Introduction

Hi and welcome to my site.
Cheshire is full of weird and wonderful stories of the supernatural, local heores and the mysterious.
I will take you on a tour as I look deep into the Cheshire that lies underneath the wonderful countryside and find the secrets that still hide there.
What magic and long lost secrets will we find?
So, sit back and enjoy my journey. This is a land of Magic, Knights, Dragons, Wizards, Witches, Boggarts, Murder, Ghosts and Old Forgotten Knowledge.


I would love to hear your stories as well. So if you have anything you would like me to look into and find information out, please let me know.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

HIGHWAYMEN OF CHESHIRE




I have already written about Edward Higgins and Dick Turpin on my blog. But in this section, I will add more tales as I hear of them.

The first I will tell you about is John Proudlove and he was the last man to be hanged in Cheshire for Highway robbery.

THE MIDDLEWICH GANG


This gang was a ruthless band of thieves that had been terrorising the area during the 1820's. They didnt travel on horseback and shout "stand and deliever" but they attacked on lone country roads and rob you at force and they would also break into your home. They would follow on foot after they had watched you for a while.


The members of this gang were:- John Proudlove (age 25), John Leir (age 21), James Harrop (29), James Statham (age 26), John Bostock (age 33), James Walker, brothers Peter (age 28) and John Alcock (age 19) and Samuel Patterson.

John Proudlove was married with two children and his wife was pregant again. They lived in Sandbach and he was a shoemaker by trade. He had had a poor childhood but he had seemed to have made a good living and a respectable member of society but his past had been mard with the death of his father, his mother travelled with a horse and cart selling various goods and he had also witness his brother's death. John had only been about five or six years old when his brother, William, was hung at Chester for thieving.

John Leir was not married but he came from a good family. He was well educated. He worked for Messrs Bull and Co of Sandbach, as a silk weaver.

There seems to have been another member of this gang. Some say he was the leader and very violent but no one ever found out who he was and he was never caught (that we know).

John Proudlove was caught when he robbed a farmer on the Sandbach to Betchton road. And this was thought to have been his only crime until his trail. It was then, he was connected with the gang and other offences came to light, He was sentenced to be executed at Chester in 1829. James Harrop and James Statham had been drinking with John that night, when they singled out the farmer, Robert Moseley. It was Christmas Eve 1828. Both Jame's were sentenced to a death being recorded against them, which meant they were transported away and never to return to this country.

John Leir, John Bostock, James Walker, Peter and John Alcock, and Samuel Patterson were all charged with aggravated burglary. After they had broken into and robbed the home of Rev Bloor at Cross Lanes near Middlewich. They left him bably beaten and close to death. John Leir was found guilty and sentenced to death. Everyone else was found not guilty apart from Samuel Petterson. He too had been found guilty but I dont know his punishment.

John Leir and his friend John Proudlove were both hanged at Chester on Saturday 9th May 1829.

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GEORGE GROOM

He was a 32 year old labourer, married with five children, living in Alsager. George was found guilty of attacking James Kennerley. James (a disabled pensioner) was driving his horse and cart through the village of Odd Rode in Astbury at about 5am on the morning of 27th February 1822.

This was not George's one and only offence but it was his most brutal. He was convicted at the Spring Assizes in 1822 at Chester and executed on Saturday 4th May 1822.


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JOHN GREEN and THOMAS ALLMOND

John lived just outside Shavington with his wife, Elizabeth and five children. They lived with Elizabeth's sister, her husband, Thomas and their six children.

John Green and Thomas Allmond had been charged and tried for burglary. John was 34 years old and Thomas was 27 years old. Their victims were Samuel Dean, age 65 and his wife. They lived in an isolated cottage at Bridgemere. Just after midnight on the 16th May 1826, they were woken up by someone knocking their front door down. Two men were in their house and Samuel recognised John. Samuel and his wife were threatened and their house was ransacked.

John and Thomas made their escape but as they did, they left a trail of goods following them lying on the ground. A local constable, Samuel and some neighbours went to John's house and after finding more of Samuel's items, both John and Thomas were arrested.

John Green was found guilty and hung at Chester on the 26th August 1826. Thomas Allmond had been acquitted. It was said that John had threatened Thomas into helping him. John knew the area very well and could have attacked Samuel anytime travelling home. John also carried a pistol and he could have also been responsible for some smaller roadside hold ups but this was never proved.

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WILLIAM HEATH

William attacked a group of men returning home from a Nantwich Fair in 1841. He was charged with assult rather than robbery. He had stolen some money off one of the men he had hit but he ran of when they had shouted "murder". At his trail, William got two months hard labour.

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JOHN SMITH

John led a gang of about six men who around the 1590's, wreaked havoc around Haslington, Nr Crewe. They used swords, daggers and even canons.

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ROBERT SPONNE

In and around 1602, Robert was a notorious theif and general trouble maker. His area was Warmingham, Sandbach and Middlewich.

Everyone was scared of him, he would even fed his own cattle on other people's land.

Eventhough many of his band of men were caught and hung, Robert always escaped justice.

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HARRISON GANG

These highwaymen terrorised the area between the River Mersey and the River Severn (warrington and Shrewsbury). The members were:- two brothers - Thomas and Richard Harrison and John Norman (age 19 yrs).

Their reign of terror ran during the late 1660's. Thomas and Richard also stole horses and John would find safe houses for them.

In 1668, the gang were respinsible for stealing -
... 2 male horses and 1 mare from Mr Gill at Cuddington (these were later found abandoned on Bartington Heath)
... a mare stolen from John Massey from Bickerton
... a mare stolen from Mr Ashbrook from near Tattenhall
... a horse stolen from Mr Alderman from near Over

Thomas and Richard were nearly caught outside Whitchurch after negotiations with John Carnhill to exchange a stolen horse went wrong. But John was caught at Acton Bridge after trying to find a safe house.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

PRIESTY FIELDS, CONGLETON





Priesty Fields got its name from the legend that there wasnt a Priest to perform services at Congleton. The nearest Priest was based at nearby Astbury. He would walk along an ancient medieval pathway which ran across these fields between the Parish Church at Astbury and St Peter's Church in Congleton.





This pathway crosses Howty Brook. The bridge's foundations date from the 11th century. The brook was the town's source of drinking water until it became polluted.



The first photo is St Peter's Church and the second is the parish church at Astbury.








This area is the scene of my next two tales.

TREASURE AT PRIESTY FIELDS

A hoard of three and a half thousand silver coins were found not far from the bridge in April 1992. The coins were sealed in two ceramic pots and two ceramic wine flagons. The coins were made up of sixpences, shillings, half crowns and crowns These coins were from the reigns of Edward 6th, Philip and Mary, Elizabeth 1st, James 1st, Chearle 1st and Charles 2nd.

It is said, they belonged to a Royalist named John Walker. He died in 1672. He was a local business man as well as Mayor. The coins are now on show at Northwich Salt Museum.

But why did John Walker have to hide these coins and is there anymore still hidden? And why this place?

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MURDER AT PRIESTY FIELDS

I have already written a version of this story in "MURDER IN NORTHWICH", but since I had put that on my blog, I have heard about this version.

In November 1776, the people of Congleton were peparing for an annual fair. This is known as a hiring fair, this was the time when workers/labours who were seeking employment or a change in jobs would come and talk to employers at the fair. Once a bargin or terms had been made, it was sealed by the employer handing over a shilling and the new employee would start on the 1st January.

Anne Smith was a Ballad Singer. Two weeks before the fair, she was lodging in Congleton and earing a living singing ballards in public houses. She told the people where she was loding that she was going away but she would return before the fair.

Samuel Thorley was a Butcher's assistant and part time cattle slaughter and grave digger.

The two met in Astbury village on a wednesday afternoon, two days before the fair. For whatever reason, Mary agreed to go with Samuel to Priesty Fields. Once there, Samuel killed Mary. He cut up her body and disposed of most of it by nearby Howty Brook.

On Saturday morning, after the fair, Mr Newman Garside, a weaver, and a young boy who was helping him came across a terrible sight. They had taken Mr Garside's cows down to Priesty Fields to graze and they saw a cloak on the ground on the other side of the brook. When they went for a closer look, they had noticed that this cloak had blood on. The Police had been called and a search had started. This was when poor Mary's body was found in several pieces.

Samuel fell immediately into suspicion, he was arrested for Mary's murder and taken to Chester. He was found guilty and sentenced to hang. Such was the outcry in Congleton, that his body was brought back and he was hung at its western boundary line for everyone to see.

THE IMAGE HOUSE, BUNBURY


This house dates from the early 1800's and was part of the Peckforton Estate. It is located on the Whitchurch road, near Bunbury Heath.

It was built by Seth Shone on common land, using an old law "SQUATTERS RIGHTS". This law stated that if you could build a house in twenty four hours and have smoke coming from its chimmey, the property became yours. Seth completed this and lived in the house until he was wrongly convicted of poaching. He was deported to Australia. He served eight years and then he returned home. Once home, he started carving stone faces, some say they were the faces of the people who wrongly accused and sentenced him..... the Bailiff, Judge, Gamekeeper and the Jury. He also carved a jackdaw and a fox.


Seth cursed all the stone faces. He also made a stone face which represented the Devil (so that the curse remained). These were then placed on the exterior of his house.








This house was featured in a book THE SHINY NIGHT by Beatrice Tunstall and it was know as the Clock Abbot.

Below the Peckforton Hills by the Peckforton Mere, there was another house with similar stone heads.

Monday, 25 April 2011

DICK TURPIN

We have all read the books, seen the films and/or watched the t.v shows, showing this charater. I am sure we all remember the popular 1970's television series Dick Turpin starring Richard O'Sullivan or even the 1974 Carry on film, Carry on Dick starring Sid James and others.

But as with all historical events, legend and fact are often mixed together. Dick Turpin has been romanticised as a dashing and heroic highwayman but, as we will find out, he was in fact a violent criminal, fugitive and murderer. Not the gentleman highwayman at all.

Richard Turpin was born on the 21st September 1705 at (according to legend) The Spaniards Inn near Hampstead, Essex. Although according to parish records and notes made during his trial, he was born at The Blue Bell Inn, Hampstead. He was baptized on the 21st September 1706 and died on the 7th April 1739 in York.

His father was the licensee of The Blue Bell Inn (later the Rose and Crown). It is said that this is where Dick Turpin got invloved with the smugglers from the coast of East Anglia, as his father knew them.

By the age of 16, Turpin moved to the Whitechapel area of London and took an apprenticeship as a butcher.

Turpin was 23 when he married his childhood sweetheart Elizabeth Millington in 1728 and moved to Buckhurst Hill, Essex. Turpin opened his own butcher's shop. This would lead Turpin on his criminal path. Instead of paying suppliers for his stock, Turpin stole his stock. He was caught stealing two oxen and had to flee leaving behind his wife and business. He hid in the caves along the coast of East Anglia, perhapes mixing with the smugglers he had met as a child. He moved to Epping Forest some time later.

While hiding in the forest, he got involved with The Gregory Gang (otherwise known as The Essex Gang). They were about 20 in this group and they were famous for poaching the King's royal game. Poaching from the King was considered high treason. If caught you faced the gallows or worse, hung, drawn and quartered.

There were three ringleaders of the Gregory Gang, they were Samuel, Jasper and Jeremy Gregory (all brothers). The other gangmembers included:- Thomas Hadfield, Thomas Barnfield, Thomas Rowden, Mary Brazier, John Fielder, Herbert Haines, John Jones, James Parkinson, Joseph Rose, Ned Rust, William Saunders, Humphry Walker and John Wheeler.

The gang were involved in poaching and armed robbery. They would force themselves into usually isolated houses and terrorise the occupants until they got what they wanted.

By 1735, the London Evening Post regularly reported what Turpin and The Essex Gang were doing. Even King George 11 had offered a reward of £50 for their capture.

On 8th February 1735, the Read's Journal reported on the gang's last criminal activity. It is the best surviving account of the gang's activites. It is known as The Loughton Incident. " On Saturday night (1st Feb) last, five rogues entered the house of Widow Shelley at Loughton in Essex, having pistols, and threatened to murder the old lady, if she would not tell them where her money lay, which she obstinately refusing for some time, they threatened to lay her across the fire, if she did not instantly tell them, which she would not do. But her son being in the room, and threatened to be murdered, cried out, he would tell them if they would not murder his mother, and did, whereupon they went upstairs, and took near £100, a silver tankard, and other plate, and all manner of household goods."

"They afterwards went into the cellar and drank several bottles of ale and wine, and broiled some meat, ate the relicts of a filet of veal. While they were doing this, two of the gang went to Mr Turkles, a farmer, who rents one end of the widow's house, and robbed him of above £20, and then they all went off, taking two of the farmer's horses, to carry off their luggage, the horses were found on Sunday the following morning in Old Street."

This was the end of The Gregory Gang. Shortly after the Loughton incident, constables tracked them down whilst the gang were in a tavern in Westminster. Turpin and Thomas Hadfield escaped by jumping out of a window.

Most of the gang were captured and executed including the three brothers.

Turpin joined forces with another member of the gang who escaped and that was Thomas Rowden.

They changed their tactics from robbing isolated farmhouses to robbing stage coaches passing through Epping Forest. Now Turpin was a highwayman. He joined forces with Tom King. Tom was known as The Gentleman Highwayman. He was also known as Captain King. He was dashing and was kind and flattering to his victims. This proved to be a highly successful partnership.

They established a hide out at the remains of an Iron Age Fort, now known as Loughton Camp. From this area in Epping Forest, they could watch a certain road without being seen. They robbed just about everyone who travelled on it, even peddlars started to carry weapons for protection.

By the middle 1730's, the bounty on Turpin's head was just over £100.

By May 1735, Turpin had probably became a murderer. His first kill is said to be Thomas Morris on 4th May. Morris was a servant of Henry Thomson (one of the keeper's of Epping Forest). Morris accidentally came across Turpin at Fairmead Bottom, Near Laughton. Morris tried to capture Turpin so he could claim the reward but Turpin shot him.

Now I will tell you how Turpin found Black Bess. One night while riding on the London road on the way to met Tom King. He saw a beautiful black horse ridden by Mr Major. Turpin pointed a musket in his face and forced him to swop horses. Mr Majors informed the constables about his horse and named Turpin as the thief. The horse was traced to The Red Lion pub in Whitechapel (where Turpin had stabled it). Tom King went to collect the horse for Turpin but he was recognised and arrested. Turpin had been watching and opened fire on the constables. King broke free but it is said that Turpin shot him by mistake. Believing that he had killed his friend, Turpin fled on Black Bess. As King lay dying from his gunshot wound, he told the surviving constables the locations of their hideouts. Perhapes he was seeking revenge for Turpin shooting him.

It was at this time that Turpin was said to have rode Black Bess to York. We all know that this ride is nearlly impossible to have happened the way it is written in folklore but Turpin could have travelled this path, stopping at a tavern or two and it taken longer. Now it is well known that Turpin first rode into Lincolnshire following the Whitechapel skirmish, then to the Humber, into the Yorkshire town of Brough, near Hull, before making his first visit to York.

Turpin took up a new life in the North of England and called himself John Palmer. He bought barns and stables in Lincolnshire and Yorkshire. He posed as a wealthy and respectable horse dealer. But what his customers didnt know was that he was dealing in stolen horses. John Palmer was caught and arrested in the early part of 1739. He was caught shooting his landlord's gamecock and threatening to shoot a bystander. He was living at The Ferry Inn at Brough, 12 miles from Hull at the time. He was found out regarding the horse stealing and tranferred to the dungeons of York's Debtor's Prison (now part of York Castle Museum).

From his cell, he wrote to his brother in law for help but the postage was payable by the recipient and Turpin's brother in law refused to pay the sixpence postage. The unread letter fell into the hands of John Smith, the village postmaster and schoolmaster. He recognised the handwriting and travelled to York to identify Palmer as Turpin. John Smith collected a £2oo reward.

On 22nd March 1739, Richard Turpin alias John Palmer, was convicted of being a horse rustler. But he was never convicted of being a highwayman.

On 7th April 1739, Dick Turpin rode through the streets of York, dressed in his new clothes and shoes, bowing to the crowds that lined the streets. At York Knavesmire (now the racecourse), he climbed to the scaffold and addressed the crowd for half an hour. Ironically, Turpin's hangman was Thomas Hadfield, once Turpins friend and former Gregory Gang. He was pardoned because he had agreed to be the hangman. Perhapes, this is why when Turpin found out and saw him, he threw himself off the ladder.

Turpin's body was buried at St George's Churchyard. His body was buried in quicklime so to destroy the remains quickly. A headstone in the churchyard commemorates him but it is not at the correct location. His remains have never been found.

But what has this to do with Cheshire. There are three pubs in Cheshire that have a long history of Dick Turpin. It is claimed that he stayed in .................................


THE HAWK INN, HASLINGTON, NR CREWE










THE SARACENS HEAD, WARBURTON, NR LYMM








THE KILTON, KNUTSFORD

Saturday, 26 February 2011

CHESHIRE's FAIRY FOLK



Like other area's of the British Isles, Cheshire has tales about fairies. Belief in these has wained over the years esp as more and more homes are built to house our growing population, old little villages are becoming more like towns. But there are still people out there that still believe or are just a little too scared not to carry on the tradition, just in case.


There are many areas across Cheshire that is supposed to house fairy folk. Many ancient burial mounds or tumulus are said to be guarded by these little people.







Another sign is a circle of grass that is both a different colour and texture to the rest of the area. These are known as a Fairy Ring. It is beleived that fairy's met here and hold dances. There are a couple of rules to follow if you fing one of these rings ------


---- Dont damage the area
--- Dont sit in this area, esp on May Eve, Midsummer's Eve and All Hallow's Eve because you could find yourself in the fairy realm, never to return.
--- always acknowldge them as you walk pass either by nodding your head or saying hello, bad luck will befall you if you dont.

But if you wish to see the little people, it is said you can if you run around the ring nine times, clockwise, on a full moon.

Many areas in Cheshire have fairy glen's or fairy hills. Around Toot Hill in Macclesfield Forest, some farmers leave food out for the fairies before a field is ploughed or harvested.


In Ince, their local church is built on the site of a Norman Chapel but the local legend is that the original builders wanted the church built on the other side of the village. During the day, the builders worked hard but at night, the fairies would come and move the stones to where the church stands today. After some time, the builders agreed to build the church where the fairies wanted it.




There is a similar story at Bramall Hall at Stockport. About half a mile from the Hall, there is an area known as Crow Holt Wood or Fairiy Wood. This was where the hall was originally planned to be built. But again as the bilders worked during the day, the fairies removed the timbers and stones during the night. And this is why Bramall Hall is built in its present location.

ANIMALS




What is Cheshire's most famous animal?

Of course, THE CHESHIRE CAT.


In this section, I will look at all animals, whether they are real or myth.





CATS

Lewis Carroll made this animal famous when he wrote about it in Alice's Adventure in Wonderland. The cat disappears leaving behind its grin. But what has a grinning cat got to do with Cheshire. I will list a few examples of where the saying could have come from and then let you deside -----

--- an unhappy sign painter trying to represent the lion of the Egerton family on boards outside a few inns. Very few people knew what a growling lion looked like and most painting from this time looked more like a large furry cat smiling.
--- the arms of the Earls of Chester (which is a wolf's head) has sometimes been mistaken for a grinning cat.
--- local Cheshire Cheese was commonly fashioned into various animal shapes years ago. One of these was a grinning cat.
--- the British Blue Cat are known for a smiling expression and these cats were popular in Cheshire.
--- one of the ancient Celtic tribes living in this area during the Roman occupation were called Cornovii, whose symbol was a cat. They were known as and Cheshire is still known by this "PEOPLE OF THE CAT".

--- there is a rock feature known as the Cat Stones, which are part of The Cloud. This area, it is said, that people came here from about the second century to worship the Moon Goddess. There are some carvings in stone on Bidston Hill, these show the Moon Goddess. She has a moon at her feet and the face of a cat. Did the same people who made the carvings also worship at The Cloud.


--- there is also something known as The Cheshire Smile or Cheshire Grin. This was a term once widely used in Cheshire as a form of death for poachers. They had their throats cut from ear to ear, hence the smile.

Cats have always been associated in legends.


In Egypt, a cat was so important that if you killed a cat, you were punished by death. If the family cat died, the entire family would shave off their eyebrows as a sign of mourning.









In Norse mythology, the chariot of the Goddess Freya (Goddess of beauty, love and fertility) is drawn by two large longhaired cats.








In Japan, a cat brings good luck. And in Czechoslovakia, the cat is also a symbol of fertility.


In Britain, as well as most of Europe, the cat esp a black cat, is associated with bad luck, witchcraft and black magic. During the Middle Ages, the cat was said to be a familar to a witch.









Did Cheshire stand alone from the rest of the country, in its legend of the Cat People, Cat Stones or is it just because of the countryside and farms, that cats have always survived in.

Whatever the reason, the Cheshire Cat is famous around the world.

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DOGS









Another animal known across the country and esp in Cheshire is The Black Dog.

They are either guardians of a churchyard or foretellers of doom and death. The most famous is the Black Dog of Barthomley, who haunts around the Church and Rectory. This could have come from the belief that if a black dog was buried in a new churchyard, it would then guard it against the Devil.

But what about the Hounds from Hell. These Black dogs collect the human souls for the Devil.
So whichever way we look at it, these dogs are associated with the death of a human, weather it is protecting it or collecting. I know I am in no rush to met one of these dogs.

I have come across a tale of a White Hound with a chain around its neck. He has been seen near the church at Bunbury. Not sure if this hound is the guardian or not.

There is another belief associated with dogs but this time you dont have to see them, just hear them. A dog can sense when its owner is ill or dying. This is due to the dog sensing the chemical changes in the human body. The dog sometimes howls when this is happening. But long before science found this out, people who heard a dog howling considered this as a death omen and it was said that the actual moment of death was thought to be marked by a dog howling three times. A case of science finally catching up with myth.


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WEREWOLF










This werewolf came from Longdendale, near the Cheshire/Staffordshire border. This tale is from around the time of King Henry II's reign.

The Abbott of Basingwerke was asked by the local people of the area for help against this evil creature that cursed this land for such a long time. The Abbott cursed the animal so it should remain in the condition it was at that time.

King Henry had heard about this creature and together with his son, Prince Henry, Lord Longdendale, Baron Ashton and other dignitories deceided to hunt down the creature. The hunting party set off nut the Prince became seperated and he was attacked by the werewolf. The Baron of Ashton came to his help and killed the beast.

News travelled fast and the village celebrated that they were finally rid of the creature. The body of the werewolf had been cut open and it is said that the heads of three babies fell out.

Later that day, a forester said he had seen the werewolf in the forest earlier that morning. It was screaming like a woman and trying to tear its own skin off.

Had the curse worked and when the werewolf had tried to change back into human form, it realised it couldnt.

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WHITE OWL










There is a legend associated with the churchyard at Old St Chads, Tushingham and a couple of other churchyards across Cheshire. The legend is that if anyone sees a white owl flying down the tower and lands in the churchyard, they or someone close to them will die.






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DRAGONS

These creatures are known not only throughout the country but the world. There are many tales in folklore and legends. These large creatures had long tails, huge wings, long necks, they could breath fire and were covered in scales. They lived in caves, forests or near lakes.

In folklore, they attacked isolated villages, killing humans and livestock. They were also associated with supernatural powers and to be able to speak.


The word DRAGON entered the English language in the early 13th century from the old French word, which in turn came from the Latin DRACONEM meaning HUGE SERPENT.


Dragons are commonly depicted as malevolent(evil) but there are a couple of exceptions like Y DDRAIG GOCH, the Red Dragon of Wales.






The Romans used the dragon as a symbol of fear. One of their military standards was a large dragon fixed to the end of a lance, its jaws were made of silver and the rest of its body made of coloured silk. It made a noise as the wind went through it jaws.



In Cheshire, we have our own Dragon tale, The Dragon from Moston. I have already written about this on my blog.

But there is another Dragon associated with this area. You may have heard of Leylines or Engry lines. Well we have these lines called Dragon Lines or Dragon Paths. These link abcient sites to one another. For example, there is a line running through Tattenhall, running from Lower Hall, Newton Hall, St Alban Tattenhall Church, Dragon Hall and then down to a Tumulus at Meadows Farm.

THE KNIGHTS GRANGE, WINSFORD



This tale carrys on from my Vale Royal Abbey blog story.

This Grange was once owned by Vale Royal Abbey. It was one of their farms.

The Grange appears under this name for the first time in 1325/6, when the Abbots servants seized 50 pigs that were feeding in a local wood without permission. These pigs were taken to the Grange of Knytes. This was written in one of the abbots ledgers.


The name refers to the young men who worked on the farm. They normally lived in or near to the abbey but they didnt take their full vows. They were more labourers.

By the end of the Middle Ages, it was let as a working farm. It continued to be let until 1912 when it was sold by auction to raise money for Lord Delamere's trips to Kenya. It had been in this family since 1616 when Lady Mary Cholmondeley bought the Vale Royal estate. Lady Cholmondeley probably was responsible for the building of the brick mansion you see today. It is one of the oldest brick buildings in the country. It is also said that she loved this building and one of her favourites.

It went through the ownership of Tom Platt and then Edwin Hopley until Winsford UDC bought it in 1972. The old farmhouse is now a public house and land also forms a sports centre owned by Vale Royal Borough Council.

There is a legend of tunnels leading to the old Vale Royal Abbey and the ghost of Ida the nun has been seen here.


MURDER TALE

Albert Stanley was the landowner in 1903-04. His daughter was meeting a young man. Albert thought that this young man was not good enough for his daughter and he went after them. There was an accident (or was it) and Albert shot the young man dead. His daughter never forgave her father.


INVESTIGATION

I have conducted an investigation here and we did come across a few weird events.

--- I had a couple of stones thrown at me while I was on my own in the loft.
--- a fellow investigator saw a hooded clocked figure downstairs
--- we all got the feeling that we were being watched.

Other activity reported here are

--- Ida the nun has been seen sitting on a chair by the front door
--- tables and chairs heard moving across the stone floor
--- a woman seen upstairs (some say it is Lady Cholmondeley)
--- shadowery figures
--- pool balls move on their own

TROUBLE AT VALE ROYAL and a NUN'S GRAVE


This Abbey was founded by King Edward I after a dream he had. The then, Prince of Wales, was in danger on board his ship on his return from The Holy Land. Praying that they would not become shipwrecked, he made a vow to convent of Cistercian Monks. Some time later, he was taken prisoner during the Baron's Wars and held at Hereford. The Monks from a nearby monastery of Dore would visit him and out of gratitude for their kindness, he fulfilled his vow.

During 1273, he removed the Monks from Dore to Dernhall where they stayed for a few years until he became King.

Building work began in the neighbouring area called Wetene-Hall-Wez and the King changed its name to Vale Royal.

The first stone was laid by King Edward and Queen Eleanor laid the second stone on the 6th August 1277. The monks lived in a small temporary building in Dernhall from 1281-1330, when they moved into their new, splendid mansion which cost £30,000.




These monks enjoyed many riches and privileges under a Royal Founder. They had the power of probation of criminals and even the power of life and death within the manors of Dernhall, Over and Weaverham.

Friction between the Monks and the local population and this lead to violent uprisings. Here are a few examples that happened:----
--- there was a law saying that no woman wa able to marry outside the manor without obtaining permission and paying a fee to the Abbot. Another payment had to be made once she became pregnant.
--- in 1320, John of Budworth (one of the Abbots servants) was attacked and killed in Darnhall. It is said that his head was used as a football by his attackers who were members of the Oldyngton Family.
--- Brother John Lewis was ambushed in Tarvin and this led to an open rebellion. His attackers were taken to Weaverham prison.
--- around 1311, the abbot and several monks were arrested and accused of harbouring a gang of bandits. They stayed inside the abbey and were later let off with no criminal action.
--- in 1336, a number of men went to Chester to plea for their freedom from the abbot. They were thrown in Over prison. This started a fight between the villagers (supported by the Venables family) and the abbey. Twelve of the villagers were taken to Stamford and ordered to surrender their goods and lands.
--- in 1340, the abbot was murdered by some locals including a member of the Venables family. In the same year, a number of men burnt down the abbots house in Chester.
--- by the end of the 14th century (1395-6) an inquest was held into the affairs and mismanagement of the abby and behaviour of the monks and abbot.
--- things didnt improve at Vale Royal, murder, rape, taking bribes and other criminal offences were reported.

By the time of the Dissolution, the incomes of Vale Royal and Combermere were considerable. In 1538, John Harewood, 21st abbot, handed over Vale Royal to the Crown. The abbey was knocked down and left in ruin.


The present building was built on the site of the abbey by Sir Thomas Holcroft. This later became the home of the Cholmondeley Family and later 1st Baron Delamere. The mansion is now divided into apartments.




THE CHOLMONDELEY/DELAMERE FAMILY

Lady Mary Cholmondeley bought the property in 1616 for £9,000. She was the widow of Sir Hugh Cholmondeley. In 1617, James I stayed here.

Part of the estate was destroyed during the civil war and the rebuild was carried out for Thomas Cholmondeley, later Ist Lord Delamere. He held the estate from 1779 until his death in 1855.

The family held the estate until 1947.


SECRET TUNNELS

There is a legend that a secret tunnel lead from the abbey to the nunnery at Winsford. The Monks and Nuns would use this to met in secret. Bodies of babies have said to have been found in this tunnel.



THE NUN'S GRAVE



This is all that remains of a grave and monument to a nun called Ida. It is thought the monument was erected by the Cholmondeley family to possibly add credence to the legend.





The stone circle of the nun's grave is situated near the supposed high alter of the former abbey church. The grave is composed of material from three sources:----
1/ a medieval cross head with four sculptured panels depicting the Crucifixion, the virgin and child, St Catherine and St Nicholas.
2/ a sandstone shaft possibly of the 17th century.
3/ a plinth made up from salvaged abbey masonry.

There are two slightly different versions of the legend of Ida.

First version is --- Ida was a young girl from Overton who was befriended by Peter, a canon of Norton Priory. He became Abbot of Vale Royal (an unlikely change of order. The only Peter who was abbot was the 5th abbot around 1320-1340. This Peter had many struggles with local villians). Ida entered the Convent of St Mary at Chester. The Abbot had to visit the city and while he was there, he was taken ill. Ida came to him and while she nursed him back to health, they fell in love. They realised that their vows prevented any relationship on earth but agreed to be buried in the same grave so they could spend eternity together.

Second version is --- Ida didnt know the abbot but she was sent to Vale Royal to nurse him. She stayed until he died and as a mark of her kindness the monument was built.

Human bones were found under the monument, they were said to be female. So it looks like Ida was buried alone. These bones are now said to be inside the libuary.


GHOSTLY SIGHTENINGS

--- Monks have been seen around the grounds
--- Ida has been seen by the monument and inside the house
--- music has been heard at the grave at midnight
--- chanting has been heard around the ground


Friday, 25 February 2011

THE END OF OULTON HALL



Nowadays, this whole area is a racing circult, there is little evidence of the Hall and parklands that once stood here. Thousands of people come here to watch motor racing at weekends without ever knowing the history associated with this land. I too use to come here most weekends as a child. My grandfather, MR JACK THOMAS, helped run the bike racing. He was also known as MR OULTON. I would mix with all the bikers and watch the racing. I would also go and roam the whole area, knowing very little of the history I was walking on.

The Egerton Family were landowners for nearly 500 years and in the reign of Henry VII, they became Lords of the Manor. The family lived in a large Tudor house but this was destroyed by fire. So in 1715, John Egerton(1656-1731), began to rebuild his home.

During 1731, after inheriting this manor house, formal gardens and farmland from his uncle, John, his nephew Philip Egerton (1694-1766) began to build a brick wall to enclose the estate after he had enlarged it from 231 acres to 315 acres. After his death, his brother, John, took over and then succeeded by his son, Philip (1738-1786) in 1770.

Fashion changed and formal gardens were taken over by a landscaped garden surrounded by park land. Over the years, building work and improvements were made and the house containded a fine art collection.

But money was slowly running out and during the 1920's the Hall was leased to industrialist Mr F W Cooper. At 10am on Valentine's Day 1926, the family were having breakfast when the housemaid reported that the upper floors were on fire. By 10.30am the Tarporley Fire Brigade had arrived. You can imagine the scene, about 20 people were running in and out of the building trying to save the works of art and other people running for their lives, panic scenes.

Suddenly at 11.30am, the roof collapsed. Six people died either at the scene or later in hospital. The fire continued to burn for several days. The fire was reported in both the Telegraph and the Times. This fire had also been one of the first where more than one fire brigade worked together, three further brigades had to be called in, Chester City, Messrs Brunner Mond and Co and Winsford.

The ruin of the Hall remained standing until World War II, when they were hit by German bombs. General Patton was based here in the run up to the Normandy Landings. During this time, troops had used the estate but they left at the end of the war. The estate was covered in rubble, huts and a twelve foot roadway. It was returned to Sir Philip Grey Egerton in 1950.



It was at this time that two members of the Mid Cheshire Motor Club suggested that some of the roadway could be used for motor racing. And the rest as they say is history.





Very little of this great estate still exists today. The Entrance gates, lodges and screen designed by Joseph Turner in about 1775. In the grounds is a monument of 1846 to the memory of John Francis Egerton of the Bengal Horse Regiment, who died in India in 1846, designed by Scott and Moffatt. The stable block designed by Lewis Wyatt and a farm building has also survived. These are all Grade II listed buildings.

CIVIL WAR MASSACRE and the GHOSTS AT BARTHOMLEY, nr CREWE


Barthomley is home to a few wonderful tales. Thers the ancient burial ground, a prince turned hermit, a massacre, a large black dog and a ghostly white lady. These are all located around the church and the White Lion public house.

In the Domesday Survey, Barthomley was listed as Bertemelev. The Church (St Bertoline) is situated on a mould, known as Barrow Hill, this is an ancient burial ground. The church is dedicated to an 8th century saint who performed a miracle here. He was an Mercian Prince turned hermit.


On December 23rd 1643, Royalist forces attacked a group of villagers. They ran and hid in the church tower. The Officer in charge of the troops, Major Connaught, ordered a fire to be made of wood and rushes at the foor of the tower. This smoked the villagers out. As these poor villages left the tower, twelve of them were slaughtered. Major Connaught was tried for murdering several people in the church. His trial focussed on the death of just one of these villagers --- JOHN FOWLER. It is said that the Major struck a battleaxe across the left side of John Fowler's head, a fatal blow. The Major was found guilty and he was hung at Boughton, Chester on the afternoon of Tuesday 17th October 1654. He went to the scaffold protesting his innocence.


The LADY IN WHITE is said to haunt the church field and around the church. Who is she and why does she stay here? The white lady or sometimes known as grey lady is associated with the loss of a loved one either a husband, lover or a child. There is a story that she belonged to one of the large families in the area. When she died, there was no room in the churchyard, so land by the old rectory was quickly comsumated by the vicar and she was buried there. But surely, if she came from a large important family, she would have already have a family plot. Perhapes she had been a loved family servant?





Another sightening is a large black hound. This roams the old rectory drive (where the village hall is today) and around the churchyard. This hound was beleived to be a portent of evil or the hound of hell. These hounds of hell are said to forsee death and collect the souls of the person near to death. This hound could also be a Graveyard ghost. This spirit is beleived to have special abilities. It is normally the first body to be buried in a churchyard and it then would return to guard the area against the Devil. There are many black dog sightenings across the country, that roam churchyards and near churches. Perhapes these faithful dogs are still guarding the final resting places of the people buried here.



THE WHITE LION







This inn dates from 1614. It is one of the original inns in Cheshire. Originally belonging to Sir Randulph Crewe, whose family emblem, the silver lion, gave the pub its name.


The Manor Polls show that the Parish Clerks lived and sold ale here as early as the 16th Century and an old lease referred to this pub as The Clerk's Cottage. It was also used by the Court Leet and Court Baron of John Crewe and rents were collected from here.





There have been a few reported paranormal events in this pub including ------
--- an old farmer wearing a beige smock, he had a round face and a beard seen standing on top of the stairs. He spoke and said "is this yours"
--- smoke rings have been seen upstairs
--- people have been touched
--- tapping and knocking sounds
--- doors open and close, also lock on their own
--- shadows seen
--- a man has been seen sitting at one of the tables in the pub, only to disappear
--- a man hung himself in the pub and he has been felt



INVESTIGATION




My group investigated this area and the pub. Apart from a few "orbs", we found nothing outside.







Inside the pub, we caught this photo of a mist, one member had her leg tickled and we did get a strange reaction to a pendulum experiment.