A hauntingly beautiful estate dating back to the Domesday Book records of 1086 looks invitingly pretty today as a classic car auction gets underway on the grounds and visitors walk in the gardens of Athelhampton House.

As the auctioneer hammers down on the latest sale, Andrea Cooke, who lives at Athelhampton, near Dorchester, with her husband Patrick and two sons George and James, sits down in the Coach House on the estate to discuss the history of the house she has lived in for the last 20 years and the so-called spirits of the manor.

Athelhampton, open to the public, attracts thousands of visitors every year and has been named one of the most haunted homes in England by We Buy Any Home and was featured on TV’s Most Haunted.

Andrea believes the spirits of Athelhampton are still alive. Family and visitors have felt the presence of ghosts, a girl in a white dress, a school mistress, a dark hooded figure and a monkey are said to haunt a passage in the home.

Of course, we start with the most intriguing ghost story – the monkey that supposedly haunts the manor.

Andrea said: “The house is a Tudor building built in 1485 and was home to the Martyn family. A monkey is in the coat of arms of the Martyn family.

“It was very fashionable during Elizabethan times to have monkeys as pets, and in the house there is a beautiful stained glass window with a monkey painted on it. This is supposed to be the monkey that haunts the secret passage.

“We once had a party and some friends of ours shut a friend into the secret passage for a joke. When he came out he was so anxious and said he had felt something breathing on him and touching him.

“I like the thought of having a pet monkey, but my husband wouldn’t allow it,” Andrea says.

“The areas we open to the public are all the formal places which we only use for some occasions.

“Last Christmas we had a dinner party, and after our evening meal I asked the party if anyone wanted a ghost tour.

“As I said it, the angel from the tree flung across the room, frightening everyone.

“The formal areas of the house, as far as I’m concerned, can remain as active as they like. This is part of the history of this amazing place and it is not for me to rid it of this.”

However, Andrea decided to do something about the charged energy in the family bedrooms after a presence began interfering with the family’s ability to sleep at night.

“I draw the line at things happening at night and my family being frightened.

“There was a constant sense of being followed and seeing figures. My children started seeing things, and hearing the noises and sounds.”

Using Jerusalem sage, candles and salt water, Andrea said she felt like a mad woman trying to rid of the spirits, but she says it worked.

“I know it defies all logic, but frankly I don’t care as long as it works.

“One visitor to the home said they saw a figure with dark hair in a nightdress. The figure was stood in the doorway.

“Three years later I saw the same figure.”

The grand rooms of Athelhampton are lined with dark wood and etched with history. There is an eerie feel as you climb the stairs and are greeted by a room full with figurines with white lace and elaborate vintage dresses.

Andrea said: “When you walk into an old building there is always the power of suggestion, but the presence here is so strong and has been felt by so many.

“Many people are guarded when discussing such things, they fear the risk of appearing ridiculous and possibly unhinged. So while I always defer to a rational explanation there are, at times the one per cent which is beyond a rational explanation.

“It is a beautiful home, we are happy here and generally it has a lovely atmosphere, despite the stories.”

• Athelhampton House and Gardens, near Dorchester, is now open to visitors.

For more information visit athelhampton.co.uk.