The Blue Lady

As told on #leedsstorytime on Twitter (@chrisnickson2)

Most folk around Leeds know Temple Newsam, the Tudor house on land that once belonged to the Knights Templar. Its history goes back to the time of the Saxons, and blood has seeped into the brickwork there. In 1622, for the princely sum of £12,000 it became the home of Sir Arthur Ingram, and the tale relates to his family. The Ingrams were rich. They had the freedom to travel from place to place. But Temple Newsam was home. The Ingrams were rich. They had the freedom to travel from place to place. But Temple Newsam was home. Mary Ingram was Sir Arthur’s granddaughter, and proud of the pearl necklace he’d given her. She wore it on a visit to York. Just 14, it was the most valuable thing she owned. Folk claimed it was the loveliest necklace in the North of England. On the journey home from York, the carriage was held up by a highwayman. He took the family’s money and jewels. Among them was Mary’s beloved necklace. It’s said that he tore it from her even as she begged him to leave it. Mary was inconsolable. Even at home, behind thick walls, with servants around, she never felt safe again. Fearful and frantic, she took to hiding anything she owned that was of value in case the man returned. She grew wan and quiet and ate less and less. Her mother worried about her and summoned the physician. But nothing helped. Day by day, week by week, Mary slowly disappeared into a world of her own, where secrets were all. She was wasting away. She’d hide things, then move them, lest someone else find them. No hiding place was ever secret enough. There are those who say she descended into madness. Some understood her fear. The one thing true is that none could help her. Mary Ingram was still only 14 when she died. The lovely, happy girl was little more than a shadow when her spirit left. Her family buried her and mourned. But as time passed, a strange thing happened at Temple Newsam. Folk said they’d seen Mary. It would be in the night, when servants worked late and candles guttered and threw shadows. But it was here, they insisted. Thin, pale, and dressed in a gown of deep, holy blue, she’d wander the halls and rooms of Temple Newsam. In vain she’d search for her treasures, hidden so well that they’d gone from her memory, never to be found. And over the years she’s been seen often, the Blue Lady as she’s become, still seeking and never finding, lost to the ages. Her portrait remains, over the fireplace in the Green Damask Room. And on some nights she walks, still searching forever…

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