Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Ghostly Goings on at Goosnargh

This is Chingle Hall -- short, squat and not particularly attractive to look at -- although not as repulsive as Susan Boyle, of course, but then again, what is? However, the place is replete with dark history and ghosties and ghoulies and things that go bump in the garderobe. (And before anybody complains, we didn’t have a camera on us last time we went, so we’ve had to borrow the following photographs from the various contributors to the Fylde and Wyre Antiquarian forum. Cheers for them.)

History first, then -- the hall was built in 1260 by Sir Adam de Singleton, after whom it was named. Sort of. It was originally called Shingle Hall, because, let’s face it, they weren’t very good at spelling stuff back in those days.
Not only is Chingle Hall allegedly the most haunted house in Britain (which is going some you’ve got to admit) but it’s also the oldest inhabited brick building.
Yes…you did read that correctly. Now how’s that for a well kept secret? (Actually, it’s not that well kept because it’s mentioned at Wikipedia, which is where I’m nicking most of this stuff from.)
One or two bits might even be older. For example, again according to Wikipedia so whether it’s true or not is anybody’s guess, some of the ceiling beams in the chapel were apparently tested by scientists at some point or other and were found to be ancient and containing a large amount of salt. The current theory is that they belonged to a Viking longship.
Right, it’s time for our first ghost story. One member of the Singleton family, Eleanor, was reportedly kept prisoner in her room for twelve years before mysteriously dying/being bumped off at the age of seventeen. Over the intervening centuries (although mainly in the last few decades I suspect) visitors to Eleanor’s bedroom have felt unearthly fingers tugging at their clothing and smelt ghostly wafts of lavender drifting ethereally up their nostrils (nothing to do with the josticks hidden behind the bedstead). Some people have also seen orbs floating round the ceiling. (Insert your own pun here.)
Getting back to the history proper, in 1620 John Wall, a notorious catholic priest, was born at Chingle Hall. Obviously he wasn’t a catholic priest when he was born. That’s just my bad grammar. He was actually ordained in 1641. Now, the more historically observant amongst our reader/s will no doubt have realised that being a catholic priest in 1641 wasn’t exactly the brightest of career options. Catholicism was illegal at the time (Queen Mary's persecution of the protestants some years before hadn’t exactly received the warm reception that you might have expected). Regardless of this, what with Lancashire being the stronghold for Catholics that it was, Father Wall continued to use his home as a place of worship.
The building is littered with priest holes and secret compartments, like the one in the photograph taken by John Allen-Davies below, where all the paraphernalia that Catholics utilize during mass (such as those burning handbag things that they swing about on ropes and stuff) were hidden in case any unexpected soldiers turned up.

In 1678 John Wall was arrested, whisked off to Worcester gaol, given the choice between life and Catholicism, chose the wrong one and was promptly hung, drawn and quartered. The various parts of his anatomy were donated to his colleagues, who after a brief discussion about the possibilities of some entertaining items of novelty furniture (no, not really, I just made that bit up) buried most of them in St. Oswald's churchyard. The head, however, was donated to some monks at Worcester, possibly for football practice.

I vaguely remember somebody telling me once that whenever anybody photographed a particular niche inside Chingle Hall, the resulting image contained the ghostly head of John Wall himself, screaming horribly. Oddly enough I’ve never actually seen any of these spectral photographs in paranormal books or on the telly or anywhere. I suspect that somebody was pulling my leg. Perhaps it was Eleanor Singleton.
Anyhow, in 1764 Chingle Hall passed into the hands of the Farrington family; another group of fanatical Catholics with nothing better to do at weekends, who set about building more priest holes and escape tunnels. All of this probably explains why so many ghostly monks are still stomping around the building. In the 1997 (once again according to Wikipedia, so make of it what you will):

…parapsychologist Darren Done had a unique experience. As he stood at the window of the landing, preparing to film an area outside where sightings of a ghostly monk have been reported, he claims he was suddenly knocked in the face with such force that he fell to the ground, receiving a cut and swelling to his nose.

Catholic monks, eh? No wonder nobody liked them.
A man with shoulder length hair has apparently been witnessed on several occasions passing the window of the priest's room. Obviously he had very long legs, because the window’s on the first floor.
To be honest there are dozens of ghost stories connected with Chingle Hall, from skeletons buried under windowsills to ghostly hands shuffling bricks about. Cromwellian soldiers have marched down the drive and pulled the spark plugs out of cars. I even remember an item on Nationwide many years ago in which the reporter received a crack on the head by a low flying shield. Perhaps a pinch of salt squeezed from the ancient ceiling beams should be added to the lot of them, the amount of seasoning required depending on your personal level of scepticism.
Back in the eighties, however, I met a bloke in the Traveller’s Rest one night who insisted that he’d had a paranormal experience at Chingle Hall during a charity sleep over. He even produced a cassette recording to ‘prove it’ which he played to me on his stereo in the car park.
They were all sceptics at first,” he insisted. “An’ we’re not talking about a bunch o’ soft gets ’ere neither. They were all well-built working class brickies what were there.
The recording itself was muffled, but ran something along the lines of:

Who’s drunk all t’ beer?
Get the microphone out o’ y’r undies, y’ dirty sod.
Gaz is running round wi’ no clothes on.

The conversation continued in this fashion for some time. Just as the late night belching was starting to subside however it was interrupted by a series of difficult to interpret noises. My associate (who shall remain nameless for reasons that should be obvious by now) explained that some large dark presence had moved across the room. A low, almost inaudible moan broke the stillness and a massive dent suddenly appeared in the table on which, a few short moments before, he’d been lying, attempting to set fire to his own flatulence.
The table was at least twelve inches thick!” he informed me.
At this point the recording broke into pandemonium as half a dozen terrified brickies, quickly reverting to the mental state of five year olds, all attempted to squeeze through one small doorway at once.

Y’re stood on me foot!
Something’s got ’old o’ me!

Exit (pursued by a bear).

Let’s conclude then with one last photograph, taken several decades ago by the looks of it, of John Davies-Allen (Wyre Archaeology Expert in Building Techniques) standing on the bridge across Chingle Hall’s moat. There’s nothing particularly historical or paranormal about it, I’m afraid, but I couldn’t think of any other way to end this guided tour.


Jayne said...

What a fine set of chimney pots!

WV =miness
Yes, miness, all miness, I tell you!

Anonymous said...

Cheers Brian.. interesting artical but that last photo spoils it hahah.

Brian Hughes said...


Your obsessions with chimney pots worries me, although I suspect Sigmund Freud, if he were still with us, would be nodding his head knowingly right about now.

John...(I assume),

You look like a hit-man in that photo. Well...a cross between a hit-man and Alvin Stardust at any rate.

John said...

Now that's the kind of post I've been looking for, when I beg for something spooky each Halloween! Bout time.

Excellent, and quite good, and very entertaining.

You do seem a bit skeptical, unles you're jus ttrying to protect yourself from some treasing?

I'd be skeptical meself, except I've had a number of paranormal experiences which have convinced me that something's goin on out there, and so maybe some of these stories at Chingle may be true.

As for violence and ghosties, maybe they have to be a bit forward just to get people's attention in this age of science, wisdom, and obvious skepticism?

JOHN :0)

Brian Hughes said...


I'm sceptical about everything. I'm not even convinced that I exist sometimes.

John said...

in the words of Krazy Kat, "What a li'l philosopher!"

In me own words, Phbbbt!

JOHN :0)

PS Best post EVER! More ghost stories!

Brian Hughes said...


I'll try and dig out a few more old haunts for you at some point.

JahTeh said...

Now I'm going to have to haul out my collection of Hans Holzer's ghost books to see if he's been here.

That's a real pain because I can see them at the bottom of 12 other books I'll have to move.

History Hunter said...

We went here with school and I wish I had paid more attention. Was more interested in sneaking out for a fag!

Nothins interestin at 14 though.

Brian Hughes said...


Spot cream and the latest number one in the pop charts, curely?

Ozfemme said...

I'll have to have a night light on again now... sighs...

Brian Hughes said...


I always leave the bedside lamp on anyway...mainly as a deterent against wayward spiders.