Barcroft Hall, Burnley

Barcroft Hall

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!

text © Melanie Warren 2014
© Copyright Bill Boaden and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

About LancashireFolk

Lancashire folklore, legends, ghosts, local history - author of 'Lancashire Folk' published by Schiffer Publishing 2016 - 9780764349836 £19.50. Please visit to see upcoming books. The Enchanted Valley and Manchester Folk will be published in 2020. Cumbria Folk almost ready!
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8 Responses to Barcroft Hall, Burnley

  1. simonjkyte says:

    Very interesting as well. So, how are these Barcrofts related to other in the area? For example, • the Barcrofts of Noyna, Foulridge. Clearly they had some sort of familial link back to the Fouldes family as well. Both seemed to be supporters of Roger Brierley. Thomas Barcroft was a later convert to Quakerism although he looked back on the period of his life around Brierley, Tennant and ‘the Grindletonians’ with some degree of nostalgic regard. Presumably they were also tied to the Barcrofts of the Lodge: Brierley undertook a funeral sermon (fully recorded) for Thomas Barcroft of the Lodge in November 1631. Josiah Collyer, who wrote up Brierley’s sermons from his time at Burnley just records that sermon as a funeral sermon – but the registers show Barcroft’s burial.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I don’t have an answer for you, Simon – my research path is all about folklore, legends, ghosts and although I do explore local and family history to some extent, my aim is to look for factual events that relate to the ‘legend’ (because there’s always fire where there’s smoke).


  3. David Boocock says:

    I believe that Thomas’ only son William died in 1663 (see OPC Lancashire site). Surprisingly he was actually christened at Halifax in May 1642, “Wm, (s/o) Thomas Barcroft of Barcroft in Lancashire, born Sowerby”. Images are on West Yorkshire site on Ancestry. So he would have been 21.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. simonjkyte says:

    This is so interesting

    Liked by 1 person

  5. lesley Magill says:

    My gt gt grandmother was the granddaughter of Martha Barcroft of Foulridge Hall and Matthew Wilson of Otley. My gt grandmother Ellen Wilson Beanlands married Lawrence Foulds of Blackburn. I have the records and full family trees.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Morgan Franz says:

    According to research I’ve done, I am a direct descendant of the Barcroft line via a daughter of one of William’s sons, who married a man from Ireland. I live in the United States now, but I would love to come visit this place one day. Truly fascinating history!


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