The Acton Arms is a pleasant public house (pub) located on the main road three miles north of Bridgnorth in the village of Morville. It has a reputation for being one of the most haunted inns in Shropshire and various reports suggest the presence of at least three separate spectral manifestations. Over time it has been the site of a priory, coaching inn and public house. The current building is believed to have been constructed in 1700. By 1898 the building was essentially two structures with separate entrances one of which has been since been removed.
The most often reported apparition is The White Man, an indistinct figure that drifts from room to room. According to various reports, during the early 1970's the landlady of the pub, Mrs Mary Walker, claimed that it was witnessed at least once a day and that it was like seeing a translucent sheet flicker from door to door. On occasions the spectre is seen standing still in the corner of one of the bedrooms.
It is believed that this may well be the ghost of Richard Marshall, sometimes also known as Richard Baker, the 27th and penultimate Abbot of Shrewsbury (1512-1528). After his resignation in 1528 Richard Marshall became the Prior of Morville on the 29th October 1529, a position he held until 1540 when the dissolution of Shrewsbury Monastery (of the holy Apostles of St. Peter and St. Paul) took place. It was during this time that Baker seems to have continued to collect funds but did not forward them to the relevant authorities, the abbey, and was later the subject of a Chancery court case put forward by the new Abbot of Shrewsbury - Thomas Butler. It seems he was allowed to stay on in residence in Morville (Morthffld) even after the dissolution and may well have lived on the site of the building that is now the Acton Arms. After his death his body was buried in the Church of St. Leonard in Bridgnorth. One reason that has been suggested that he may haunt the Acton Arms was his love of the village of Morville and by being taken to Bridgnorth his spirit may be trying to return to his home of more than 20 years. The Acton Arms was originally the site of the Priory, much of which was dismantled to provide stone for the construction of the nearby Manor House, Morville Hall.
It appears that Marshall enjoyed early English dramatics and is listed as an entertainer between 1516-1518. He is also believed to have been one of the Mitred Abbots who attended, and took part in, the official ceremonies that marked the mysterious death and funeral of Arthur, Prince of Wales. However, it should be recognised that there are some serious date related discrepancies in this account as Arthur died in 1502 before Marshall was appointed as Abbot and it was Richard Lye who was still in office.
It is worth noting that Richard Marshall was also known as Richard Marciale and Richard Baker. He was never known as Richard Manners who is sometimes incorrectly mentioned as the person in question. In fact, Sir Richard Manners was local to the area of Sutton Maddock (6 miles from Bridgnorth) where he was granted estates in 1547 and included the church of St. Bartholomew.
The area has other interesting candidates for the ghostly figures that are sometimes seen. In a strange twist of fate two women and five horses were killed by a bolt of lightning immediately following the consecration ceremony of the nearby Norman church of St. Gregory the Great in 1118. The manner of their deaths, at such a holy time, led to much speculation as to whether their deaths were divine intervention.
According to folklore and parish records, those found guilty of various crimes where tied to a nearby whipping post and thoroughly chastised. A punishment and entertainment that was practised often. The post still stands at the intersection of the roads leading to Shrewsbury and Craven Arms and a little over 100 metres from the Acton Arms. Some speculate that one of the ghosts may be that of an unfortunate person who may have died while tied to the post.
In addition there was once a pound located in the southern most corner of the Acton Arms car park that may date back to the 1500's. It has been filled in with earth and is now the foundation for a small bus shelter built in 1953 to mark the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.
Across the road and fields from the Acton Arms is Morville Hall and St. Gregory's Church. Both buildings are steeped in history and the grounds of the Hall are said to represent the history of English gardening.
There is clearly much more that needs to be written about the Ghost of the Acton arms and Morville. We'll add to this section as more research becomes available.