New Stories and Pictures
A FACE IN THE WELL
For more than nine centuries the castle at Carisbrooke has stood firm against attack, a symbol of strength, a refuge for the townspeople of Newport when invaders threatened. Only once, in 1136, did the castle surrender...when the Keep well unfortunately ran dry. Another was sunk without delay - this time in the courtyard, where the 161ft deep shaft through solid rock took three years to construct. Just over 5ft wide, it usually contains 40ft of water. Originally, prisoners were used to work a huge wooden treadwheel drawing buckets up from the depths. By 1690 donkeys had taken over the work - now three centuries on, Jenny, Jacob, Joseph and Jubilee are among the castle's biggest attractions.
So when Debi and Graham Wendes, from Chelmsford, Essex, visited the Island in August 1992, they naturally went to Carisbrooke Castle. For Debi however, that bank holiday Monday turned into an experience she can't forget. "We went into the well-house, but as I perched on the stonework of the well I started to feel really awful. I had an overwhelming impression I should not be in there, then glancing into the well I saw a girl's face looking up at me. In her late teens or early twenties, she was very slender-faced with dark curly hair pulled over to one side. Her face was very pale. She wore no jewellery and her clothing was dark, but not black. She was several feet down, below the iron grill, slightly to one side of the mouth of the well. Her dress billowed around her as though waterlogged and she seemed to be tangled up in it. I was suddenly overwhelmed with such a terrible feeling of grief that I had to get out of there."
Debi rushed outside, leaving her husband and son in the well house. But sitting in the courtyard in the sunshine, she continued to receive troubling images and emotions from the girl in the well. "I still felt clammy, claustrophobic and had trouble breathing. Whoever the girl was, I had a strong impression that her death was an accident; that she had gone into the well house in a very distressed state, slipped and fallen down the well. She was trying to tell me that she had not deliberately taken her own life."
Debi asked the museum curators if anybody had ever fallen down that well. No records could be found of such an accident, they said. A body did go down the well in the J Meade Falkner adventure novel 'Moonfleet' set in Carisbrooke Castle - but that was pure fiction. I have discovered however that in 1632 Elizabeth Ruffin, the young daughter of the Mayor of Newport, "threw herself down a well at the castle." Oglander, the Island's 17th century diarist who recorded this in his papers, assumed this was the well in the Keep. It would appear that he assumed wrongly...