Hellens manor at Much Marcle was first mentioned in 1180. The east walls (and elsewhere) are thought to date from 1226. The Ancestors of Walter de Helyon were the owners. The Manor was occupied by French monks in the 11th century and the manor was granted to the de Balun family in 1096.
John Balun family (from Ballan, Maine in France) was lord of the manor from 1096 and was witnessed to the signing of the Magna Carta. In 1275, Sir Walter married Isolde (Roger Mortimer’s sister) and she later married Hugh Audley after Walter died in 1292. Queen Isabelle and the future king, Edward III stayed at Hellens on the 16th November in 1326 with Roger Mortimer, the new power to the throne.
From about 1316-1369 (son of Hugh & Isolde) Hugh Audley’s nephew Sir James Audley was a founding Knight of the Garter and one of the Black Prince Boon Companions and advised him at Crecy (1346) and Poitiers (1356) he passed the least of lands, to Walter including the Manor of Hellens and he had fought at Crecy.
The lease passed to Joanna, Walters daughter and she married Richard Walwyn, living at Hellens. Richard Walwyn (1554) was knighted by Mary Tudor and forgiven by Elizabeth I when she came to the throne. Their grandson Thomas altered Hellens, he kept the foundations, kitchen, hall and introduced brick work for the living rooms (50 years before Hampton Court Palace was built) from bricks made from clay in the old pond behind the house. The defending tower and Quadrangle were completed in 1451.
The Walwyns held positions such as sheriffs, supports of the crown; MP’s held their court in the old hall, passing judgment from the above minstrels Gallery. The court had the right to hang criminals on the east front.
On the 17th February 1571, a great earthquake deafened the manor and it is thought that the hill moved. Sir Richard died bankrupt and his son married into the Cooke family. The court rolls of 1619 read that Hellens ruinous estate.
Fulke Walwyn married Margaret Pye (daughter of Sir Walter Pye – attorney general to James I). Margaret helped to remodel and restore, extend, open up the east front and put the staircase in (designed by John Abel) and the octagon dovecote was built and dated at 1641.
During the civil war, the Walwyn family priest acted as a caretaker while in hiding, while the family was fighting for the King against the roundheads. It is suggested that Sir Henry Lingen (cousin to Fulkes son John) died of wounds and he was buried under some floorboards.
The roundhead returned, attacking the front door, firing bullets into the locks, rampaging the house and the catholic priest monk was caught and died in Bloody Mary’s chamber. In 1660, John (Fulke’s son) came back to Hellens.
The house was restored in 1660, John’s sons were mentally impaired and one daughter called Hetty went mad.
Hellens later passed into the Noble family (William married Margaret Fulke) and added the Walwyn name to his own, his son died and the house was left to Edward Welwyn (great nephew). Old documents show that he got the manor house partly due to device, purchase and inheritance. He opened the white drawing room, put sash windows in the east front and developed the farm buildings.
In 1789, the south wing was destroyed by a fire but was rebuilt with only two stories by Edward ‘Walwyn’ James. In 1832, Edward died and two distant relatives had a huge legal conflict as to who had the rights to Hellens Manor. The manor was then used as a farmhouse.
The house then passed to the Cooke family (related to the Walwyn’s). Lady Helena Gleichen (Queen Victoria’s great niece) rediscovered it in the early 20th century. Hilda (Cousin to Lady Helena Gleichen) married Axel Munthe (Physician to Queen of Sweden) and the house enjoyed a renaissance, repairs made, pictures, heirlooms and furniture gathered from Europe. Axel’s sons, Viking Peter and Malcolm Grane enlisted with the advent of World War II.
Hellens trembled as 2 German bombs were dropped by fleeing German Planes in the outer courtyard, windows shattered, battered outside hall brickwork and split the alter, but the Tate Gallery Pictures stored did survive.
In 1945, life began again for the house; Malcolm married Ann and had one son and two daughters. In 1982, Malcolm gave up his right to Hellen’s and Southside house on Wimbledon Common. He set up a trust to protect the family’s treasures for the nation.
Today, the Hall is open to the public, but please check before going. Guides tell the old stories, the music room is used for concerts, gardens have been recreated, and the great barn is being restored as a cultural centre. Conservation work on the dovecote, Victorian and haywain Barns have been done.
Ghosts of Hellens include Hetty Fulke (probably christened as Bridget). Hetty eloped with a local lad that was underclass and not good enough for the family or Hetty. John died when Hetty was 20; she came back to Hellens but had to spend the rest of her 30 years locked in her bedroom on the first floor. She was given a bell to summon the servants and she eventually went mad. Hetty scratched a following verse with a diamond ring in the windowpane ‘it is a part of virtue to abstain from what we love if it should prove our bane’.
In 1702, another name from the outside was scratched in copper plate script. It is thought that Hetty committed suicide.
The Catholic Monk that was caught by the roundheads is thought to chase tourists around the house; he died around 80 years old. He is described as a man in a dark hooded suit but also the ghost of a monk stumble into Bloody Mary’s room almost as if by accident and the bloodstains still appear.
An elderly man in Bloody Mary’s room is known for interrupting your sleep, monks have been seen, a ghost of a man thought to be Philip Musgrave in the music room and a woman in a different bedroom. Bangs have been heard and things have been known to move. Cooking pans being knocked onto the floor, things being moved around the kitchen, China cups flying of the shelves and pictures flying off the walls.
More recently, a nun has been spotted walking down the stairs. Adam Munthe two-year-old grandson has spoken of a little girl he has seen in the manor. From what he said, it is believed that the girl was from the Victorian era.
During the 1940, Malcolm Munthe held a table tipping session trying to contact the spirit of a Monk to find out where the entrance to the tunnel is which runs under the manor. The lost tunnel is thought to house the Monks treasure. The tunnel was never found. The spirit of the Monk only told Malcolm that it was he who haunted Manor and would not respond to the questions about the tunnel.
It is thought that paranormal activity got so bad during Victorian times that servants refused to stay in the house overnight. One of the major hauntings during this time was a hooded figure (maybe the Priest) who would wake people in the middle of the night by constantly pacing back and forth in their rooms. A gentleman who stayed at the house in the 1920’s left in annoyance after he kept being woken by a ‘dotty old member of the family’, there was no-one else staying there at the time.
I was lucky enough to investigate Hellens in 2006 with CPI and GPI, before they closed doors to the paranormal community. Here is a brief overview of what we got on the night. Footsteps were heard in Hetty’s room and thud noises heard. Horse Hooves were heard in the courtyard. The feeling of being poked in Bloody Mary’s Room. Mumbles were captured on the camcorder but were not heard at the time. In the Lobby, footsteps heard, from the stairs into the room, a loud bang was heard and 2 quieter bangs heard, the table was thought to have moved (not through table tipping), the bang noises were heard elsewhere in the house. In the Blue room, a dragging sound is recorded, sounds of a female speaking, noises and thuds heard. Sitting Room, noises heard from above, when we asked the group above us, they heard the loud noises but thought it was us. Temperature drops and noises heard. In the Sitting room, a figure seen outside, dragging heard from in here (at same time as in the Blue Room). In the stone hall, we heard footsteps, unexplainable noises, sounds of walking, more than just the odd footstep, a figure seen. It was an interesting night, I would love to go back there, and I hope they open up their doors again for the paranormal community.
Copyrighted Tracy Monger 2013.