Ightham's Saxon name was Ehteham. At the foot of a hill, with a moat fed by the Shode, stands the
small fortified manor house of Ightham Mote which has a fascinating, though blood-thirsty history. The
Great Hall was built in 1340 by Sir William Cawne. It was positioned on the moot, an ancient gathering
place. The manor house had a crypt which was below the water level of the moat - and this allowed the
swift disposal of prisoners occupying the prison by the opening of a sluice gate.
The tower at Ightham Mote was added at the time of the Wars of the Roses. During this time a trap was
included in the floor of a room in the tower so that suspicious visitors could be dropped into a small
dark hole where they would be left to starve. A ghost of an unlucky visitor is said to haunt the room
above the main gate.
Ightham Mote was purchased in 1591 by the Selby family. Sir William Selby, as the Gentleman Porter or
the border town of Berwick, was the first to welcome James Stuart to England. Dorothy, his wife, is said
to have saved James I's life two years later by disclosing details of the Gunpowder Plot. It is believed
that the skeleton of a woman discovered bricked up in the wall of the Great Hall is that of Dame
Dorothy, her death seen as an act of Catholic vengeance.
The house was owned by the Selby family for almost three hundred years. The most celebrated member of
the family was Dame Dorothy, a lady in waiting to Elizabeth I and renowned for her specially fine
needlework. There are various stories about how she foiled the Gunpowder Plot in 1605, one of which
tells how she sent an anonymous letter to her cousin, Lord Mounteagle, warning him to stay away from the
opening of Parliament that year.
She didn't say why he should do that, but he recognised his cousin Dorothy's handwriting and begun
the enquiries that led to the discovery of the plot. The Ghost in question is that of Dame Dorothy
Selby. She is thought to have been bricked up at Ightham Mote for her deeds, and encouragingly a
skeleton of a lady was found in a concealed cupboard in 1872.
Verdict: False. Firstly Dorothy Selby died on the 15th March 1641, 36 years after the
Gunpowder Plot, death being caused by being pricked by an infected needle. While the identity of the author
of the famous Monteagle Letter remains hidden from history, there is no connection between the Selby family
and any of the conspirators. To have such knowledge of the plot to be able to indicate (even vaguely) the
manner of the event required detailed knowlefge of the conspiracy, something possessed by only a few, and
Dorothy Selby was not one of them.