National Recording Project


Detail from: Memorial to 158 Squadron by Peter W. Naylor, 2009

Sculpture of the Ghost of the White Lady or the White Lady of Bewsey Hall


Type Sculpture , Statue

     The sculpture is life size. It shows a unnaturally thin woman striding forward with her head and upper body turned to face the viewer. The rough surface of the sculpture gives the whole work an eerie and decaying effect.
     The piece was originally in the foyer of Bewsey Hall before being moved to the maze garden outside. Her form is a fabrication, developed by Gorvin over two months. She hired a dress and a hat from a costumer as a guide, but did not use the hat as it seemed frivolous. She was thinned down to seem more eerie and was given a rough surface to give the piece a slightly decayed effect.
     The statue depicts Lady Isabella Butler, whose ghost is said to hover the corridors of Bewsey Hall, searching for the spirit of her murdered first husband. This is the Legend of Bewsey Hall. One of the rights of the lord of the Manor in Warrington was the ferry across the Mersey, the only communication route at the time between Lancashire and Chester. This monopoly was quite profitable and continued until the reign of Henry VII, eventually being the cause of his murder. Henry VII, about to pay his historic visit to his stepfather, the first Earl of Derby at Latham House. It was found that the royal party would have to take the Butler Ferry, a passage which would delay the travel by many hours and dangerous with the large number of horses and mules which were part of thee royal entourage. The Earl of Derby, trying to remove any such obstacles on the journey, bought land on either side of the river and built a bridge, rendering the Butler Ferry useless, depriving him of the income. A fierce quarrel broke out between the two. Hoping to bring the rivalry to an end, the Earl invited Sir John to join him as he met the monarch. Butler sent a contemptuous refusal. Such an insult had to be avenged. In the dead of night, Lord Standley, Sir Piers Leigh and Mr. William Savage bribed the porter at Bewsey Hall to set a light in one of the windows to guide them in. The porter led the three to Sir John's sleeping chamber, where, after slaying the chamberlain, Houlcroft hacked Sir John to pieces. They spared Lady Isabella but went for the cradle, the death of his son, ending the Butler line was deemed the best punishment to end the affront. The child had gone however, saved by the Porter who had taken him to the Priory by Warrington Bridge, when the murderers had been attacking Sir John. Lady Butler tried to bring action against her husbands murderers, but by the time the action came under scrutiny she had re-married and her new husband, who did not consider the action to be of any great importance, made it void under the laws of the time. She divorced him and fled to Lancashire where she began to build an alabaster monument in Warrington Church, where she was eventually buried alongside her husband and the porter who saved their son. A writer in the Warrington Official Guide offers the following: Bewsey Hall is easily the most romantic and historical house still standing in the Warrington district. The first Hall upon the site of the present building at Bewsey was erected in the middle of the 13th century by the seventh Lord of the Manor of Warrington, William Le Boteler, who purchased land at Burtonwood from Earl Ferrar in 1260 and from Prince Edmund in 1270. Bewsey Hall remained the home of the Boteler family until the death of Edmund Boteler, who was the eighteenth Lord of the Manor of Warrington and the last Boteler to hold that title. He died in 1586. The present Hall dates from about the year 1600 and the survival of this part of what was formerly a much larger house is interesting. An illustration of the Hall made in 1724 shows the completed structure of which the present (southern) half is all that remains today. This illustration shows that the original Elizabethan Hall consisted of two portions similar in design and connected with a hall and porch. Some time between 724 and the year 1800 the northern wing of the Hall was taken down and a new wing of Georgian design was put in its place. Later, this Georgian wing in turn was taken down and a porch of similar design to the original porch was erected on the northern side of the house, leaving the house very much as it is today. This remaining portion of the house is part of the original structure dating about 1600.

Contributor details

Contributor Role
Gorvin, Diane Sculptor

Element details

Part of work Material Dimensions
Statue Bronze 182cm tall approx.

PMSA recording information

Reference Region
General condition Good
Surface condition
  • No damage
Structural condition
  • None
  • Graffiti
Road On Sankey Brook
Precise location outside Bewsey Hall
A-Z ref None
OS ref SJ591896
Date of design None
Year of unveiling 1984
Unveiling details None
Commissioned by Cheshire New Towns
Duty of care None
Listing status Don't know
At risk? Not at risk

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