The Clifton House Mystery

The Clifton House Mystery is a British children's cult television supernatural drama series written by Daniel Farson and Harry Moore, produced by Patrick Dromgoole and directed by Hugh David, and shown in 1978 by HTV for ITV.

The Clifton House Mystery
The Clifton House Mystery.jpg
GenreSupernatural drama
Created byLeonard White
Written byDaniel Farson
Harry Moore
StarringSebastian Breaks
Ingrid Hafner
Peter Sallis
Theme music composerSidney Sager
Country of originUnited Kingdom
No. of series1
No. of episodes6
ProducerPatrick Dromgoole
Running time30 minutes per episode
Production companyHTV West
DistributorGranada International Media Limited
Original networkHTV
Audio formatMonaural sound
Original release1978 (1978) –
1978 (1978)

The plot revolves around conductor Timothy Clare and his family – wife, daughter and two sons – moving into an old house in Bristol they had just bought from the elderly Mrs Betterton; the house having been in her family for generations. While exploring the garden, Timothy's two sons notice that the house has an extra window, and deduce that a hidden room may exist. After breaking through an upstairs wall and discovering an ancient dusty bedroom, a long-dead skeleton is found in the four-poster bed.

A number of strange incidents then start to occur. The Clares' daughter Jenny is visited by the ghost of a kindly old woman who appears to be summoned by a music box left behind by Mrs Betterton's granddaughter. Plates and bowls jump out of people's hands and smash to the ground. A dragoon's helmet that the boys had bought at Mrs Betterton's contents auction starts to glow mysteriously; and a blood-like liquid drips through the ceiling onto some dinner party guests.

After these unexplained incidents, the boys recruit a local ghost hunter called Milton Guest to investigate. After hearing what has happened, Guest becomes convinced that a ghost connected in some way with the Bristol Riots of 1831 is haunting the house. After checking local records, they realize that it may be the ghost of a dragoon commander called George Bretherton who was court-martialled for his lenient handling of the rioters, and who subsequently disappeared without trace.

Although she confirms that the house would have been in her family's possession at the time of the riots, Mrs Betterton claims to have been unaware of the secret room, or any family connection to the riots in 1831. She does mention that there was a 'family scandal' sometime in that era, but she was never told the details. Guest suspects that she is a direct descendant of Bretherton, the family name having been changed as a consequence of the 'scandal'.

Guest performs an exorcism that appears successful at first. The helmet stops glowing and the ghost of the old lady – apparently the dragoon's mother – is no longer seen; the music box which summoned her ceases to function and all returns to normal. However in the final episode, after authorities remove the skeleton and give it a Christian burial, the phenomena start to occur again...

Factual basis of subplotEdit

The story of the Dragoon commander is based on the real-life case of Thomas Brereton, a Lieutenant-Colonel in the Dragoons stationed in Bristol in the 1830s when riots broke out following the failure in the House of Lords of the Reform Bill. Ordered to suppress the rioters with whatever means necessary, Brereton was court-martialled for leniency when he refused to fire on the rioters, resorting only to a cavalry charge when negotiations failed. He committed suicide by shooting himself before the trial reached a verdict.

Main charactersEdit

  • Timothy Clare (Sebastian Breaks) Conductor of the Bristol Chamber Orchestra who moves with his wife and three children into an old house in Bristol.
  • Sheila Clare (Ingrid Hafner) Timothy's wife who becomes slowly convinced that the strange occurrences may be paranormal.
  • Milton Guest (Peter Sallis) A ghost hunter whom the Clares' sons' invite to explore the strange phenomena, and who performs an apparently successful exorcism.

Home media availabilityEdit

The Clifton House Mystery was released on Region 2 DVD in 2010 by Network.[1]


External linksEdit