Heskin Hall is now a modern conference centre, but its 16th century origins can still be seen. During the Civil War, Heskin Hall was a Royalist house, well-known for harbouring priests. One of these priests was discovered here by Roundhead leader Colonel Rigby and was so afraid of his impending death that he denied his faith entirely. He tried to distract attention by naming the sixteen-year-old daughter of the house as a Catholic, but this backfired when Rigby demanded he prove that he was truly a Parliamentarian supporter by putting the girl to death. Terrified, the priest did as he was asked and hanged the girl from a beam in what is now known as the Scarlet Room. This act did not save the priest; he was killed anyway.
The Scarlet Room is known for its chilly atmosphere and those who have slept there over the years have complained of mysterious noises; raps and bangs. Some have even seen the White Lady herself.
A tradition which probably began soon after these awful events is the belief that it is lucky to touch the beam where the girl was hanged – perhaps facing up to the fear that sight of the beam must produce, removes it entirely.
Stories of sightings of the White Lady tell of her being seen in the Scarlet Room, or running along a corridor pursued by the priest and at other times she appears downstairs in the kitchen. At least one sighting tells of a girl who looked very real indeed; so real that the person who saw her spoke to her and was disconcerted when she did not reply.
One of the owners of Heskin Hall, Lady Lilford, tells of repeatedly seeing a ghostly girl standing beside a large chest in the hall of the house. It was thought that she was the ghost of a newly-married young woman who had hidden herself in the chest as a joke, holding a bunch of mistletoe, expecting that her new husband would soon find her and give her a traditional kiss. Sadly, the cover of the chest locked itself and she could not loosen it. She died there of suffocation before anyone realised where she might be. When she was discovered, she was still holding the bunch of mistletoe. However, this charmingly tragic tale, known as ‘The Mistletoe Bough’, has been told about many other chests, in many other ancient halls throughout England.
Image © Copyright Dave Green and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.