She spoke only Greek at mealtimes

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Herstmonceux, like other castled communities, has seen its full share of drama through the centuries: creepy stories like the 9ft high phantom warrior who walked the battlements beating a drum.

This spectre was held by many to be an owner called Dacre, long thought dead, but living in concealment and drumming to keep potential suitors away from his wife. But the most plausible explanation is that those indefatigable smugglers made the noise to scare people away while they went about their business.

The story most likely to find a place in today’s popular press concerned Georgiana Shipley, beautiful resident of Herstmonceux Place.

She was as eccentric as she was beautiful.

She was often seen riding about the village on a white ass. She insisted on her family conversing in Greek at mealtimes; and she went to church accompanied by her white doe, which rested at the end of her pew.

Also animal-mad was Rosslyn Bruce, rector in Herstmonceux from 1923 to 1956. At Oxford he was forbidden to keep a dog, so he rented a cow and paraded it around the quad. It was the first of many ‘pets’ which later went on to include everything from pigeons to elephants.

While at Herstmonceux he wrote books on animals and their care, and his most extraordinary achievement was to breed a green mouse.

A man to be admired.