Cumnor Place Oxford

Home > Articles > Oxfordian History

Oxford Ghost Stories: The Ghost of Amy Robsart at Cumnor Place

Cumnor Place Oxford

Nestled near the outskirts of Oxford, the village of Cumnor carries with it a haunting tale of tragedy and a spectral presence—none other than the ghost of Amy Robsart. The ethereal echoes of her story linger in the corridors of Cumnor Place, where a mysterious demise has given rise to a haunting legend.

The tale dates back to 1560 when Amy Robsart, the wife of Robert Dudley—a favorite of Queen Elizabeth I—was found lifeless at the foot of a staircase in Cumnor Place. The circumstances of her death remain shrouded in mystery, fueling speculation about foul play or a tragic accident. Her passing occurred while her husband was away, leading to a flurry of conjectures and rumors.

Whether one believes in the supernatural or not, the ghost of Amy Robsart at Cumnor Place stands as a poignant reminder of a bygone era, where the twists of fate and the mysteries of the past intertwine in the corridors of history.

Who Was Amy Robsart?

Amy Robsart was the wife of Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester, and the tragic figure at the center of one of England’s most enduring mysteries. Born around 1532, she married Dudley in 1550, cementing a union that would later become entangled in the political machinations of the Tudor court.

Amy was the daughter of Sir John Robsart, a Norfolk gentleman, and grew up in modest circumstances. Her marriage to Robert Dudley, a close friend and favorite of Queen Elizabeth I, elevated her social status significantly. However, their marriage was not without its challenges.

In 1560, while her husband was rising in prominence and influence at court, Amy was found dead at the bottom of a staircase in Cumnor Place, their country home near Oxford. Her death was ruled accidental, attributed to a fall down the stairs. However, suspicions of foul play quickly arose, fueled by rumors of Dudley’s ambition to marry Queen Elizabeth and rumors that he sought to remove his wife to clear the path to the throne.

Possible portrait miniature of Amy Robsart on the occasion of her wedding, 1550, by Levina Teerlinc.

Anecdotes of Sightings at Cumnor Place

Over the centuries, visitors and locals alike have shared anecdotes of encounters with the ghostly figure of Amy Robsart. Some claim to have glimpsed a woman in Tudor attire, her ethereal presence felt near the old staircase where her life met its untimely end. Witnesses tend to describe an aura of sadness and an otherworldly quality, as if the spirit of Amy Robsart continues to roam the halls in perpetual mourning.

We can classify the ghost stories at Cumnor Place into two categories:

  1. The Haunting of Cumnor Place: Locals and visitors have reported seeing a spectral figure resembling a woman in Tudor-era clothing wandering the grounds or standing by the windows of the old manor house. Some witnesses claim to have heard disembodied footsteps or faint cries echoing through the halls, attributed to Amy’s restless spirit seeking justice for her untimely demise.

  2. The Phantom Bridal Procession: One eerie anecdote recounts sightings of a ghostly bridal procession near Cumnor Place. According to legend, on certain moonlit nights, witnesses have observed a spectral carriage drawn by black horses, accompanied by a woman in a white wedding gown believed to be Amy Robsart. The procession is said to pass silently through the countryside, disappearing into the mist as mysteriously as it appeared, leaving onlookers in awe and trepidation.

Engraving of Cumnor Place in 1805. Image courtesy of Oxford University (from Lyson: Magna Brittanica).
Engraving of Cumnor Place in 1805. Image courtesy of Oxford University (from Lyson: Magna Brittanica).

These anecdotes, among others, contribute to the enduring fascination with the tragic tale of Amy Robsart and the lingering specter of her ghost at Cumnor Place. Whether rooted in historical fact or embellished by centuries of folklore, the legend of Amy Robsart’s ghost continues to captivate those who visit the historic site and fuels the imagination of ghost hunters and storytellers alike.

Visiting Cumnor Place Today

Cumnor Place, sadly, no longer stands in its original grandeur. The house was largely dismantled in the centuries following Amy Robsart’s death, and only fragments of the structure remain.

The ghostly remnants of its tragic history, however, linger in the collective memory and the legends passed down through generations. While the physical building may be gone, the spectral presence of Amy Robsart continues to capture the imagination of those drawn to the eerie beauty of Cumnor’s historical landscape.

If you want to learn more about this location, I wholeheartedly recommend AMY ROBSART AND CUMNOR PLACE by Peggy Inman.

Explore stories, anecdotes, and book reviews about the history of Oxford, its University, the medieval city, the castle, and all the best landmarks. Browse All >

Our collection of articles with ideas for things to do and see, the history of this incredible city, the University, its museums, literature and movie inspirations, filming locations, and much more.