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31 Days of Hallowe’en Tales: Day 16 – Burnley’s Satanic Pigs and the Clogging of Owd Nick

Pendle is well know for its witches, quite literally overlooking Burnley. In fact the town has rich folklore of its own with ancient monuments, demonic pigs, satanic burn marks, haunted churchyards and skriking hell-hounds. We find out all about them on the 16th day of Hallowe’en Tales.

On the outskirts of the borough of Pendle sits the town of Burnley. The town lies in a natural three-forked valley where the River Brun meets the River Calder. It is surrounded by open fields, with wild and windswept moorland above it. Today we know it as a relic of the Industrial Revolution, with its Weavers Triangle of cotton mills and rows of mill-worker cottages. However, the area has been inhabited for an age and the hills above the town are littered with barrows, stone circles and hill forts.

Burnley has always been a place of great superstition and its inhabitants often sought ways of protecting themselves from evil curses and bewitchment from their neighbouring witches. The following was found over the door of a house in a neighbourhood of Burnley. Its occupier had experienced “ill luck” and so he sought protection from all evil-doers:

Sun, Moon, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, Saturn, Trine, Sextile, Dragon’s Head, Dragon’s Tail, I charge you all to gard this hause from all evils spirits whatever, and gard it from all Desorders, and from aney thing being taken wrangasly, and give this famaly good Ealth & Welth.

In the centre of Burnley is the parish church of St Peters, sitting at the top of the town. The church stands close to the river on the north side, the churchyard being on the south. It is thought to be have been originally built in 1122, though the oldest part today is the 15th century West Tower. The oldest gravestone that can be found is dated 1664.

The church has a peculiar legend attached to its construction. Each night, when the stonemasons and labourers went home after a hard day’s toil, it is said that Satan himself would ride out in the form of many demonic pigs and move the stones and tools of the men from the bottom of the road to the top, obstructing their progress. Tired of relocating their materials each morning, eventually the workers gave up and built the church at the top of the road, in the location it can be found in today. Carvings of pigs can be found on the south side of the church and on the ancient font.

With such strange goings on as this in the church, it is little wonder that the churchyard also acquired a reputation of being haunted. The infamous Guy Trash or Skriker, the terrifying hell hound spectre that stalks the nearby village of Wycoller, was reportedly seen haunting the churchyard of St Peters in Burnley. With its great saucer-sized eyes and its blood-curdling screams, it foretells death and disaster whenever it is heard shrieking into the night.

Half the boys ran in terror to fetch their schoolmasters. Of those that remained, one brave lad picked up a hammer that lay nearby and gave the devil a good crack about the head.

Next door to the churchyard is the surviving gardens of Burnley Grammar School, where you can still find the Burnley Cross. This cross, also known as the Godley Lane Cross or Cross of St Paulinus, is a seven-foot-tall 10th century monument made of millstone grit. It has stood in Burnley since the dark ages and today stands blackened with all the soot and mire of the satanic mills of Lancashire. The cross is only one of a number of historical monuments that stand on this small parcel of land. The Market Cross, the site of the Old Burnley Cannons and the Shorey Well can also be found in close proximity.

Next to these gardens is the site of the old Burnley Grammar School. This once impressive building has been converted and is now used as a conference centre for modern business folk. One wonders if they are aware that the Devil himself once roamed these halls and more specifically, the flagstones beneath their feet?

The story goes that on one dark, rain-soaked evening, a group of school-boys found an old book in the library. As curious as boys are known to be, they read it eagerly, finding it full of strange spells and enchantments. One of the bolder lads, seized up the book and decided to use the invocation that said it could raise the devil. They waited until the schoolmasters were all asleep and then crept into one of the old classrooms. The leader, took up the book and started to read from it, using his arms to draw circles in the air whilst he weaved his spell. The final part of the spell called for him to recite the Lord’s Prayer backwards as quickly as he could. The boy did so, as his astonished classmates looked on.

When the words were said, a moment of silence passed and then came a great cracking, as the flagstone in front of them tilted and was moved aside. The boys watched in horror as the horned head of the devil rose up from the darkness beneath the stone. On seeing this, half the boys ran in terror to fetch their schoolmasters. Of those that remained, one brave lad picked up a hammer that lay nearby and gave the devil a good crack about the head. The others quickly joined in and kicked the Devil hard with their leather and iron clogs.

Owd Nick gave a great howl and disappeared into the ground from whence he had risen. Until recent times, the blackened scorch mark left by the Devil as he made his escape, could be seen burnt into the flagstones in the offices of the education department but, perhaps wisely, has since been covered by floorboards.

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
Day 15 – A Severed Head at Mowbreck Hall

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

Photos courtesy of The Briercliffe Society www.briercliffesociety.co.uk

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  • 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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