The Grey Lady of Astley Hospital

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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.

About LancashireFolk

Lancashire folklore, legends, ghosts, local history - author of 'Lancashire Folk' published by Schiffer Publishing 2016 - 9780764349836 £19.50. 'Manchester Folk', covering Greater Manchester, coming in 2017!
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9 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.

      Like

  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

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