The Grey Lady of Astley Hospital


The building known as Astley Hospital, on Ley Road in Astley, is in fact an ancient manor house; the inscription on the lintel informs us that it was erected in 1650, by the Mort family. It was built on the site of an earlier hall and was originally called Dam House, after the nearby dam which powered a corn mill. In 1893 the building became a hospital and when the hospital closed in 1994, a Heritage Trust was formed to preserve the building for use as a community centre.

The gardens surrounding the community centre are open to the public. They are also haunted by a Grey Lady; Anne Mort, of Dam House. Anne’s family was rich, influential and Catholic, so her father was outraged when he discovered that Anne had become romantically involved with James Speakman, a young labourer who lived with his family in an untidy cottage nearby. James was clearly not a suitable match for Anne and her father forbade the pair to meet, but nothing he said could turn the young lovers away from each other. They continued to meet in secret, walking the paths that crossed the moss around Dam House, until Anne’s father decided he must take more drastic action. He went to James’ father and arranged to move the whole family to another of his estates, in Lymm, well away from Dam House. James was not informed until the last minute and when Anne went to find out why she had not heard from him, she found the cottage empty.

Anne never forgave her father and never forgot her love for James; she walked to his old home every day and wandered the paths they had walked together, gradually losing her mind. She died of her grief when she was only eighteen.

Now, Anne Mort is more commonly known as the Grey Lady, who walks in the grounds of Astley Hospital and the many paths and lanes nearby. She has been seen near the canal, around the old Leigh Grammar School and crossing Marsland Green. Those who have seen her – including a selection of burly workmen – say that she glides along, casting her eyes from side to side as if searching for someone. We know, of course, that the one she seeks is James Speakman, her true love.

Image © Copyright Julian Graham and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

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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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26 Responses to The Grey Lady of Astley Hospital

  1. lynn clarke says:

    very good reading, i used to live very near astley hospital being married and 2 children, but it was when i lived in derwent street and my mother used to work at sani thats what we used to call astley hospital, we had many adventures near the moat, swinging on ropes over the small pond that belonged to the farmer at that time. It was a great time to be had by all i remember going on my bike making sure my mother got to work by escorting her there, we kids had a great time remembering the grey lady and the antics she go into

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m so pleased you responded, Lynn! Out of nowhere, this post had over a thousand views a couple of days ago and I couldn’t work out why! It looks like a Facebook post – on a local group page, perhaps? Can you tell me? Also, always lovely to hear from people who lived near these places and remember hearing stories, often their comments add valuable content to the tales I tell. Melanie.


    • Gareth says:

      I swear on my kids life the only ghost I’ve ever seen was in there when I was about 8 years old so 31 years ago and still rember it to this day it was a grey floating women near the old pathways quit near to what then was the morgue I still to this day do not no what else I could of been as it was before the any technology was available still spooked about it now , but many happy memories running around that place playing hide and seek


  2. Doreen Carroll says:

    Dam House is on Astley Hall Drive. I used to work there. Ley Road is off Prince’s Avenue, Tyldesley. I loved it there. On some occasions, you can go on a guided trip through the building.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Julian Marsh. says:

    I know a few who saw her. Eddie Lord came face to face with her whilst playing ‘Rolly’ in those woods, he ran straight home and still will not set foot in there. She was seen again by other mates one Autumn when they were sat on the surrounding wall. A hooded figure formed in front of their eye and scared them stiff. We saw her as primary school children gliding by on the nearby field, a sighting by 30 kids and teachers. The top of Manor house is wonderful all still wattle and daub with a long hall, like a Tudor type long hall untouched since 1650. it gob smacked me. The Mort family also had a private chapel in the building. The old pond was a moat to a previous 11 Century building when allegedly the land was granted to a french knight after hastings, could have been a Mort and the surrounding rocks were part of the gateway/drawbridge. There is a very old yew tree in the grounds and nearby a medieval carp pond.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Sandra ford says:

    My dad was brought up down astley he was born in 1927 and lived there till he married my mum in his 30s used to tell me such stories about the grey lady and the antics he and his brothers got up to

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Donna Kovari says:

    My mum was a nurse at Astley hospital (Freda Leake) I Rembrandt her telling us all about the Grey Lady.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Nick Hardman says:

    We live in the grounds of Dam House. it is such a lovely place with its conserved woodland and pond. To date we haven’t seen anything but on autumn and winters’ evenings with the woods and dark paths along with its swirling mist it would not be difficult to imagine her tormented soul searching for her true love.


    • Hello Nick, apologies for this tardy response! Always lovely to hear from people who know the places I write about – with the best will in the world, I can’t visit every single one. So good to hear that Dam House and the grounds are so well looked after. Always makes me sad when I fall in love with a tale and then find the site no longer exists!


  7. Chris Wakefield says:

    I used to live nearby, so did my grandparents. So close their property backed onto what was the larger Mort estate before it became more known as just the walled grounds of the hospital, around Dam House. They told tales of the Grey Lady passing throough their garden and firends and family coming around to view the spectacle. Later in life I worked an expeirience position in the records department under Leigh Librabry and Town Hall. A climate controlled facility storing documents from as far back as around 1400. I took the opoertunity to research the Mort Family and the house including the connections with Mort Lane, the Mort Arms and Coach Road which was the drive leading to the Mort’s coaching stables (now walled property at the end of coach road with the gates aligning to with the end of coach road). St Stephens School fields were hunting grounds and gardens. There was a suspiscion there was once a secret tunnel leading from Dam House to the Church across the road (which burnt down), and that Adam Mort, in trouble with Tax, hung himslef though I can’t remember any evidence. I was shown around the loft areas of Dam House which revealed the original Wattle and Daub structure under the later modern roofing techniques, pointing back to the property’s age and heritage. All very interesting stuff.


  8. Denise Dawson says:

    I worked at Ashley hospital on ward 2. It was reported that the grey lady had been seen several times on ward 1 helping people.


  9. Christine says:

    The Grey lady was seen by my father at middlewood scout camp in the late 1940’s. He was with 2 friends at the time. The least fanciful man but was absolutely certain about what he saw.


  10. Richard Carter says:

    I was in Astley Sanitorium (as we called it then) in 1950 with Scarlet Fever and again in 1982 for a month. Sadly I never saw anything remotely like a Grey Lady.


  11. Gareth Jones says:

    The grey lady is a fictional tale made up in the 1900’s to keep children away from the hospital grounds.
    The story you have told is true. Anne Mort was in love with a labourer and Adam did send him and his family away. The rest is pure fiction.


  12. Joyce Woodward says:

    The grey lady was also said to haunt the Old Vicarage. In early 1960 we used the Old Vicarage for church meetings etc and a lot of odd noises were clearly heard by all of us. It was assumed that it was Anne Mort (the grey lady) on her nightly wanderings,


  13. Rob Howcroft. says:

    Great story. I played in the grounds throughout the seventies with jack finneys two sons and a whole large group of local kids. We were well aware of the grey lady walking these grounds. The hospital woods were a lot thicker and more isolated then and it was a much more quiet area. There was many stories of people seeing her. A tramp and his Labrador lived in the grounds for quite a while and we used to see him on the way to st Stephens school. He was friendly and would chat with us. Can’t ever imagine any parents allowing that nowadays.


  14. Anne Forrest says:

    In the 1930’s my mother, Margaret Rigby, was a nanny to the son (sorry don’t remember his first name) of Dr Davidson who worked and lived at the Sanatorium. Nearly every night just before bedtime the little boy would pester my mum to go for a walk round the lake to see if they could see the Grey Lady. Needless to say my mum was very reluctant, but occasionally gave in just to satisfy him. One night they did see a shadowy figure in the distance and they both ran hand in hand back to the doctor’s house. It turned out later it was a patient escaping with a grey blanket round their shoulders!!!


  15. Sandra ford says:

    My dad came from astley where he lived with his mum lucy and jim his brothers frank jim sisters gladys and doreen he used to tell me stories of the grey lady when i was a young girl ..


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