31 Days of Hallowe’en Tales: Day 18 – Hall i’ th’Wood

The Hall in The wood in Bolton has a long history and, unsurprisingly, at least two ghosts. On day 18 of out Hallowe’en Tales we find out about a Cavalier and a mother scorned.

Once situated in it’s own woodland and village of Tonge, Hall i’ th’Wood, has been slowly but surely eaten up by the metropolitan sprawl of what is now England’s biggest town – Bolton. Literally taking it’s name from the Hall in the Wood, it now sits adjacent to a housing estate. Gifted to the people of Bolton at the turn of the last century, it is now a wonderful museum. But who built it and who haunts it today?

The hall can trace its history as far back as 1483, when a dwelling of some importance was first built on the land, it is thought, by the De Tonge family. The current dwelling was originally built as a half-timbered hall in the early 16th century and is a rare surviving example of a Tudor wooden-framed house.

The Brownlows, a family of wealthy yeoman, are the first family of note to have associations with the Hall. Old Mr Lawrance Brownelaw de Tonge lived at the hall to the grand old age of 87 until he passed away around 1635. Due to the squandering of an errant nephew, which left the family ruined, the hall was sold by his heir to a family of merchants named Norris.

This is when the first ghostly spectre of Hall i’ th’Wood can claims its origins.

During the English Civil War, Alexander Norris, then heir of the hall, was treasurer to the Committee of Sequestrators. He was an ardent puritan and firmly took the parliamentary side in the war against the King. His role was to handle the monies taken from Royal Estates, shortly after which he gave his home a brand new Jacobean west wing.

He is only ever seen ascending the staircase, not descending, as legend says he met a bloody and violent end in an upstairs room.

But it is a Cavalier, not a Roundhead, who is said to haunt the hall. At Christmastime, the ghost of a Cavalier has been seen running hurriedly up the wide wooden staircase. It is believed to be the spirit of a member of the Brownlow family who returned during the Civil War to “retrieve some incriminating evidence”. However, he is only ever seen ascending the staircase, not descending, as legend says he met a bloody and violent end in an upstairs room.

Eventually, the phantom ceased to be seen each year, but his footsteps could still be heard, frantically climbing the stairs. With the hall being in the hands of Norris Roundheads, could a Brownlow Cavalier have returned to retrieve something to help their cause, only to meet with their enemy on the upper floor?

In the early 18th century the building was split into several rented dwellings. Occupied by farmers and weavers, each rented apartment had its own entrance, though the building itself was in some state of dilapidation.

A woman named Betty Crompton moved herself and her 16-year old son into one of these apartments when her husband passed away. Once a prestigious family, the Cromptons had fallen on hard times and were now poor farm labourers.

However, Betty’s bright son Samuel seemed primed to change their luck when he invented the Hall i’ th’Wood-Wheel or the Spinning Mule. Samuel worked so hard on his invention, staying up all through the night, that locals would whisper that the Hall was haunted, as this  was surely why its windows blazed with candlelight during the witching hour.

Samuel Crompton’s wheel was ground-breaking and changed the face of the weaving industry. In effect, it was responsible for the source of all Lancashire’s wealth. A travesty then, that its inventor died a pauper, largely defrauded out of the profits of his invention by the rich mill owners of Bolton.

But perhaps it is not the son, but the mother that haunts the hall today? For when visiting the museum, children have been known to run crying from the hall, upset that they have been told off by a stern lady called Betty! No doubt Betty thinks poorly of the fact her home is traipsed through by visitors today, especially when her own family’s fate is considered. It is little wonder that she can be heard shouting at them and asking them to leave!

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
Day 16 – Burnley’s Satanic Pigs and the Clogging of Owd Nick
Day 17 – Three Pilling Boggarts

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

Main Image: Hall i’ th’Wood Museum

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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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