In the country of Northumberland, near the Scots border, stands Featherstone Castle. The seat of a family called Featherstonehaugh from its early days, there was a manor house on the site in the eleventh century AD. Rebuilt as a baronial hall in the thirteenth century, and with a square tower added in 1330, it reached its current size and layout during the seventeeth century.
It’s a rare castle that doesn’t have a ghost. Featherstone’s story, by tradition, goes back to a a medieval Baron Featherstonehaugh who chose the wrong husband for his daughter.
This Baron Featherstonehaugh was a warrior, a hard man, proud as Lucifer, ruling family and lands like an autocrat. He was determined that his daughter would marry a man equally as powerful, wealthy and wellborn as himself, and he knew just the man: a nearby baron who had fought alongside him in many battles.
Unfortunately, the prospective bridegroom was not only powerful, wealthy and wellborn. He was also ill-mannered, bad-tempered, alcoholic, old enough to be her father, and ugly as sin, hardly suitable for a young, lovely and romantic girl.
And the daughter was in love with a young knight, gentle, mannerly, temperate, close in age to her, handsome, and wealthy. They were secretly engaged.
Predictably, she protested her father’s plans for her future happiness. Equally predictably, her father bullied her to the altar. Late in the year, he saw her married to his repulsive choice for her, and feeling his duty done, waved the smug groom, pale bride, and their attendants off on a horseback ride through the surrounding countryside, after which they would return to the castle for a wedding feast.
The party did not return at the appointed time.
A worried Baron Featherstonehaugh sent out search parties, but they returned with no news.
Long after darkness had fallen, the couple and their attendants rode into the courtyard, dismounted, and in a dreadful silence entered the great hall, seating themselves at the table where the wedding feast was spread. The baron’s words of welcome and reproach stuttered to a stop as the whole party vanished before his very eyes.
The searchers were dispatched again. They returned just before dawn with grim faces, bearing bodies.
The bridal party, led by the exultant groom and unhappy bride, had turned off the main road onto a path that led into Pinkyn Clough, a gorge some distance from the castle. In that confined space, they were ambushed by a band of men led by the bride’s angry young lover. His intent had been to kill her new husband outright and take her away, beyond her father’s reach, so they could be married.
In the melee, however, his beloved had died on the point of his own sword, stabbed through the heart by a deflected blow. Although her widower and the men of the wedding party put up a desperate resistance, they were soon cut down. Not even the horses survived.
It is said that at infrequent intervals, when fall begins to edge into winter, the bridal party returns to Featherstone Castle. They were last seen many years ago, but the story lingers.
I first read of the ghostly bridal party of Featherstone Castle in Terence Whitaker’s HAUNTED ENGLAND: ROYAL SPIRITS, CASTLE GHOSTS, PHANTOM COACHES AND WAILING GHOULS (1987). It is also mentioned in passing in Eric Maple’s SUPERNATURAL ENGLAND(1977).