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Oxford Castle

Location: Oxford Castle

Address: Oxford Castle

 The treadwheel



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Aprox. year Built: 1071

Oxford Castle dates back to around 1071 when building was started on the castle. It was finished in 1073 by the Norman Baron Robert D’Oyly the elder. This is one castle that is not named in the Domesday Book (a manuscript record of the “Great Survey” of most of England and parts of Wales. It was ordered by King William the Conqueror in 1086).

D’Oyly located the castle in the west side of the town on what seems to have been empty ground as there is no record of dwellings on the land before the castle was built but this can not be clarified. The castle was built in a typical Norman way with a motte and bailey. The stream of the Thames (Castle Mill Stream was used as part of the moat and the stream diverted to form the rest of it. The first castle was built from timber but in 1-74 the first stone part was built which was St George’s Tower. By the mid 12th century the castle had been extended and most built from stone.

The castle has a ragged past with the Anarchy and the Baron Wars it saw many a battle and siege. One of the earliest recorded sieges was in 1141 in the civil war of the Anarchy when Robert D’Oyly the younger who had inherited the castle and declared his support for Empress Matilda the cousin of King Stephen. King Stephen’s supporters lye siege of the Empress in the castle hoping for an easy victory when supplies of food and water ran out. By this time the castle had a 12 foot wide chamber 20 feet under the stone keep on top of the mound. Within the chamber was a well 54 feet deep that would provide fresh water. After three months the Empress Matilda escaped the castle to safety and the following day the castle surrendered.

Over time the castle has been used for many things and from 1350’s onwards the castle had little if no military use. Its was used more as an administration building for the county of Oxfordshire as well as a jail and criminal court. Assizes (periodic courts held around England and Wales until 1971 which where replaced by the Crown Court) where held at the castle until 1577 when the plague broke out in what was known as the black assize. The lord Lieutenant of Oxfordshire, two knights, eighty gentlemen and the entire grand jury for the session all died. This included Sir Robert D’Oyly a relative of the founder of the castle.

In 1642 in the English Civil War the loyalists made Oxford there Capital. The Parliamentary forces successfully besieged Oxford in 1646 and occupied it under the control of Colonel Ingoldsby who improved the fortification of the castle. This was short lived and in the Third civil war the parliamentary forces pulled down the defences as Charlies II grow close. They also retreated to the New College and course great damage to this as well.  

After the civil war Oxford Castle served as the local prison. Prisons after the third civil war were leased to Wardens who made money by charging the inmates board and lodgings. The Prison also had its own Gallows as did many prisons of its time. There were many crimes that were punishable by hanging at the time and it is impossible to know how many or who most of the victims were. One that is well documented and legendary with Oxford Castle is that of Mary Blandy.

Mary was middle to upper class lady. The story says that she fell in love with Captain William Henry Cranstoun. They were due to wed and the Captain lived in residence with her and her father until in emerged that he was still married in Scotland. The Captain returned to Scotland saying the marriage was not legal but lost a legal case to get the marriage annulled. Mary’s father was very vocal about his displeasure in the matter. Mary at her trial said that the captain had sent her a love poison from Scotland that would make her father compliant in the marriage. It turned out this was really Arsenic and when she slipped it into her father’s food he died. She was arrested and tried for his murder. Although is implicated the captain he distanced himself and she was the only one tried for the murder.

She was Hung at the castle on Easter Monday 6th April 1752 for the crime of Parricide. The case had a great deal of attention from the press at the time and as she went to her death she remained a lady. The hanging is said to have taken place outside the prison.

The prison was finally closed in 1996 and turned into a hotel.

Investigation Report

As we arrived at the Castle we had the normal Haunted Happenings briefing about health and safety. We then had a 30 minute tour of the location and some of the history about the parts of the castle we would be investigating. We started in the base of St Georges Tower. The tower has four or five floors some of which we could not enter due to poor flooring.

Vigil One - The stairs up the tower are thin winding stairs, in the tower our medium picked up on what she believed to be an 18th century man who had a big bush of keys and seemed to be some sort of caretaker or security guard. This was at the base of the tower, so next we moved up the tower to the third floor room. The room was about 10 meters square with some stocks set in the middle of it. The door was no more than 4 foot tall and quite thin. The room only had one window pointing out from what would have been the rest of the castle. From here we moved to the cell corridor. This was used as the medical wing in resend times but when the cells were built in the 1800’s it could well have just been cells. The medium picked up on another male spirit in one of the cells that seemed to have died from ill health and really did not want to have company. He did not seem to be angry but just wanted to be left alone. From the cells we moved to the catacomb at the base of the tower. After the brief history we held a 10 minute vigil in here with all the team. In this vigil we had green light being seen, chills and a breeze felt by more than two people and at one point I felt as if I had someone in my face trying to antagonise me. This did feel like a dark and angry place.

Vigil Two – This was with 10 of us in the cell area. We started by using a glass on a table which was marked with “Yes” and “No”. From the start we could hear tapping and clicking noises coming from the corridor. On investigation we identified water pipes that were making the noises, while two of us were investigating the noise the others started to have movement on the glass. I and one other went into one of the smaller cells with a Maglite and K2. We had no activity on either device but did have the feeling that we were not alone in the cell. On the glass table they seemed to have three spirits come through. The first was called “Robert” who defended the castle in the civil war. We could not tie this down to which civil war but he also confessed to killing a women. The second was called “Joseph” who was incarcerated in this cell and seemed to have died of natural courses or disease. The third was called “Nancy” a female spirit who was a nurse. We could not get much more information out of her as the vigil can to the end.

Vigil Four - This vigil was in the top of St Georges Tower. On this vigil we started with a power circle in which we all introduced ourselves to the spirits and had activity on both the K2’s and Maglite’s turning themselves on and off at our request. We tried to get answers by using the torch to answer Yes or No but the spirit just wanted to turn it on and off. We them moved to table tipping. We used two tables and we had both tables moving around the room.  The table activity was very strong and the spirits seemed to like playing with them.

Vigil Five – This was free time vigil when we could investigate by ourselves. My self and Paula made our way back up to the top of St Georges Tower. We set up the video camera, Voice recorder and miglite torches x2. Just as we had finished setting up the equipment we was joined by six others. We started with a watch and wait. We asked the spirits to join us and make themselves known to us. We had some tapping on the floor by it was hard to decide if this was us on the floor boards or the spirits tapping. We them formed and energy circle and again the only thing we seemed to get was tapping (Possibly Paranormal). After 30 minutes we had nothing else happing and was thinking of rapping up. Most of the team that was with us had left leaving only four of us. At this point one of the Maglite turned on. When asked they turned off, we used this to get “Yes” and “No” answers from the spirit. From our questions we seemed to have the spirit of Baron Robert D’Oyly who built the Tower. He did not want to answer all our questions but this was one of the high lights of the night for me.

Vigil Six – Back in our groups this vigil was on the catacomb below the Tower. We started with a watch and wait in a power circle. At this time we had activity on the K2 straight from the start. Unfortunately this was very random and suddenly stopped. One of the guests did get very scared at one point in the area she was stood. After moving she seemed to be ok. We then had all the team apart from myself go into the corridor and everyone place a ball on the palm of their hand. I did the same but still in the catacomb by myself. We then asked the spirits to walk and knock the balls off people’s hands. 50% of the balls were knocked off. They did not knock my ball off but just before we started I placed a Maglite on one of the pillars and this turned on by its self. When asked to turn the light out it would not and I had to do it myself just for the light to be turned on again two minutes later. This happened three times with me having to turn the light out. We also heard tapping that was at a constant pace on the ceiling of the catacomb. We could not find where these had come from as the group in the cells above said they had not been moving.

Vigil Seven – This was the final vigil of the night and we all meet up at the end of the cells corridor in an area known as the debtor’s cells. On this vigil we had minimal activity on the K2 with it going off once. Some members of the team hear footsteps outside the room in the corridor. There was also a constant dripping noise that was thought to be from a pipe in the room but on investigation at the end of the vigil I was not able to find a pipe and the noise had stopped.

This was a great night with loads of activity. The most impressive from most people that witnessed it was the Maglite turning on and off by itself. We had a great team at a great location.

Vigil Three – This was again in the cells. For this vigil we split into two groups, one group in the larger cell with the Ouija Board and the second group in the smaller cell. In the cell we had no activity on the equipment but we could feel a spirit in the cell. We had people feeling pain in there right arm and he also though there was a frail man in the corner of the cell curled up in a ball. Paula also had the sensation of being pushed off the bed.

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