The Famous Brown Lady–the Ghost of Lady Dorothy Walpole

The Brown Lady

The Brown Lady

Arguably the most famous photograph of a ghost, the Brown Lady was photographed by Captain Hubert C. Provand in 1936.  Provand was assigned a pictorial spread of Raynham Hall for Country Life Magazine. Instead of the usual displays of designer decorated rooms and elaborate gardens, Provand captured the ghostly presence of a woman in a brown dress, decidedly  outside of the Country Life Magazine’s expected genre.

The picture came as no surprise to those acquainted with the hauntings at Raynham Hall. The Brown Lady is the ghost of Lady Dorothy Walpole (1686-1726). Her husband Charles Townshend discovered that Lady Dorothy had been unfaithful, and had her locked in the rooms of the Hall. She was never allowed to leave until her death of smallpox.

Lady Dorothy was first seen during an 1835 Christmas gathering in the Hall. Her old-fashioned brown dress was noted, and subsequently, the Brown Lady sobriquet was born. [1] In 1836, Captain Frederick Marryat decided to stay overnight at Raynham hall to prove his theory that smugglers were the “real” ghost haunting the halls. His daughter, Florence Marryat, revealed in 1917 that the good Captain did meet up with Lady Dorothy–and never repeated his stay at the Hall. [2]

As the years went by, members of the Townshend family spotted Lady Dorothy from time to time. No one has admitted to seeing her presence since the famous photograph was taken in 1936. Is Lady Dorothy still trapped in Raynham Hall? And should this picture be the benchmark for comparing other alleged ghostly snaps?


[1] The Brown Lady of Raynham Hall.

[2] Marryat, Florence. There Is No Death First published in 1917 by David McKay. New York: Cosimo, 2004. 10-11.


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