Borley Rectory

Greater Essex

Property Description

Built in 1862 by the Reverend Henry Bull for his family, this Gothic Victorian red-brick rectory was placed on the site of an old monastery. Stories claim that a monk living at the monastery fell in love with a local nun. Planning to leave religious confinement behind them, and elope together, they were caught and the monk was sentenced to death, whilst the nun was imprisoned. Many of the paranormal incidents at the rectory have been labelled as fake, although much of the phenomena is yet to be disproved, especially with such a wide range of witnesses, who continue to report phenomena almost two-hundred years after the initial incidents.

With the Rectory long burnt down, the associated church, dating from the 12th Century, is said to have passed on the hauntings. Mysterious lights have been sighted on the grounds, as well as strange sounds in and outside the church. We was able to speak to the man responsible for maintaining the church out cutting the lawn (very well kept). He told us his wife saw the lights in the church swinging in the window, and also that once he threaded a 2-4 metre power cable through the church window, only to find it coiled back up again on the floor only seconds after going round the front!

Simon Basham, with his friend Ian Sales, camped in the churchyard on Halloween, exactly 27 years ago today. Its one of his most classic vivid life stories, and had clearly a large impact on him. Watch him explain a detailed story above. In brief, he heard scratching on his tent, and upon fleeing saw two white emotionless figures within metres of him which did not react to his frantic, half-naked escape, as they crashed into bushes running blind. The tent was found to have red stains on it the following day, to the point where it had to be disposed of even though new.

Pictured is Borley Church, and Borley Cottage which is of similar architectural qualities to the rectory, standing directly next to it

History of the Rectory

The First Era:  Revd. Henry Bull

With construction complete in 1883, the Bull family moved into the fine house, erected on ground on which the floating ‘Borley Nun’ had been sighted. In a time before plumbing or electricity was widespread, or installed in the rectory, all that made the occasional clank in the house was the water pump.  One day, two of the Bull daughters and their nursemaid, noticed a woman in white following behind a pair of girls in an opposite field. When the girls were questioned later, they said they were unaware of anyone else being with them whilst in the fields.

Soon, the servant’s bells began ringing constantly to the extent where the wires were cut just to silence them.  Yet still, they persisted. Ethel Bull was in the house on afternoon when all the bells rung simultaneously, followed by the strange sound of a gush of water. One evening when the Bull family were dining, they noticed a nun staring sadly in at them through the window, following a sudden drop in temperature. This happened on many occasions, and always disappeared in seconds before anyone who ran outside, could greet her. In the end, Revd Henry Bull had the window bricked up, visible in this photograph below, along with a similar view today. The nun was frequently seen floating down what was named ‘the Nun’s Walk’ leading to an octagonal summer house.

Seen here is the a view from the road towards the rectory when it stood and then in 2013. The site stands as a lawn – not built on since, with the new house on the grounds seemingly avoiding its spot! An old gate on the site further down the road must be from the original rectory as its hexagonal tops correspond to the gate in the black and white photograph.

One of the Bull Daughters was frequently awoken at night by being slapped in the face mysteriously, and would hear rapping sounds on her door, as clatters rung throughout the whole house. Every night at 10:30pm, heavy footsteps were heard outside the Bull girls’ door continuing to stop at the night nursery, as well as three taps. Strange lights were also witnessed outside and underneath closed doors – oil lamps alone were used to light the rectory, so this cannot be explained. Many guests at the rectory would hurriedly leave and refuse to stay any longer. Items were also found to be moved around unexpectedly. A phantom horse-drawn cart was also seen and heard. A dark-skinned man was seen in the upstairs corridor, and a ‘strangle-looking’ man sighted at Ethel Bull’s bedside.

The ‘Borley Nun’ was sighted several times again by the Bull daughters, at times vanishing in front of their eyes. Revd Henry Bull unfortunately fell ill aged 59 and died in the ‘Blue Room’ (main bedroom), like his son Harry who took over but too died of illness in 1927.

The Reverend and his wife Mabel accepted the post at Borley, despite many other vicars refusing the role. Mabel was cleaning the house alone and found a box on the library’s shelf, containing a skull identified as female! The Revd Smith, on one instance, heard a mumbling voice which increased as he approached the Blue Room. Upon nearing, he heard a woman cry out ‘No Carlos, don’t!’. The phantom footsteps also continued. Mabel saw a ‘grey wispy figure’ leaning against the gates, vanishing on approach. Household objects were smashed by a poltergeist, and the bell-ringing once again resumed.

The aforementioned phenomena is not yet disproven, and is considered to be legitimate nor subject to great publicity, unlike following events – note the change from the nun’s ghost, to that of Henry Bull, and their more violent explicit content.

Revd Guy Smith placed an advert in the Daily Mirror for help, and the famous investigator Harry Price came in to investigate along with secretary and a reporter, on the 12th of June, 1929. that night a seance was conducted in which a ‘planchette’ (roller-board with a pencil inbuilt, used for ‘spirit writing’) was used.  The Revd Henry Bull was allegedly contacted, claiming to have died not of illness, but murder! he appeared apparently in physical form and the Reverend ordered the seance to end. Nine months later, the Smiths quit the rectory and their post. It lay empty, and villages noted furniture being thrown about. In March 1930, The Smiths heard ‘the most horrible sounds coming from the house’ when checking up on the empty building.

The Third Era: Revd Foysterauto-writing-from-borley

On October the 16th 1930, he moved in with his very young wife Marianne, and adopted daughter, Adelaide. On the first day of arrival, Marianne heard her name being called, saw the ghost of Henry Bull. the footsteps were heard by other inhabitants too, as well as objects being moved. Later, the Revd Foyster found two chairs littered with upright pins! Objects were also flung at the new arrivals.

Harry Price and his Council for Psychic Research were invited to the house, and brought two wine bottles as presents. the wine in the glasses took form of ink and perfume, whilst remaining intact in the bottles. However, eventually Price fell out with the reverend and his investigations ceased, as he said the most likely culprit for faking the events was to be Marianne. Terrible writing was found on the walls saying ‘Marianne please help get’ and ‘Get light mass prayers’ – some was so poorly formed it was indecipherable.  It became a written conversation between what could’ve been the Borley Nun, and Marianne. In October 1935, Revd Foyster developed crippling arthritis.

The Forth Era: Harry Price takes over

Price took the opportunity to buy up the property and summon a range of skeptics via the newspaper to investigate, giving them a set of pointers and rules to place in the thorough investigation. Many findings were apparent, and a seance gave contact to a woman named Marie Lairre, a woman murdered in the 1600s – the Borley Nun?

Harry Price and his team left the residence in 1939, and a Captain William Hart Gregson bought it and suspiciously insured it for £10,000. The property burned down in 1939, claimed to have been when an oil lamp ‘mysteriously’ overturned. It is likely that Gregson caused the fire to claim the insurance. Remains were demolished in 1944. Now, nothing but a green remains in it’s place.

Pictured is the burnt-out rectory and the mysterious ‘floating brick’ spotted amongst the ruins.

Finally, take this excellent virtual tour of the rectory, explore this long-gone wonder for yourself! Thanks to KevWorldProductions who owns the 3D model, carefully crafted using computer technology, and filmed in an excellent tour.



Overall Rating
Thank you! Please describe your rating

Contact Agent

One comment

  • Liam Heatherson
    July 11, 2016 at 9:12 pm

    Great part of the countryside to visit with subtle traces of a very spooky past!


By continuing to use the site, you agree to our use of cookies. Click for more information.

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.