ASCOT, UKHISTORY The 1870 marriage of Henry Noailles Widdrington Standish to Helene de Perusse - daughter of the French Compte de Cars - resulted in the construction of what is now the Berystede Hotel & Spa. Owning homes in both England and France, but maintaining a close friendship with the Prince and Princess of Wales, the couple needed a home that was equidistant to both London and Windsor. The basic Victorian design of the building was established then - including the French-style turrets which still grace the edifice. Note that the turret on the right is an original while the one on the left was rebuilt after the fire and takes on a much different appearance. Berystede from its beginnings always was associated with the nearby Royal Ascot horse race. From the time the Standishes first occupied the home they opened their home to the privileged racing community. A weeks' worth of celebrations held at Berystede featuring various Royalty was usually the norm in the early years of its existence. Disaster struck, however at 3 a.m. on October 27, 1886 when the home caught fire and burned to the ground. More tragically, the personal maid of Mrs. Standish was also lost in the fire. Eliza Kleininger, a German woman, was a loyal and trusted member of the staff and in many ways an advisor and confidant to the lady of the house. She was sent to Ascot as a mere child to serve the family's needs, which in actuality was considered a noble profession in those times. Mrs. Standish then in many ways became a motherly figure to young Eliza. There are two versions of the circumstances in which Eliza lost her life that night. The first is that - as befitted her status as a lady's lady - she was often given exquisite and expensive jewels by her employer as part of the remuneration for her services. Many unattended ladies who would visit the house would also bestow similar gifts upon her as a thank you for her assistance and company. The other theory is that the jewels were family heirlooms that Eliza took great pride in caring for and fearing they would be lost forever, she charged into the burning building in a futile effort to save them. Eliza's badly burned body was found at the bottom of the servant's staircase surrounded by the trinkets and gems she had held dear to her. For 17 years the house remained empty. It was not until 1903 that the Berystede re-opened in the form of a grand hotel. The British equivalent of Good Housekeeping magazine called Country Life raved about the Berystede, calling it "sumptuous, elegant and in perfect taste". The hotel saw many owners in the first three decades of its existence, but also saw yet another fire in 1931 that resulted in the total destruction of the northern turret, necessitating the construction of another in its place. In 1937 the Trusthouse Group purchased the property and retained ownership until just a few years ago. During WWII the hotel was sought after and granted to the British military to be used as a military courthouse. Over 180 cases were heard there in that time. Thereafter, until the end of the War, it was used jointly by British and U.S. troops as a military base - albeit with unusually plush accommodations. Today the hotel is known as The Macdonald Berystede Hotel & Spa Ascot and doubles as a lavish spa with complete modern amenities, but retains much of its Gothic/Tudor charm. Berystede still hosts lavish parties during race week and two of its public rooms are named in honor of racing greatness. The Hyperion restaurant (l.) - after the famous Derby winner who sired more champions than any horse previously - and the Diadem Bar (r.), named for the Diadem Stakes - a six-furlong race first held in Ascot in October of 1946. (Photos by secretescapes.com)THE HAUNTING OF BERYSTEDE The haunting associated with the Berystede centers around one entity - the Blue Lady. She is believed to be the spirit of Eliza Kleininger, who perished in the 1886 fire. When the building was empty in the years following the 1886 fire, many locals would report seeing a female form walking the grounds at night. In fact, it's widely accepted that the reports of this ghostly figure were the main reason no buyers would come forward. It seems the legend of Eliza's ghost discouraged anyone from assuming ownership and running the risk of angering her. She has been sighted quite often in the same spot where her body was found - at the foot of the servant's staircase. Some surmise she is still looking for the jewelry she could not rescue while others speculate she is searching for a safe exit from the manor house. It is said that just after 3 a.m. most mornings, the sound of raspy breath can be heard in the hallways of the Berystede and maintenance men there report hearing strange, inexplicable noises throughout the building. The reports are taken so genuinely that most guests make certain they are in their rooms before 3 a.m. to avoid any contact with the ghost of Eliza. Her presence is quite often seen and felt by guests inside their rooms on the second floor and her form has been seen on many occasions descending the staircase.