In 1538, Henry VIII, having forced John Rede to exchange Oatlands for the Manor of Tandridge in Sussex, started work on a palace for his new Queen, Anne of Cleves. Indeed, until its demolition by Robert Turbridge in 1649, many Kings and Queens of England resided there; amongst them were Elizabeth I and James I.
Three years later, the Parliamentary Survey mentions a house on the Oatlands estate, but in 1794, the mansion house was burnt down and rebuilt in Gothic style. In the ensuing years, many parts of the mansion were pulled down and rebuilt, and in 1856, after another remodelling, the Oatlands Park Hotel was born. Some extension work was performed in the 1920s and 1930s, and today, the Hotel is rated with the very prestigious 4 Stars.
I first heard of the alleged hauntings at the Hotel at the start of August, when a reporter contacted me, asking me if I knew of anything about the place. When I stated that I didn't, she told me some of the background, and I said it sounded like a fairly typical "haunting" (cold spots, grey lady etc.). The following is a transcript of the news article, from the Esher News and Mail from August 11th:
Oatlands Park Hotel is appealing for any local clairvoyants or spirit mediums for help in unravelling the history behind regular "friendly" ghost sightings.
The first spirit sighting is the figure of a "grey lady" in a crinoline dress, typical of the 17th century, which has been reported by many people. The lady sweeps slowly and regally across the floor of the restaurant, disappearing through the wall on the west side of the hotel.
Room 1313 on the third floor of the Tudor Wing, just below the bell tower, is the site of the other recurring paranormal activity. For many years guests staying in the room have reported feeling a "presence" and complained of extreme temperature changes. They have said that the edges of the room are colder than the middle of the room by about 5 degrees.
One explanation put forward by staff is that this is due to the particularly gruesome death in the 19th century of a maid in service. According to this theory, the woman had a lovers tiff with her fiancee who was also working at the house.
The distraught girl fled to the bell tower, barricaded herself in, just above room 1313, and finally threw herself off.
A spokesman for the hotel said they were appealing for help to understand the spirits, not drive them out of the building.
I spoke to James Addison, the Sales and Marketing Manager, and he said that the Grey Lady is seen in the evening, near where there used to bay windows that led to the garden. In the intervening years, the restaurant has been partitioned off, and she now walks through the wall into the accounts department.
With regard to room 1313, he told me of the "cold spot", and he said there is the typical "hairs standing up on the back of the neck"-type feeling.
The deputy manager, a few years ago, experienced the feeling of being unable to move or get up in bed when staying in 1313 (this is more commonly known as the "Old Hag" experience, which would sit on people's chest while they were sleeping, paralysing and suffocating them: these days, it is regarding as a form of lingering sleep paralysis when waking).
He couldn't give any indication as to how long this has been going on, but only knew that it has been happening for a "number of years".
I visited the Hotel a few weeks later, and, whilst I could not get access to room 1313 (it was occupied), I did have a look around the Broadwater Restaurant area. I was met by duty manager Craig Matthews, but he could tell me little beyond what James and the newspaper article had informed me.
He did say, however, that the Grey Lady had been seen by staff members, since the ghost was seen very late on in the evening, when guests were not around. He knew of no-one who had seen the ghost on the far side of the wall, in the accounts department. Sighting of the Grey Lady were not frequent.
The ghost in 1313 is more frequent, but hasn't been encountered in months. It was mainly a "cold spot" phantom (that encompasses the whole room), but there have been cases of drawers being opened, the TV being moved, and the radio and TV being turned on spontaneously. On some occasions, complaints in the night about the noise in room 1313 from its neighbours have brought the response that the room was currently unoccupied. And a few times, guests in 1313 have changed rooms in the middle of the night. There was also the disconcerting feeling sometimes of someone sitting on the edge of the bed.