Barcroft Hall has two legends, the first of which is commonly known as The Idiot’s Curse. The Barcrofts had been an important local family for three centuries, but the male line of the family died out only a few decades after Barcroft Hall was built. The reason? A curse…
William Barcroft had caused the Hall to be built and when he died in 1620 two of his sons began a terrible feud over who would inherit it. Thomas was younger than his brother William and out of greed he let it be known that his brother was quite mad – an idiot – and chained him up in the Hall’s cellar. He then spread the rumour that William was dead, thereby claiming the Barcroft estate for himself. One evening William managed to break out of the cellar and burst in to the party his brother was hosting. Before he was dragged back to his cellar, he lay a curse on Thomas, swearing that the Barcroft line would soon die out and the Hall would never be owned by a Barcroft again.
William Barcroft junior died in 1641. Thomas’ only son died a year later. There would never be another male Barcroft at the Hall – the ‘idiot’ had been right.
Later in the Hall’s history it was used as a farmhouse and tales of a boggart were told. The boggart was – at least at first – very helpful around the house and the farm. A tale is told of a night when the farmer called to his sons to bring the sheep into the barn, only to hear a tiny boggart voice calling back, “I’ll do it!” A matter of minutes later, the boggart called out again, “I’ve done it, but I had trouble with the small brown ‘un.” When the farmer went to investigate, he found that the ‘small brown ‘un’ was a large brown hare.
The boggart always did his work in secret but one night the farmer’s son cut a hole in the kitchen ceiling, so he could spy on the boggart at work. What he saw was a tiny, wrinkled, old man, working away in tattered clothes and with no shoes on his tiny feet. Thinking he was doing the boggart a favour, the farmer’s son made a little pair of clogs which he left in the kitchen for the little man to find. The next night he spied through the hole in the ceiling and saw the little man pick up the clogs and say, “New clogs, new wood, T’hob Thurs will never any more do good.”
The farmer was dismayed to find that no more good work was done – on the contrary, the boggart became quite a trouble-maker, breaking crockery, making animals ill, and generally making a mess. The last straw came one morning when the farmer’s bull was found standing on the farmhouse roof! The farmer decided the only way to be rid of the boggart was to move, but even this was not possible. As he drove his loaded cart away, he heard a small voice say, “Stop while I get my clogs and I’ll go with you!” Defeated, the farmer went home again!