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An Ancient 'Spectrum' from Southcote
Sir John Blagrave warns off his Successors

Southcote Manor House once lay a little off the Bath Road near Reading, on the south.  Its appearance before its demolition had greatly changed since it sheltered Essex, the leader of the Parliamentary forces. The house was built, according to Lysons, by John Blagrave, the distinguished mathematician, and it had the reputation of being haunted. The house after the death of Sir John Blagrave, came into the possession of his nephew, Daniel Blagrave, who at one time was Member of Parliament for Reading and sat as one of the judges at the trial and the signing of the death warrant of Charles I. It is in connection with these two men that the following legend is told. The legend is contained in an ancient volume called “Annus Mirabilis,” which records remarkable events which are said to have occurred between April 1661 and June 1662. It is headed “A Spectrum in the Likeness of Old Mr. Blagrave, seen near Reading.”

“It is credibly reported by many honest and discreet persons, inhabitants of Reading, in the county of Berkshire, that about January last [that would be January 1662] there appeared several times a spectrum in the likeness of old Mr. Blagrave, who, while he lived, dwelt in an house of his own near Reading and, when he died, gave it to Mr. Daniel Blagrave, one of the Long Parliament and also one who sat upon the trial of the late King, by reason whereof this house is forfeited to the King, who hath bestowed it upon one who now lives in it. The spectrum, as it is reported, hath sometimes met with some of this gentleman's servants, either in or about the house, and hath warned them upon a great penalty to leave the house, that the proprietor may enjoy it. That which makes this to be the more taken notice of amongst the people there is that, after old Mr. Blagrave died and Mr. Daniel Blagrave's elder brother had by some unjust practices obtained possession of the said house, the same spectrum then appeared and did warn out the present inhabitants, saying to them, several times, that the house belonged, not to them, but to the said Daniel, upon which the difference between the brothers was suddenly composed and Daniel had quiet possession of the house according to that settlement which old Mr. Blagrave had made, until the late wars in that Reading was a garrison for the King; at which time the King bestowed it upon one that begged it. But he and his servants were often disquieted by the same spectrum and were warned speedily to depart and resign up the possession again to Daniel Blagrave, who had a just and legal right to it. And not long after, the garrison of Reading being reduced by the Parliamentary forces under the command of the Earl of Essex, Daniel Blagrave was repossessed of his house and so enjoyed it till it became now forfeited to his Majesty, because of his attainder by the late Act of Parliament. All these several passages are attested by many honest and credible persons and we presume that upon enquiry the whole narrative will be found to be certainly true.”

Edited from Berkshire Ballads


    © Nash Ford Publishing 2001. All Rights Reserved.