Yesterday a friend told me that there was an abandoned castle in the next town over in Groton, MA, called Bancroft Castle. You heard me correctly, a castle! It took me less than 24 hours and I was loading up the dogs and away we went. Thankful for a sunny day, I couldn’t wait to be on my way to find this castle in the middle of Massachusetts. I didn’t bother with looking up the history of the castle before heading out, my head full of visions of the awesome pictures I would take!
It took a little bit of guesswork and a few more texts to my friend to find the exact location to park. You have to park on the side of the road and hike in as there isn’t direct access. Be sure when you go that you don’t venture into the pasture as there are signs posted that some pretty aggressive bulls live there. To say that my FitBit was happy with this endeavor is an understatement. The trail leading up to the castle is steep and had my heart rate up in no time.
I’m sure the steepness of the hill combined with the excitement is what led to the elevated heart rate but nevertheless I pushed on! After about a ten minute climb, maybe shorter if you don’t have dogs wanting to sniff and pee on everything along the way, I finally took in the breathtaking view of the crumbling structure.
Oh the secrets that this place must hold! Bancroft Castle, I later learned once I came home and did some research, was built by General William Bancroft, a brigadier general in the Spanish-American War, in 1906, as a gift to his wife. He was able to finish the tower and the house but not the mansion and horse stable that he had planned. As with many good intentions, he couldn’t finish the endeavor due to running out of funds and had to sell. It was then bought by a physician by the name of Harold Ayers in the 1918. Ayers turned it into a private sanitarium where the wealthy would go to embrace the fresh-air treatments that were popular in that era, for Tuberculosis and insanity. In the 1930’s, it was being used as the Groton Hunt Club, and this is when it met its fateful end. On July 4, 1932, fireworks, set off by trespassers, sparked a fire on the grounds that rapidly spread to the mansion. Sadly, the castle has never been rebuilt.
There are ghost stories, of course, and one can’t help but imagine a few yourself while you are there. The location of Bancroft Castle sits atop Gibbett Hill. The word Gibbett literally means gallow’s so the term itself brings to mind hangings. There are stories and rumors that there were hangings on Gibbett Hill during the 17th century by the English settlers. I didn’t know this before I went but I did notice a very large black crow that seemed to follow us up the hill through the treetops cawing out warnings as we ventured closer. Did he know something I didn’t?
Nevertheless, if you find yourself in Groton, Massachusetts, I daresay it’s worth the thirty minute stop to see an old castle on a hill, some breathtaking views and maybe even a ghost or two.