Fulwood Barracks, Fulwood, Preston

Fulwood Barracks

The garrison church at Fulwood Barracks dates from 1847. It is haunted by a soldier, thought to be a former Chaplain who lost his life in the First World War. He was seen quite clearly in full light of day by the verger of thirteen years, who turned from her work to see ‘a soldier in full dress uniform’ standing quite still, his hands resting on his sword. The Padre, to her surprise, believed her without question. He explained that a soldier guarding a coffin in the church would quite naturally be wearing full uniform and would be leaning on his drawn sword, just as she had seen.

In recent years a TV crew came to investigate the story of the haunted church and their sophisticated camera panned around the church until the pulpit area came into view – the spot where the ghostly soldier had been seen. The camera promptly malfunctioned. Several times.

The old Officers’ Mess also has its own ghost, which is well-documented. An officer stationed there in 1910 wrote his own account. His own room was on the ground floor of the Mess and was clearly an original part of the building, as it still boasted a marble mantelpiece. One night, the Officer retired to bed as usual but was much disturbed by a gale and, later, a single clap of thunder. He opened his eyes and saw, to his surprise, a luminous figure between the bed and the fireplace. He spent the rest of the night in another Officer’s room…

The Officer was teased about his experience for days but was vindicated about three weeks later, when a certain Lieutenant Walmsley, newly arrived at the Barracks, mentioned in conversation that a friend had told him of his experience there. The soldier had slept in a room with a marble mantelpiece, he said, on the ground floor. He had seen something, he said, in that room.

A couple of years later, another Officer, Lieutenant James, was returning to his room in the same block when he saw something in the passage so clearly that he instinctively drew his sword and took a swipe at the shape, hitting only the wall.

Legend has it that the ghost is that of a cavalry man, stationed at the Barracks in the early days, who had died in that very room, the one with the marble mantelpiece. Private McCaffrey had been sentenced by Captain Hanham to a fortnight’s confinement after the relatively minor offence of failing to apprehend some stone-throwing children. McCaffrey was furious at this sentence and furious with Hanham, who had a long reputation for bullying. One day, he saw Captain Hanham walking across the parade ground with Colonel Crofton and he raised his gun and fired, killing both the Captain and the Colonel with a single bullet.

Private McCaffrey was sentenced to death by hanging.

Finally… the old Roman Road, Watling Street, passes through the parade ground at the Barracks. It is said that a legion of Roman soldiers can sometimes be seen marching along this road.

Image © Copyright Jimmy Hill and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.
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Clitheroe Castle

Clitheroe CastleOriginally built as a defence, Clitheroe Castle was developed into a comfortable residence for Henry de Lacy in the 13th century. Later it became a gaol and a court. The castle was at one time moated, there was a chapel dedicated to St Michael and ancient documents mention an orchard below the castle. Several ghosts have been reported in the Castle at different times; a White Lady, an entire family, a maid, and a First World War soldier, but no-one can say who any of these apparitions were when they lived. Other people have reported strange smells, unexplained noises and areas of extreme coldness.

The buildings were somewhat damaged by troops in the 17th century and it may be this time period which gave rise to a story about the Devil… Only the ancient Norman keep now remains and in the Keep is a window which, it is said, was made by the Devil. He was not gentle about it – he threw rocks from nearby Pendle Hill until the hole in the wall was big enough to satisfy him. It was well-known that he also once walked the streets of Clitheroe, trying to persuade people to sell him their souls for three wishes. However, he was beaten, defeated by cleverness and trickery, and flew to a bridge, a mile to the south, where he disappeared. Ever since that day, the bridge has been known as Hell Hole Bridge. (There’s a very similar tale told about the Devil in Cockerham.  Seems he wasn’t as clever as he would have liked to think!)

Image © Copyright Alexander P Kapp and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.
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The Swan and Royal, Clitheroe

Swan and Royal Clitheroe

The Swan and Royal dates from 1786, but arguably its most interesting story comes from a century later, during the cotton strikes and subsequent riots of 1878. One weekend, a large group of cotton workers from Manchester were coming to the town for a meeting with local workers and, as great trouble was fully expected, the council contacted the War Department with a request for troops.

A group of soldiers from the 24th Regiment of Foot duly arrived and were billeted in the Swan and Royal, which was the only pub allowed to remain open. The others were closed in an attempt to prevent too much alcohol exacerbating the situation. Nevertheless there was a riot, a terrible one which left many properties in the town damaged and cost several cotton workers their lives.

There was no more trouble after that one dreadful night, but the soldiers stayed in the town to make sure. They remained for the whole of the next month, during which time two of them fell in love with local girls. A double wedding was organised at St Mary’s Church. Sadly, the two soldiers were posted to Zululand before the wedding could take place; their prospective brides were heartbroken. Worse, both of the soldiers died, four months later.

Back in Clitheroe, one of the poor girls, a lass of just seventeen named Anne Druce, discovered that she was with child. Disgraced and bereft, she went to the Swan and Royal, shut herself in the room which she and the soldier had shared and took her own life.

Many residents of the hotel have reported seeing Anne’s ghost and many report more tangible events. One notable news report concerned a gentleman guest who found both sink-taps running one day – he then stood open-mouthed as a bar of soap lifted itself from the dish, turned around and replaced itself.

One particular room was well-known for the sound of a crying baby. It may be just a coincidence that, late in the 1950s, workmen discovered a package in the attic, wrapped in newspaper. The date on the paper was 1879. Inside lay a baby’s skeleton.

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Dunkenhalgh Hotel, Clayton-le-Moors


A few hundred years ago the Dunkenhalgh was a grand old Hall, the seat of the Walmesley family and the centre of a vast estate covering thousands of acres. Now it’s a typically English hotel, a beautiful building, standing in fifteen acres of beautiful grounds.

There have been reports of a ghostly woman on the ground floor and a night porter once witnessed a heavy pair of door-curtains billowing out as if a wind was behind them – but the door was firmly closed. Another employee once saw a figure pass through a wall. Next morning she was taken into the Portrait Room for the first time and there she identified the figure she had seen as one of the Walmesley family.

Outside in the grounds, there have long been stories about the Dunkenhalgh boggart. There’s even a bridge across the river in the grounds which is known as ‘the Boggart’s Bridge’, but in this case the ‘boggart’ is a beautiful young woman.

Legend says that some time in the 18th century the incumbent family took on a French governess called Lucette to care for their children. One Christmas, Lucette fell in love with a young Officer who was staying at the house and when he proclaimed his love for her, she believed him. She became pregnant and when the time came for the Officer to go back to his regiment, he said he would return to marry her. Of course, he was lying.

The months passed, the child would soon be born, and Lucette became distraught at her abandonment. She could not stay in her employment, but neither could she return to her French home for fear of the shame she would bring upon her family. One night she was walking by the River Hyndbum, which flows through the grounds of the Dunkenhalgh and, quite at her wits end, she threw herself from the bridge into the river. Next morning they found her body caught in reeds and carried her gently back to the house.

Some versions of the story say that the officer did come back, a few weeks after Lucette killed herself, but that one of her brothers who had heard of the affair challenged him to a duel and killed him.

Lucette’s ghost is said to haunt at Christmastime, dressed in a shroud and drifting silently among the trees. When she reaches the bridge, she disappears. It is said that Lucette’s lover carved his initials and her own, within a heart, in the bark of a particular tree in the grounds. It is to this tree that Lucette is walking. Every Christmas Eve, this carved heart would ooze red blood and at the same time, the chapel bell would sound. (The chapel and the bell are, sadly, long gone).

One very old version of the story, told in 1892 by ‘Old Robin o’ Giles of Harwood Cliff’, said that Lucette gave birth to a baby boy before jumping into the river, holding the baby in her arms. The baby was cast up by the retreating waters on the doorstep of the old Mill, where the miller and his wife found him and brought him up as their own child. The child had a birthmark on his chest, in the shape of a blood-red heart.

The ‘boggart bridge’ was repaired in the middle of the 19th century and a shawl-pin was found in the masonry; the head of which was a red heart-shaped cornelian. It was, naurally, assumed to have belonged to poor Lucette.

In 1892, the Blackburn Standard reported that the ‘Dungley Boggart’ had reappeared at the Hall. This report said that the boggart, who took the form of a lady in white, had appeared in several locations inside the Hall itself. The lady had appeared to several of the servants. By now, the ghost story had taken on more of the traditional detail one would expect – it was reported to appear every seven years and not on just one date but two; the 7th and 14th of May. The servants who had witnessed the White Lady’s appearance were, naturally, terrified.

These sightings may well have been the result of young girls’ imaginations, but in 1965 another report brought the original story up to date. A young man was walking his dog late at night in the driveway. His dog growled and barked, drawing the man’s attention to a woman, who was dressed in clothes from a completely different time. He stood very still as the woman approached and when she was almost upon him, she turned slightly and vanished clean away. She left behind her nothing but a lingering perfume.

© Copyright robert wade and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.
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Astley Hall, Chorley

 Astley Hall

Astley Hall was built in 1580 by the Charnock family and remained in their care for many generations. It passed through several other families over the centuries, until the Tattons presented it to Chorley for the purpose of using it as a Museum. It is said that Cromwell slept here in 1648 and the bedroom which was his resting place is named for him. The Hall exhibits a pair of riding boots which Cromwell purportedly left behind and, as you would expect, his ghost has sometimes been seen.

As well as Old Ironsides’ ghost, many other strange events are reported at Astley Hall. Members of staff talk of unexplained aromas of baked apples or roasting meat, furniture being moved, taps running, alarms going off and ethereal piano music. A ghostly serving maid has been seen in the kitchen and once a display of stuffed birds was completely dismantled. Possibly the most common shade is that of a country gent, in 1920s tweeds, who walks in at the main door and proceeds up the stairs. A young girl is often seen with him. It is believed that this may be Reginald Tatton himself, the very man who gave Astley Hall to the town of Chorley.

One of the best-attested tales is that told by a group of old soldiers from Liverpool. They were actually on a return trip to Astley and make a point of asking about the guide they had met on their first visit; a lady in Elizabeth costume. Costumes have never been employed at the Hall… The Astley employee responsible for Visitor Services also once saw an Elizabethan lady walking across the courtyard. She has also heard children’s laughter, when no children have been present in the Hall. Several times she has heard someone playing a Mozart piano piece which stopped the moment she entered the drawing-room, where the piano is situated.

 Image © Copyright David Hignett and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.
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Written Stone Lane

Written Stone LaneWritten Stone Lane, Longridge

Written Stone Lane is little more than a country lane today, but it is part of an old Roman road and was once a thoroughfare. It takes its name from a large slab of stone on the wayside, on which is written ‘Ravffe Radcliffe Laid This Stone to Lye For Ever A.D. 1655’. The words are deeply cut into this stone, which is huge – nine feet long, two feet wide and a foot thick.

Tales speak of a horrible murder committed here, the victim’s subsequent troublesome spirit being exorcised or ‘laid’ under the stone. Several members of the Radcliffe family did pass away just before the date on the stone, so perhaps the victim was one of them?

If the laying of the stone was indeed intended as an exorcism, it does not seem to have been successful. Local people were always convinced that a boggart still haunted the stone. One doctor, passing the stone on horseback one night, was thrown from his seat when his horse reared at some invisible threat. The story says that the doctor, not to be outdone, went up to the stone and threatened the boggart, which then materialised and tried to throttle him!

Many years later, the residents of the nearby farm decided the slab of stone would be ideal for use in their new buttery. Paying no heed to the old legends, the farmer went with two of his horses to drag the stone down the hill to his farm. Despite the fact that the route was all downhill, the task took hours and the horses, when they had completed their work, were exhausted.

After the stone was installed in the buttery, it very soon became apparent that there might have been some truth in the tales after all. Nothing would stand up straight on the stone, which seemed to be able to tip off any dish or jug or kettle placed upon it. What’s more, when the farmer was in bed at night, he could not sleep for the noise of smashing crockery. He realised that the stone would have to go back where it obviously belonged.

Next day, he set about moving the stone again – but even though the return journey was uphill, only one horse was needed and the job was over in no time. And no-one has ever tried to move the stone again.

Text © Melanie Warren 2015
© Copyright Peter Worrell and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.
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snow jan 6 2010 076Today is the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year, when our earliest ancestors rejoiced that from henceforth the days would become longer and the Sun return to the land. It was a day for celebration and feasting and giving thanks and we don’t have to look far to see that many of the old Christmas and New Year customs which prevailed for centuries in Lancashire and other northern counties have their roots in Solstice traditions.

Harland & Wilkinson’s 19th century book on Lancashire folklore describes some of these customs and beliefs.

In the olden time, before the Reformation, Christmas was the highest festival of the Church. In some rural parts of Lancashire it is now but little regarded, and many of its customs are observed a week later, — on the eve and day of the New Year. But still there linger in many places some relics of the old observances and festivities, as the carols, the frumenty on Christmas Eve, the mummers, with the hobby-horse, and the decoration of churches and dwellings with boughs of evergreen shrubs and plants; in the centre of which is still to be found, in many country halls and kitchens, and in some also in the towns, that mystic bough of the mistletoe, beneath whose white berries, it is the custom and licence of the season to steal a kiss from fair maidens, and even from matrons ‘forty, fat, and fair.’

Most of these customs and ‘old observances’ came not from Christianity but from a time before, when evergreens were exchanged as gifts promising the renewal of life and health and when mistletoe was believed to hold such strong magic it should be cut only with a golden sickle. Evergreens were similarly regarded as magical, as they provided shelter for wood-spirits whose native trees had lost their foliage. Frumenty, mentioned above, was a spiced porridge beloved of rich and poor and whilst the 19th century ‘mummers’ performed Christian plays, their mysterious costumes – and their hobby-horse – told entirely different and more ancient tales.

The boys dress themselves up with ribands, and perform various pantomimes, after which one of them, who has a blackened face, a rough skin coat, and a broom in his hand, sings as follows :-

Here come I,
Little David Doubt,
If you don’t give me money,
I’ll sweep you all out.
Money I want,
Money I crave,
If you don’t give me money,
I’ll sweep you all to the grave.

No Christian relics there, I’d dare to say, but old memories of earlier times which then became inextricably mixed with Christian myths and legends. Magic, so long a part of daily life for our ancestors, was never far away. Harlan & Wilkinson continue:-

I have been told in Lancashire, that at midnight on Christmas Eve the cows fall onto their knees, and the bees hum the Hundredth Psalm. I am unwilling to destroy the poetry of these old superstitions; but their origin can, I think, be accounted for. Cows, it is well known, on rising from the ground, get up on their knees first; and a person going into the shippon at midnight would, no doubt, disturb the occupants, and by the time he looked around, they would all be rising on their knees. The buzzing of the bees, too, might easily be formed into a tune, and, with the Hundredth Psalm running in the head of the listener, fancy would supply the rest.

A shame that the writer thought he must explain the ‘old superstitions’ but understandable – I have often done the same thing when a ghost story can be explained in natural terms, despite my internal longing to leave these mysteries alone. That bees should hum a tune was not so unbelievable to a community who revered the tiny creatures and imbued them with intelligence. They worked tirelessly to produce honey for their owner and allowed him to take it and, indeed, it was believed that if the owner of a hive should die, telling the bees of the event was vital if they were not to die themselves.

The Hundredth Psalm, incidentally, is more commonly known now as the Old 100th and is still sung to its traditional 16th century melody. The modern lyrics are from a different psalm altogether, beginning: ‘All creatures that on earth do dwell’ and that line alone is probably enough to bring the tune to mind, but the earlier text was:

Praise God, from whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye heav’nly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost!

A century before Harland and Wilkinson published their collection of folklore, The Reverend Thornber described Christmas customs in the Fylde:-

The midnight carols of the church-singers – the penny laid on the hob by the fire-side, the prize of him who came first to the outer door, to ‘let Christmas in,’ – the regular round of visits – the treat of mince pies – in turn engrossed their attention. Each farm-house and hut possessed a pack of cards, which were obtained as an alms from the rich, if poverty forbade the purchase. Night after night of Christmas was consumed in poring over these dirty and obscured cards. Nor were the youngsters excluded from a share in the amusements of this festal season. Early, long before dawn, on Christmas morning, young voices echoed through streets and lanes, in the words of the old song –

Get up old wives,
And bake your pies,
Tis Christmas-day in the morning,
The bells shall ring,
The birds shall sing,
Tis Christmas-day in the morning.

Here is the specimen of one sung from house to house during Christmas:-

We’re nather cum to yare hase to beg nor to borrow,
But we’re cum to yare hase to drive away o sorrow;
A suop o’ drink, as yau may think, for we’re varra dray,
We’ll tell yau what we’re cum for – a piece o’ Christmas poye.

Thornber mentions mince pies, which were as popular then, over two centuries ago, as they are now. Their filling of dried fruits mixed with Eastern spices was designed to represent the offerings of the three wise men who brought their spices as gifts to the new-born baby Jesus. Mince pies in those days were of a long and slender shape, echoing the shape of the manger in which the baby lay. But along with this Christian tradition we have the mention of playing cards, which were often used for fortune-telling at Christmas and surely not very Christian at all…

Even our tradition of making a Christmas fruit punch derives from the old Wassail, which was a mixture of alcohol, fruits and spices, drunk for enjoyment no doubt but also used to toast the health of the fruit trees in the orchard – a slice of toasted bread soaked in the brew would be placed high in the tree’s branches.

And so this mid-winter festival persists, a wonderful mix of pagan and Christian tradition, belief, mystery and myth, a festival celebrating rebirth – whether of the new year or a holy baby whose arrival was promised by ancient scriptures. The solstice celebration of the shortest day and the coming of the Sun again to the land; the babe in arms who was the reincarnation of a long-gone prophet and whose arrival was full of hope and promise – one can see why these two belief systems were so easily combined. Christianity sought always to blend itself with the existing pagan beliefs of the country it sought to convert and thus control.

At this time of the winter solstice, it is easy to see that our Christmas festival has its roots in our Nordic, pagan, history and so today is a suitable day to wish you all: Merry Christmas! Wassail!

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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.
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The Dule Upon Dun, Chatburn


Once upon a time, in Chatburn, there was a tailor who was unhappy with his lot. One day the Devil appeared and offered him three wishes. In return, he would visit again in seven years time and collect the tailor’s soul. The tailor agreed, asking immediately for a side of bacon, a delicacy he hadn’t tasted for years. His wish was granted at once. Next, the tailor asked to be rid of his nagging wife and at once, it was done. He was immediately sorry he had made such a silly wish – who would bake his bread now, and knit his stockings? “I wish I had never said that,” he said and at once, his wife was returned to her place by the fire.

The tailor, having used all his three wishes and effectively sold his soul for a side of bacon, had seven years to reconsider what he had done and by the time the Devil came back, he was ready for him. He talked the Devil into giving him just one more wish, as he had sold his soul so cheaply. Foolishly, the Devil agreed.

“I wish,” said the tailor, “that you were on the back of the dun horse in that field over there, riding back to where you came from, and that you’re never able to bother me or any other mortals again.” At once, the Devil was swept out of the house and set upon the dun horse, which galloped away, never to be seen again.

The story of the tailor’s great success against the Devil spread across the county and people came from far and wide to meet the man who tricked the devil… and the poor tailor finally found a prosperous life by turning his home into an ale-house for the use of his visitors.

text © Melanie Warren
© Copyright Mike and Kirsty Grundy and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.
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Hawes Tarn, Silverdale

Hawes WaterAn enormous serpent used to live in Hawes Tarn, near Yealand Conyers and Silverdale. When it was hungry, it would leave the Tarn and slither to a large rock known as the Buck Stone, conveniently situated in a field which was often full of sheep. It concealed itself by coiling around the stone and lying still, until a sheep came too close, when it would strike and swallow the sheep whole. When the serpent was eventually killed, the proof of its diet was a wad of wool, lodged inside a hollow tooth.

The Buck Stone, also known as the Rocking Stone, is ten feet high and thirty-three feet around, so the serpent must have been terrifying indeed…

Where did the serpent come from, you may ask? A clue might be found in the name Yealand Conyers, for the area was the dowry of a daughter of William de Lancaster, who married Roger, known as Roger de Conyers. Roger was known and revered in several Durham towns as a dragon-slayer or worm-slayer. This is a strange coincidence. Perhaps a serpent pursued him to the area with the intention of clearing up some unfinished business?

Text © Melanie Warren 2014
© Copyright David Medcalf and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.
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