The Le Strange Tale of Hunstanton's Haunted Carpet, Norfolk
The Le Strange family, who came to Britain with William the Conqueror , were Lords of the Manor in Hunstanton for centuries, making their home at Hunstanton Hall.
In the mid-18th century the family line took a slight diversion, when the widowed Armine Le Strange Styleman inherited the house after her brother Henry died childless.
A family with land holdings as large as those enjoyed by the Le Strange clan for more than half a millennium has time to amass wonderful treasures. Hunstanton Hall housed a renowned library; fabulous jewels would be brought out on grand occasions to grace the Le Strange womenfolk; silverware of the finest adorned many rooms in the old building. But to Armine one object surpassed all the rest in her affections: a carpet presented to the family by the Shah of Persia. It may have been long past its best even in her time, but for whatever reason the carpet was Armine's pride and joy.
Her son Nicholas, however, was not her joy. He was an inveterate gambler: charming, good company, beloved of his friends, especially those who regularly fleeced him at cards, dice or whatever sport took his fancy. Armine was powerless to prevent her son frittering the family inheritance away, even down to the deer in the park so legend has it. But in 1768 as her life was rapidly tapering to its end Armine summoned Nicholas, and extracted a promise that come what may he would not dispose of the carpet, or even move it. The promise was his side of a bargain: should he break it, or any in the family after him do so, Armine would return to haunt them. A woman like Armine of strong character does not make empty threats.
Surprisingly the profligate and foolish Nicholas, though he continued his ruinous path, kept to his word, at least in part. Fearing his own intemperance he had the carpet taken up and placed in a wooden crate, the lid nailed down and the crate removed to a distant part of the hall. But he neither sold nor gambled it away.
Almost a century later, the Hall still in Le Strange hands, a new mistress arrived at the Tudor pile. Emmeline, recently married to Hamon Le Strange, was a Bostonian, bringing new blood and energy to the family. She began refurbishing the Hall, discovering and opening up rooms abandoned for decades. In one of them was a mysterious crate, but rather than the family treasure it contained a raggedy old carpet beyond salvation. Emmeline decided to cut it into small rugs for the poor of Hunstanton, which she distributed to them herself. But as the light faded on her return to the Hall she noticed a face at an upper window: a stern face, grey, menacing, bitter, but indisputably with the Le Strange features.
On entering her new home she found no relative had arrived to stay, however, and dismissed the moment - a servant perhaps?
That night Hamon and Emmeline were disturbed by footsteps passing their bedroom door. Hamon went to investigate but nobody was there. As he snuffed out the candle the footsteps restarted.
When Emmeline saw Armine's portrait she recognised the face at the window, but when Hamon told her the family legend she refused to accept such nonsense - for a time. Eventually she bowed to his demands to recover all the rugs, exchanging them it is said for fine new ones, and had the pieces sewn together.
Did the haunting end then? Of course not. Generation after generation reported seeing the grey-faced lady wandering the premises. Perhaps the carpet was lost in the 1853 fire there, and Armine blamed her successors. Even today there are occasional sightings, though the Hall, now divided into flats, no longer accommodates the Le Strange family
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