A 17th century Gloucestershire wonder – by Kirsty Hartsiotis

lj smSo who was Norman Jewson’s ghost, Lady Juliana, who haunts the church and house if her vault is disturbed? She was born Juliana Hicks, and was the daughter of Sir Baptist Hicks, who was the first Viscount of Chipping Campden. He was a self-made man, a silk mercer, who was fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time. He became a moneylender to King James I, supplying him and the new court with luxurious fabrics and loans… This gained him, in time, a knighthood, baronetcy, and he became Viscount Campden in 1628, the year before he died. He was a major benefactor to Campden, donating the almhouses, the market hall and a water supply. But despite all this, Baptist Hicks was unlucky in one thing – none of his sons survived to manhood. When he died, his titles passed to his son-in-law, Edward Noel, who was the wife of his eldest daughter, Juliana.[i]

As always with history before the 20th century, we know a lot about the men of the gentry and aristocracy, but the women are more shadowy. We know she was 19 when she married Edward Noel in 1605, and that they had six children. We know she lived a long life by the standard of any age, dying in 1680 aged 94, and that only one of her children outlived her (and by only two years!). She lived in Edward Noel’s home county of Rutland, in a place called Brooke, where she “maintained great state and dispensed much hospitality”. Her eldest son, another Baptist, inherited the estate after his father died fighting in the Civil War.[ii]

That’s about it. But Lady Juliana lives on in story, albeit as a bit part, in one of the most famous tales of Gloucestershire: the Campden Wonder. Briefly put, it tells of how, in 1660, Lady Juliana’s steward in Campden, William Harrison, set off to collect rents in the nearby village of Charingworth … and never returned. His servant, John Perry, set off to look for him, but eventually only found some of his possessions. He was arrested for his master’s murder, but he claimed to be innocent. He laid the blame at his mother and brother’s door, saying that they killed him for the money. They denied this. In end, John Perry pleaded insanity, saying that he, his mother and his brother were all innocent. The judge thought otherwise – they were all hanged, the mother first as she was thought to be a witch who had bewitched her sons so that would not tell the tale.  Her death did not loosen their tongues…

And that might have been the end of the story, but in 1662 William Harrison returned. Not as a ghost. He was very much alive. He claimed to have been snatched by Turkish pirates and had only recently escaped from slavery! The case was never resolved – but certainly the Perry  family didn’t kill a man who was still alive. There are theories that it was all related to the Noel family – and the burning down of Old Campden House by the Royalists. When Charles II was restored to the throne, he investigated the destruction of property during the war. Did Harrison know something that would have harmed the family?[iii] But then why didn’t the family step in to stop the killing of three innocent people?

In the story, Lady Juliana is said to be living in Campden. Not in in the now destroyed house her father built in 1612, but in Court House, the converted stable block. Unfortunately, this is unlikely, as she seems to have spent her time in Rutland, but maybe she visited … and maybe she knew exactly what was going on.

Lady Juliana lived through a tumultuous period of history. She lost her husband and a son, Henry, to the Civil War, and saw her own side, the Royalists, destroy her father’s house to stop the Parliament troops from taking it when they had to withdraw from Campden. She lived through the Commonwealth and the Protectorate, when people who had been on the Royalist side were fined and charged with ‘delinquency’, and she saw the Restoration and her family return to favour[iv]. But what she was like as a person we shall never know. But did she feel guilty for the death of the Perry family … so guilty she had to rise from the grave?

[i] See the Chipping Campden History Society website to find out more about Sir Baptist Hicks: http://chippingcampdenhistory.org.uk/page_id__77.aspx

[ii] Details from http://www.campdenwonder.plus.com/People.htm

[iii] Lewis-Jones, June Folklore of the Cotswolds (Tempus, 2003), pp. 99-100

[iv][iv] Find out what happened to her son, Sir Baptist Noel, here: https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Noel,_Baptist_(1611-1682)_(DNB00)