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Starved in Sizergh Castle
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Starved in Sizergh Castle

Kendal, Cumbria
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Sizergh Castle near Kendal today offers an appearance more beautiful than bellicose. The castle, now cared for by the National Trust, originated as a pele tower, where the local Lord of the Manor and those under his protection could take refuge when the border raiders, the legendary reivers, swept down from Scotland to steal anything that could be carried or driven, killing all who stood in their way. In the more than 600 years since it has added a Great Hall, Elizabethan wings, Georgian facades, and much else besides. But the great walls of the pele tower remains the heart of the place, and perhaps its soul too.
In that tower there is said to reside the ghost of a lady, her demise linked to the border raids against which the tower protected the folk of the district. But the raids were never just one way. The gentry of Cumberland and Westmoreland were happy to return the compliment when they could. It was before one such raid that the castle’s owner, surely one of the Strickland family which owned it from medieval days to the last century, to keep his wife safe, or to protect her virtue, or perhaps to punish her for some reason, locked her away in a room with an impregnable door. Perhaps he died; perhaps the raids were prolonged that year, perhaps the servants abandoned the place. Whatever the cause, he failed to return for a very long time: his poor wife starved, and as she starved she went slowly mad. Her screams are said to echo through the place sometimes still, half a millennium and more since her horribly slow death.

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