For those of us familiar with Kentish local history it is impossible to escape at least a passing knowledge of that grandest of old English estates, Knole House in Sevenoaks. As is common with all notable medieval properties, if you dig deep enough you will find that Knole has its share of Ghost stories as laid down by years of entrenched tradition.

Firstly we have the dramatically named ‘Black Knight’ or as he was otherwise known, Richard Sackville the 3rd Earl of Dorset (1598-1624). Testaments from the past have seen his ghost ‘…roaming the medieval quarters of the house whenever a misfortune is about to befall Knole…’ and presumably when things are well at Knole he can be seen ‘… riding silently on horseback among the leafy shadows…’ The pseudonym ‘Black Knight’ is probably derived from his portrait that hangs in the ballroom where he is fitted head to toe in black medieval finery. An inappropriate name as it turns out as he was in fact a most colourful figure in his day. While at Knole he lived a life of splendour and vanity, fully indulging his passion for cock fighting, greyhound racing, mistresses, and fashionable clothing.

It may have been his obsession for keeping in with the royal court that began his downfall, but it was his addiction to gambling that cost him his fortune. In one spectacular episode he lost 400 pieces of gold in a single bet with King James I. Eventually his addiction took its toll and Richard Sackville had to sell most of his inherited estates, including Knole to pay off his debtors. Unfortunately this wasn't enough and by the time when he died at the age of 35 he was bankrupt and still owing £60,000. In its day a veritable king's ransom.

However, even as a ghost Sir Richard still refused to take his responsibilities seriously. For when Knole House past from Sackville ownership for what is likely to be the very last time there wasn't even a peep from him. Whether you would consider that this was ‘…a misfortune that had befallen Knole…’ will of course depend upon your point of view. Without the financial backing of the National Trust Knole house may have been broken up leaving Sir Richard's ghost once more left out in the cold!

The second of Knole’s resident ghosts is Lady Anne Clifford, daughter of the 3rd Earl of Cumberland (1590-1676) and who is said to walk the dark avenue of chestnut and oak trees to the north of Knole’s grand gate house. Unfortunately for the Black Knight she was also his long suffering wife and is now destined to nag her wayward husband for all eternity. Perhaps this is why he inhabits different parts of the estate, an attempt to gain a little peace and quiet.

While he was alive Richard Sackville’s marriage became troubled, and his interest in his wife became based solely on how much money her own estates could generate in order to fund his lavish lifestyle. With their relationship in tatters she dealt with her husband in a way that many scorned women would recognise today. She invaded his wardrobe, removed his collection of finest velvet cloaks and cloth of gold doublets (close fitting jackets) and had her staff cut them up for furniture fabric.

After Richard's death Lady Anne had to endure his shame of his indebted legacy for a further 52 years, and it’s believed that it was her hatred of the man that has kept her spirit at Knole all these years. Although the Black Knight may also be seen riding among the same leafy shadows of the chestnut avenues, this probably occurs when the ghost of Lady Anne is away haunting her Clifford estates in Yorkshire.

Few would argue that St. Nicholas church (found opposite the main entrance to Knole Park) is one of the most beautiful places of worship in Sevenoaks, but Knole’s own medieval chapel is in fact one of the oldest. Believed to pre-date St, Nicholas by at least a century, the so called ‘garden’ next to it is likely to have been consecrated ground and therefore used for burial. With this in mind the ‘garden’ is probably the last resting place for many of Sir William Fiennes ancestors and who of those wouldn’t be upset by the selling off of the ancestral home for a quick profit.

Due to the work and associated excavation being undertaken by the National Trust on the original Manor house, new information from Knole’s history is beginning to coming to light. Evidence has been revealed here that could also point to our ghostly watchers origins, notably a number of so called ‘cellars’ complete with heavy doors and iron locks. These would have been quite useful when catholic discipline needed to be maintained. How many so called heretics ended their days here after suffering the misery of forced confinement in these damp and squalid conditions?

It’s likely that we may never know the true identity of the watcher in the archbishop's garden, at least not without help from the likes of Yvette Fielding, Derek Acorah and the 'Most Haunted' team. What we do know however is that at least one of Knole’s ghosts is up to the job, keeping the long tradition of classic English ghosts ‘alive’ and in good spirits.

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