Tuesday, 31 January 2012

The Haunted Shoe of Matson, Gloucs.

Charles II at the time of the Siege of Gloucester
A ghostly grey lady lurks at Matson House, just outside Gloucester. This wraith does not seek to guard a prized object, but to find it. She was a young lady of fortune and dignity who came here in the summer of 1643 along with the King, court and main body of the royalist army then fighting against Parliament in the English Civil War. Bristol had just been captured by the King. In all Gloucestershire and the southwest, only Gloucester still held out for Parliament.

The town garrison was held by Colonel Edward Massey, a youthful professional soldier with an eminent career of soldiering on the continent behind him. Although he had been appointed by Parliament, nobody was entirely certain what were the political views of young Massey. The King decided to test him. On 10 August, King Charles appeared outside Gloucester with most of his army and asked Massey to admit his king to the city.

Massey refused, so a siege began. It was during this time that Matson House was commandeered as a residence for the two young princes, later to be kings as Charles II and James II. Now 12 years old, Charles was allowed to view the siege though not to get within range of the enemy guns. James was kept safe at Matson. Not surprisingly, James got bored and, among other mischief, carved his name into the windowsill of his room. It is still there for all to see.

On 5 September the main Parliamentarian army appeared on Prestbury Hill, within sight of Gloucester. Unable both to conduct a siege and fight a battle, King Charles marched his army away, hoping to ambush the Parliamentarians later in the campaign. The royal children were hurriedly bundled into a coach and sent off to Oxford. With them went the servants and gentry of the royal household.

It was one of these ladies who left behind a quite beautiful blue shoe of kid leather and satin silk, embroidered with seed pearls on what we would today call a cuban heel. It is this shoe that the ghost seeks, wandering the rooms of Matson House peering here and there, bending down to glance into corners. Sadly she will be forever out of luck. The shoe is now in Gloucester's Folk Museum.


1 comment:

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