in debt and sold the castle for money.


The castle has been owned by descendants of the castle ever since, though it is administered by the English Heritage. If you take an outing to Berry Pomeroy, you can roam around in the kitchen, state rooms, chapel, and courtyard where the castle’s former owners would have lived. But one question remains regarding the castle's history: how did it end up in ruins? Speculations suggest that the castle was actually burned in a huge fire begun by a thunderstorm. However, Seymour contradicts this explanation of the castle's demise, arguing that the walls are not blackened, nor is any of the wood charred. In actuality, the castle was probably demolished when it ceased to be an asset to its owners.


Berry Pomeroy Front photoshopped

Travelling along the narrow dirt road to Berry Pomeroy Castle with the rain sprinkling down, it’s easy to imagine that the castle is haunted. The reputation of the castle as a spooky locale precedes it—as showcased by how I was advised by the man selling tickets to take lots of pictures, because, as he put it, “if you’re going to see those two ladies, you want to see them in a photo, not in reality.”

The two ladies to whom the man was referring are the castle’s most famous ghosts. The first, nicknamed the White Lady, is said to be the ghost of one of the castle’s former inhabitants, Margaret Pomeroy. Unfortunately for her, Margaret fell in love with the same man as her sister Eleanor, and as a result, her sister locked her in the dungeons, where she ultimately died. Though the dungeons are closed to the public, everyone can see St. Margaret’s Tower, where her ghost occasionally appears. While I was there with my research partners, we saw a young boy point out to his family the bench where, last time they visited, he had supposedly seen the White Lady. As both the man selling tickets and the little boy illustrate, the myth of Berry Pomeroy’s ghost permeates the public perception of the castle and draws people in to see the ghosts. Many visitors even attempt to capture photos that bear evidence of the ghosts—maybe you’ll be the next guest to encounter the White Lady (but you better hope not, as seeing her is a sign of imminent death!).

Berry Pomeroy photoshopped

The other ghost of the castle is known as the Blue Lady. This haunting figure dates back even longer than the White Lady, according to the memoirs of a physician who came to tend a sick patient at Berry Pomeroy in the late 1790s. As you wander around the castle, you can listen on audio to “Dr. Farquhar” relate his tale of meeting the Blue Lady. The Blue Lady’s living identity is not precisely known, but during her life, she was said to have birthed a child by her own father, and because of this could not love the child and subsequently killed it. Now, she still lurks in the castle, mourning the loss of her child. Dr. Farquhar explains that he saw her ghost while trying to help his sick patient, and shortly after, the patient died. Spotting the Blue Lady, then, also results in imminent death.

With these two frightening ghosts still inhabiting the castle, it’s no wonder English Heritage describes Berry Pomeroy as “reputedly the most haunted castle in Devon.” And it’s no wonder that people keep coming to experience the thrill of discovering the ghosts for themselves.



Other Berry Pomeroy Folklore

 Pomeroy's Leap- This story is about the last two brothers in the Pomeroy line. Beset by attackers, the two brothers, rather than surrender to their enemies, decided to commit suicide by leaping from steepest part of the castle's escarpment. To do so, they blindfolded their horses and spurred them over the precipice. After their deaths, the enemies supposedly allowed the retainers of the castle to go find the bodies for a proper burial. In Berry Pomeroy Castle, Derryck Seymour informs readers that this tale cannot be historical accurate, but that does not diminish its importance. Rather, the legend of the two brothers demonstrates how the Pomeroy family went from being “the very backbone of the country” (Seymour 93) to glorified figures that owned the castle through 19 generations.


Treasure in the Walls- Building off the legend of Pomeroy's Leap is the idea that the two brothers buried their treasure within the castle before riding to their deaths. In one version of the story, a crock of gold was hidden in the kitchen chimney, because there was a small invisible chamber behind the fireplace. The "secret" chamber is now visible to anyone visiting the castle, and sadly, no treasure has been found. But Seymour details how "Folklore and wishful thinking go hand in hand, and the legend of hidden gold somewhere always intrigues the newcomer."

Text © Alana Gale, Photos © Alex Kirshy and Alana Gale


Seymour, Derryck. Berry Pomeroy Castle. Penwell Limited: Torquay, 1982. Print.


Berry Pomeroy, near Totnes