The goblin builders and other ghostly go­ings on . . .

Rochdale Observer - - BYGONE TIMES -

WITH Halloween com­ing up we take a look at some tales from Rochdale’s spooky past.

●●THE Goblin Builders at St Chad’s

Orig­i­nally in­tended to be in the New­gate area, leg­end has it that, as the build­ing be­gan for the par­ish church, gob­lins in­ter­vened.

Dur­ing the night, piles of tim­ber and stone were trans­ported up the hill to the site of the present church.

The fol­low­ing day the build­ing ma­te­ri­als were la­bo­ri­ously car­ried back down­hill, but as night fell the whole process started again.

The fol­low­ing out­line of the tale ap­pears in Lan­cashire Leg­ends by Har­land and Wilkin­son, 1872:

The Site of St Chad’s Church Rochdale

“To­wards the close of the reign of Wil­liam the Con­queror, Gamel, the Saxon thane, Lord of Re­ced­ham or Rochdale, be­ing left in the quiet pos­ses­sion of his lands and priv­i­leges was ‘minded, for fear of God and the sal­va­tion of his im­mor­tal soul, to build a chapel unto St Chadde’, nigh to the banks of the Rache or Roach. Ac­cord­ing to Mr Roby, in his ‘tra­di­tions’, a place was set apart on the north bank of the river, in a low and shel­tered spot now called The New­gate. Piles of tim­ber and huge stones were gath­ered in pro­fu­sion - the foun­da­tions were laid, stakes hav­ing been driven and sev­eral cour­ses of rubble stone laid ready to re­ceive the grout­ing or ce­ment. In one night the whole mass was con­veyed, with­out loss of a sin­gle stone, to the sum­mit of a steep hill on the op­po­site bank and ap­par­ently with­out any vis­i­ble signs of the mode of re­moval. The Saxon thane was greatly in­censed at what he sup­posed to be a trick of some of his own vas­sals and threat­ened pun­ish­ment, to ob­vi­ate which, a num­ber of villeins and bor­darii with great dif­fi­culty and labour con­veyed the build­ing ma­te­ri­als back to the site for the church, but again were they all re­moved in the night to the top of the hill. Gamel hav­ing learned the truth, sought coun­sel from the Holy Church and it was thereon re­solved that the chapel should be built on the hill-top, as the un­known per­sons would not per­mit it to be erected on the site orig­i­nally se­lected. This ex­plains the chapel or church of St Chadde, still stand­ing on a hill so high that 124 steps were cut to ac­com­plish the as­cent and en­able the good peo­ple to go to prayers. Such are the out­lines of the tra­di­tion as dra­mat­i­cally told by Roby in his pop­u­lar work un­der the ti­tle of ‘The Goblin Builders’. We find no ves­tige of the tra­di­tion in Baines’s ‘Lan­cashire’ or Dr Whi­taker’s ‘Whalley’. There is a be­lief and a say­ing in Rochdale, which Roby con­nects with his tra­di­tion, but which seems to have no nat­u­ral re­la­tion to it, that ‘in Rochdale strangers pros­per and na­tives fail’.”

●●THE Baum Rab­bit

Rochdale pos­sessed a ghostly rab­bit which hopped around the area known as the Baum, near St Mary’s Church and Toad Lane.

The rab­bit was said to be plump and well nour­ished, was al­ways beau­ti­fully clean and was said to be ‘whiter than snow’.

The Baum rab­bit was often seen stand­ing on its hind quar­ters and de­murely brush­ing its whiskers.

One man who had to cross the church­yard on his way home ev­ery night wrote this: “Con­found that rab­bit! I wish some chap would grab it,

And stop habit; Con­found that rab­bit! Con­found its head and eyes!

Con­found its legs and thighs! its nightly Con­found it oth­er­wise! Con­found that rab­bit! Dogs rush out and squeeze him!

Worry toss and tease him!

That is, if you can seize him;

Con­found that rab­bit!”

●●THE Rake Inn Ghost

The Rake Inn, Black­stone Edge, is said to be haunted by a hand­some cava­lier, with twin­kling eyes and an up­roar­i­ous laugh.

●●CLEGG Hall Bog­gart

Leg­end has it that a schem­ing un­cle, in­tent on seiz­ing the Clegg Hall es­tate for him­self, dis­posed of the two young heirs that were in his way by fling­ing them from the bal­cony into the moat.

From that time on­wards, the hall was said to be haunted, with un­ac­count­able sounds be­ing heard at night and ghostly fig­ures spot­ted.

As well as be­ing mis­chievous spir­its that re­ar­ranged fur­ni­ture and break crock­ery, ghosts of peo­ple were also called bog­garts.

In the 18th cen­tury, peo­ple flocked to the hall, hop­ing to catch a glimpse of the bog­gart or at least take a look in the room known as the ‘Bog­gart Cham­ber’.

●●FAIRY Chapel, Healey Dell

The River Spod­den flows through Healey Dell and, with the force of the water, weird and won­der­ful shapes have been carved into the rocks over the years.

Folk­lore tells of witches meet­ing here be­fore be­ing ban­ished by none other than Robin Hood, with a lit­tle help from the lo­cal fairies.

The fairies then took the spot over for their meet­ings, with the head fairy tak­ing his po­si­tion on the seat carved in the tall rock, which stands in the mid­dle of the river.


Over the years, there have been sev­eral ghostly sight­ings, but the most no­to­ri­ous saga con­cerns Ralph de Stubley who served un­der Richard the Lion­heart dur­ing the cru­sades.

While in Jerusalem, Ralph fell in love with Fa­tima, a daugh­ter of Sal­adin.

Un­for­tu­nately in 1192 the ex­pe­di­tion was forced to pull out, but be­fore leav­ing, Ralph swore his undy­ing love for Fa­tima and said he would re­turn.

Be­fore leav­ing he pre­sented her with a di­a­mond-stud­ded cross.

Some three years later she had not heard from Ralph so, dressed as a trou­ba­dour, she set sail to find him. How­ever all the crew and pas­sen­gers of the ship caught the black death and per­ished.

The night Fa­tima died was Christ­mas Eve, the very night Ralph mar­ried the daugh­ter of a rich Baron in or­der to save the fam­ily for­tune.

Dur­ing the cel­e­bra­tions at the hall, Ralph thought he heard the strings of Fa­tima’s harp play­ing one of her fa­mil­iar love tunes.

He strode into the grounds and it is thought, among the trees he met his beloved Fa­tima.

When the guests went out to in­ves­ti­gate his dis­ap­pear­ance, they found him sprawled be­neath an oak tree clutch­ing the di­a­mond stud­ded cross.

Leg­end has it that the ghost of Fa­tima con­tin­ues to haunt the grounds around the old Stubley Hall and her harp can be heard on Christ­mas Eve.

●●The Rake Inn

●●St Chad’s pic­tured in 1870 Pic­tures: Rochdale Lo­cal His­tory

●●Clegg Hall pic­tured in 1860

●●Stubley Hall pic­tured in 1960

●●Fairy chapel, Healey Dell

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