Grue­some tales from Mac­cles­field his­tory

Macclesfield Express - - FRONT PAGE -

IN the late 1700s con­struc­tion work­ers were de­sign­ing a toll road be­tween Bul­locks Smithy (now Hazel Grove) and Leek.

It was de­cided the road should go through Adling­ton and past the an­cient, revered Butley ash tree into Tyther­ing­ton and Mac­cles­field be­fore trav­el­ling south to­wards Leek.

The ash tree had, in its time, been wor­shipped as a tree of life, or one hous­ing a spe­cific god.

There are no records of where this tree ac­tu­ally stood, other than that a pub­lic house, the Ash Tree at Butley, known as the Butley Ash by lo­cals, was named in its hon­our.

But when the con­struc­tion gang reached Butley, they un­cov­ered a huge burial site where hun­dreds of peo­ple had been in­terred sev­eral thou­sand years ago. Clear­ing the site re­gard­less, the road was built.

Around 150 years later, at the turn of the 20th cen­tury, the young lord of Swytham­ley Hall in Mac­cles­field For­est, Sir Philip Brock­le­hurst, and au­thor Doug Pick­ford’s grand­fa­ther, Isaac Pick­ford, or Ike, as he was known, dis­cov­ered a doc­u­ment in the hall’s li­brary that shook them to their socks.

Ike came from a fam­ily who had been ten­ants of the Brock­le­hursts and their pre­de­ces­sors, the de Traf­fords and one day the two best friends did some­thing they were for­bid­den to.

Rum­mag­ing through the dusty leather-bound books and draw­ers un­der­neath the book­shelves, they un­earthed a let­ter writ­ten by a con­struc­tion fore­man, for ap­par­ently, the Brock­le­hurst fam­ily had been in­vestors in the toll road af­ter it was built. In the let­ter the fore­man asked for money to send the body of an Ir­ish teenager, who had died in a mys­te­ri­ous way, back to his home town for burial.

He wrote that af­ter the an­cient bones were un­earthed, some of the navvies re­fused to work, on the grounds they were des­e­crat­ing a burial site.

Fights erupted be­tween those who re­fused, and were dis­missed, and those who car­ried on.

As they fought, the fore­man wrote, the Ir­ish lad be­gan to scream, ris­ing in the air above the men’s heads and drop­ping into a pile of bones which were crushed un­der his weight.

As he talked in a strange lan­guage, pos­si­bly Latin, a horse pawed at his body.

Many of the men ran away, those re­main­ing see­ing his body con­vulse be­fore he died, at which point a light­ning bolt struck a nearby ash tree.

Was this the fa­mous Butley Ash?

●●

Sir Philip Brock­le­hurst, cen­tre, left, with his mother per­form­ing the open­ing cer­e­mony of Rush­ton fete in the early 1920s. Right: The Brock­le­hurst fam­ily home, Swytham­ley Hall in Mac­cles­field For­est

●● One of the bed­rooms, said to be haunted, at Swytham­ley Hall at the be­gin­ning of the 20th cen­tury

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