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A grand house in Wesham was one of many secret refuges for priests following the dissolution of the monasteries but Father George Haydock met a brutal end when he was given up by a Fylde Coast resident. We find out more day 15 of Hallowe’en tales.

The once great manor of Mowbreck Hall was built in the 12th century in the old parish of Wesham, near modern-day Kirkham. It was later rebuilt in the Georgian period and, interestingly, local entrepreneur Basil Newby grew up there. He’s shared very fond memories of the hall, saying it was like living in Narnia, which is such a magical description.

Mowbreck Hall was originally the ancestral seat of the Westby family, devout Catholics known for their pilgrimages and martyrdoms. In the wake of the dissolution of the monasteries, secret Catholics continued to practice their now illegal faith in clandestine masses.

Lancashire was a secret haven for Catholics, with old aristocratic Catholic families harbouring priests within crawl spaces and holes inside the walls of their great houses. The Westby’s of Mowbreck Hall were one such family. In 1583, they hid members of the Haydock family, of which Vivian Haydock was the head. He was a recently converted Jesuit minister, and his sons William and George were just as devout, with William taking orders as a monk and George an illicitly practising priest.

As Vivian stood at the altar, the gruesome apparition of his son’s severed head appeared before him, floating in the air.

During the Feast of All Hallows, Vivian stood in Westby’s private chapel, preparing to conduct mass. At that very moment, his son George was betrayed in London by a man from the Fylde Coast who had reported him to the Crown for practising a Roman Catholic mass. He would be sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered for high treason.

As Vivian stood at the altar, the gruesome apparition of his son’s severed head appeared before him, floating in the air. It was battered and bloodied, its lips bleeding as it recited a strange prediction to his father:

‘Tristitia Vestra Vertetur in Gaudium.’ Your sadness is turning to joy.

Poor terrified Vivian passed out in fear and later died of his extreme shock. What is even more intriguing is that one year later, his son George did indeed lose his head when he was executed, but before he did so, his suffering would be indescribable.

After a year rotting in the dungeons of the Tower of London, George Haydock was sentenced to be “drawn on a hurdle to the place of execution where you shall be hanged by the neck and being alive cut down, your privy members shall be cut off and your bowels taken out and burned before you, your head severed from your body and your body divided into four quarters to be disposed of at the King’s pleasure.”

Until relatively recently, George’s preserved head was installed as a sacred relic in the attic chapel at Lane End House, Mawdesly – a 16th century house on the edge of the village

The apparition of George’s severed, bloody head made its first appearance in 1583, although it appeared at Mowbreck Hall many times after that. The family took it to be a warning of forthcoming misery and misfortune. The head would appear floating in mid-air, often accompanied by the sounds of weeping, groaning and footsteps.

Mowbreck Hall was demolished in the 1970s after sadly being left abandoned by its new owners and then burnt to the ground by vandals.

Read our previous Hallowe’en Tales

Day 1 – The Curse of Carleton Crematorium.
Day 2 – The Witch Ducking Stools of Poulton-Le-Fylde.
Day 3 – The Ghost-Seer of Weeton.
Day 4 – Smuggling, Drowned Nuns and Fallen Acrobats at Raikes Hall

Day 5 – The Hauntings at the Old Coach House
Day 6 – Old Scrat
Day 7 – A Goblin Funeral at Extwistle Hall
Day 8 – The Ghost of Lady Macbeth
Day 9 – The Mermaid & The Sea Serpent of Marton Mere
Day 10 – The Banshee of Poulton
Day 11 – The Possession of the Lancashire Seven
Day 12 – Lady Fleetwood of old Ross Hall
Day 13 – Tales of Boggart House Farm
Day 14 – Miss Bamber of Marton and her Charms

Take a look at Zowie Swan’s debut novel, Chingle Hall here.

Reclaim Blackpool - Mapping Sexual Harrasment
  • Zowie Swan is a local writer of fiction and folklaw. Her debut novel, Chingle Hall, is out now with Safety Pin Publishing. She's also bassist for Blackpool band Dischord.

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