Monday, July 16, 2007

Things that go Bump in the Fylde...

Anybody attempting to track down missing pieces of our local history should perhaps take note of ‘Collins Field Guide to Archaeology’ which states that: “Folklore should not be overlooked as a source of information on ancient monuments.”
Numerous connections between folklore and archaeology can be found around this district, especially folklore that involves boggarts.
Take Hackensall Hall for example where legend insists that a boggart horse would often lend a helping hand, or possibly hoof, around the farm.
Hackensall Hall dates back to at least 1190 when it was first recorded as Hacunesho, but, if it’s really ancient history that you’re after, then in 1926 around five hundred Roman coins were unearthed from the grounds there in a leather purse. About fifty of them can be found at the Grundy Art Gallery in Blackpool (and when Neil Thompson tells you that he tracked them down himself just say ‘Pah!’ and pay him no attention…Michelle and I tracked them down along with the Hoo Hill Cemetery hammer and the South Shore Roman Coin Hoard…Neil just came along for the ride.)
Hacun, of course, is a Norse name and the ‘ho’ of Hacunesho is also Norse, referring to a burial mound, making Hackensall ‘the burial place of a Norseman called Hacun’. And where there’s boggarts (especially helpful ones) there’s usually a keeill involved. Exactly where the keeill was it’s now difficult to say, although a suspected Roman road (such as you’d generally find next to a keeill) runs from Hackensall Brow to the base of Preesall Hill via Parrox Hall (the gatehouse of which is pictured below).

Speaking of Preesall Hill, the ghostly apparition of a cat in a red soldier’s jacket has been witnessed here on and off by the locals for centuries. Possibly by way of coincidence, in 1934 Charles Preston and John Fairclough were opening up a sand quarry on the hill when twenty-three Roman coins came to light. And this wasn’t the first hoard to be discovered in the boggart cat’s sandy litter tray. William Thornber, back in Victorian times, mentioned a similar discovery made on that particular corner of Preesall Hill, although what’s become of the coins now is anybody’s guess. (Perhaps we’ll get Neil to track them down.)
All of which might lead you to conclude that boggarts were chiefly employed to safeguard secretly buried stashes. Some, however, were more inclined towards spiritual matters, such as standing guard over the dead. At Pilling Hall, for instance, a boggart donkey once haunted the barn. Children approaching the troubled area were advised, for reasons best left to their parents, to chant: “Buttermilk and barley corn.” Close by Pilling Hall stands the site of Newers Wood Chapel, an ancient church, the water stoop of which now acts as the font at Eagland Hill. The building itself, however, was constructed on a mound, the distinctive oval shape of which places it firmly back in Pagan times.
Again, we’re back to keeills. In fact boggart horses/donkeys and keeills are almost always synonymous. Take Bourne Hill, for example, another site haunted by a boggart horse (this time without a head), associated with a Norse battle (possibly Brunanburh, possibly not, but according to legend a Norse battle took place on its slopes nonetheless) and met with at Burn Naze by Kirk Scar, an out jutting promontory the name of which refers to a Norse church standing on a promontory of rocks.
The photograph below shows Kirk Scar in all of its derelict glory.

Not all ghosties and ghoulies have their origins in the ancient past however. The ghostly figure of a woman at St. Anne’s has been witnessed on several occasions, weeping amongst the dunes. (She’d probably seen the price list in the local café.) This melancholic apparition does have a basis in recent history. On the morning of Christmas Eve 1919 the body of 26 year old Kitty Breaks was found in the Starr Hills having been shot three times. Her former lover Frederick Rothwell Holt was charged with her murder. Holt's footprints, along with his gun and blood stained gloves, were, apparently, found amongst the dunes.
The list of ghosts and historic associations goes on. However, not wanting to bore our readers, we don’t. So, if you have any tales of ghostly apparitions haunting your neck of the woods -- demonic rabbits nibbling your petunias, mysterious ladies in the nip…we’d be particularly interested in the latter -- then put the kettle on and give us a call. Who knows, we might even come round to your patch and conduct our own midnight vigils (although we can’t guarantee that Yvette and Derek will be accompanying us).
We’ll try our best to exercise such demons with the aid of our spades and trowels, whilst, hopefully, adding to the Fylde and Wyre’s historical legacy…not to mention its Roman coins.
If nothing else you’ll get your flowerbeds weeded for free.


John said...

This is one of your best posts yet, and that's saying something. I realy enjoyed this!

Keep up the good work, JOHN :0)

Brian Hughes said...


As always, ta very much.

john said...
would you like to see/link to our site..or even like us to do a vigil somewhere .. john

Brian Hughes said...


We'll certainly give you a link. And if we come across anyone who requires your services on our travels we'll be sure to let you know.