About an hour’s drive from Eboracum in the north of Anglia, deep in the pre-historic forest known as the Blackwood, the crumbling ruins of an ancient manor house lie abandoned to the elements. The oldest stones of the house that once dominated Ravenscourt Manor were laid back in medieval days. Between then and now, however, the estate saw numerous additions and reconstructions, slowly transforming into a labrynthine, ever-evolving structure of magnificent proportions — at least until it was abandoned sometime in the late 1800s.
No one really knows what happened to the Crowes, the family that occupied Ravenscourt from its medieval founding until the days before the turn of the century, but rumours abound. The family is thought to have dabbled in illegal magic, and so the decline of the family and the abandonment of their estate may merely have been an unsurprising outcome of Brytannia’s War of Inquisition. But if the local farmers are to be believed, there are still places within the manor grounds where the world turns strange, and the possibility of stepping into the Feyrealm becomes more than mere imagination. Given that no records exist documenting the last of the Crowe family to inhabit the house, perhaps, it is up to us to draw our own conclusions.
In any case, my warning to those who might be interested in following my footsteps: tread carefully. The manor, though abandoned, remains a place of many tricks and surprises.
Finding the Site
The main approach to the house is well hidden amongst the hedgerows of the main road south out of Eboracum. Following the drive, which is fairly overrun by blackberries and over-grown shrubs, the house appears through the trees like a fairytale castle, its high north tower looming above windows dark and shattered by time.
The house itself lies in mournful disrepair, front door hanging off its hinges. The foyer, grand as it once was with its twin staircases curling up into darkness, is now cluttered with dust and debris — the remains of what were once masterworks and artifacts from all over the world. The rest of the house has suffered a similar fate, though there are still several places of interest that may be worth a closer look for those of us inclined to ferret through others’ abandoned lives.
Points of Interest
Straight through the double doors off the main foyer, the Grand Hall remains set-up for some grand soiree, though the champaigne flutes and gold-edged plates now lie tented with cobwebs, the canapés dissolved to dust and mould. The hall is expansive, with a vaulted ceiling and alcoves along the walls for private entertainment. French doors open to the house’s central courtyard, and it’s easy enough to imagine this space hosting parties of several hundred guests in its heyday. More intimate gatherings would’ve been held in the nearby Dining Hall, which plays host to a single enormous table, which could easily have been outfitted for several dozen guests.
The rest of the manor is a maze of sprawling hallways — corridors laid out at strange angles to each other, rooms and galleries placed as if by the mind of some madman. The Upper Halls, where the family itself would’ve resided, is by far the most derlicit part of the house, windows smashed and the rooms turned over to the elements — with one room even completely overtaken by weeds. The Middle Halls, on the other hand, are where the Crowes would have entertained up to a couple hundred guests. These rooms are sparser, and by consequence seem to have weathered the years less dramatically. It’s here that you can find the portraits of all the former residents of Ravenscourt Manor, from the original founder of the house to its last resident, Dr. Edward Crowe.
The Lower Halls are overtaken by a warren of servants quarters, kitchens, scullaries and storage rooms, including a smashed-up laboratory tucked into the base of the North Tower. The only thing that’s still intact here is a full-length mirror with a gilt frame — though why anyone would’ve left such a thing in a laboratory is beyond me. The stairs into the tower, as well, seem to have been bricked off long ago. If any of you, dear readers, manage to ever get a peek at what’s up there, I do hope you let me know.
Finally, the manor’s back gardens are reached through the overgrown Greenhouse. This magnificent structure, built in an art-neuveau style, moreso than any other part of the house has stood the test of time. Its exotic flowers remain preserved against the harsh Anglian winters, a veritable jungle of flowers and fronds. Beyond, the tangled branches of what may once have been a rose-hedge maze stands bristling with thorns.
Finally, a note on the wider Manor Grounds. As mentioned, the estate lies on the outskirts of the Blackwood, and venturing too far into this old-growth forest is definitely risky. There are few paths, and it is all too easy to get lost among the ancient trees. However, if you’re brave enough to attempt the wandering trails, you may find yourself at the edge of Blackwood Lake. I’ve also heard rumours of a cottage that once belonged to the groundskeepers, and of a grove of aspens deep in the old-wood, where the world tilts strange, but if you are brave enough to seek those places out, I should be glad to read your account of it.
As for myself, I ended my trip to Ravenscourt with a pint at the nearest pub, The Magpie Inn, situated in the nearby village of Corvick. I should think it a far more comfortable fate than that of the Manor’s former residents. Though what would I know of that?