Rev Robert Brightley

Beauchamp_kills_SharpBy the middle of the nineteenth century the Mazehouse had become the rectory for the nearby church of St Dymphna and home to the Brightleys, the family of the Rev Dr Brightley, the parish vicar. As with many of the lives associated with the house, the story of the Brightleys is a sad one, for all the salacious delight it afforded the newspapers of the time.

Brightley had come to the area with his new wife looking for a fresh start, but it was not to be the start he wanted. It seems likely, in retrospect, that Mrs Brightley probably had a history of mental illness and she was certainly described by her contemporaries as a nervous and easily upset woman.

From the very beginning, it seems, she took against the Mazehouse, falling ill and complaining of persistent bad dreams and odd and ill-explained phenomena. But the Reverend Brightley was able to secure the services of a Dr Steven Knight, a local doctor renown for his ability with female patients.

Sadly, Dr Knight proved all two able in his dealings with Mrs Brightley and the to fell in love, apparently arranging to abscond together. A servant, however, revealed the plot to Rev Brightley who, in the ensuing row, attacked Dr Knight fatally with a fire-iron. A witness to the attack, Mrs Brightley appeared to lose her mind completely and never completely regained her full wits.

The subsequent trial of Reverend Brightley became a brief national obsession, not least due to the Reverend’s insistence that the Mazehouse was haunted and that all three of them, he, his wife and the Doctor, had been possessed by devils that had forced them to act in the way they had. It was eventually ruled that the Reverend, like his wife, had lost his wits due to the tragedy that had befallen him and he was incarcerated in a mental institution for the rest of his life.

The house then passed into the hands of a distant relative, but due to its ill fame, was not fully occupied again until some fifty years later, when most people had forgotten the horrors of the ‘Devil’s Doctor’ and the murder of the Mazehouse.

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