Is this the moment a notorious 17th century ghost was captured on camera? Or is it just a snapshot taken by the unstable hands of an amateur photographer?

According to 30-year-old Colin Iles and his girlfriend Elaine Della Camera - who snapped the suspected spirit in Ham House - the image represents the “capture of the century”.

The couple believe the photograph they took at the stately home shows the ghostly figure of Elizabeth, Duchess of Lauderdale, and her beloved spaniel - former residents of the property who many visitors over the years claim to have seen wandering the halls centuries after their deaths.

During a guided walk around the first floor last Monday, the couple, from Croydon, heard a strange noise, ditched their group and walked back along a narrow corridor away from the room they were in.

Mr Iles said: “We said to each other ‘Did you hear that noise?’ My girlfriend thought it was very strange but I had heard it also, and could offer no explanation.

“We can only describe this noise as a deep growl.

“She thought it was my stomach.

“As soon as I got into this corridor I felt like I did not want to be there.

“I just felt really worried and just wanted to get out of there - I felt pins and needles.

“My girlfriend turned back and took a photo of the corridor showing the room at the end, something prompted her to photograph an empty corridor.”

When they looked through the photos later that day, both were “startled and amazed” to see what they believe to be a floating figure and dog beneath it.

Having trawled the internet for more information the couple discovered a Ham House history littered with ghost sightings, including the Duchess of Lauderdale, whose tapping stick has been reported along deserted corridors and the family chapel, followed by wafts of her favourite rose perfume.

Mr Iles added: “We are glad we went to capture and have the experience but it’s still quite frightening.

“After seeing that you do believe in more because you’ve had the experience - it does open your mind more.”

A spokeswoman for the National Trust, which manages the property, said: “There have been many people who have had similar experiences over the years but then this wonderful property is over 300 years old so maybe we shouldn’t be too surprised.”