When spooks stalk earthly abodes . . .

Stockport Express - - History - STEVE CLIFFE Edi­tor of Stock­port Heritage Mag­a­zine

SPOOKY ac­tiv­i­ties have been go­ing on at heritage venues on Stock­port Mar­ket Place to mark Hal­lowe’en, the time when spir­its are said to stalk their earthly abodes.

Stock­port Heritage Trust vol­un­teers opened the old Court­house Dun­geon at the top of Meal­house Brow for what will be a reg­u­lar free event on the sec­ond Satur­day of ev­ery month. While over at Stair­case House sto­ries of ghosts gave vis­i­tors the creeps.

The Old Court­house was where wrong­do­ers were sen­tenced and faced in­car­cer­a­tion in one of the small arched dun­geons, or a spell in the stocks, pil­lory, or the se­vere pun­ish­ment of the whip­ping post.

Vis­i­tors can see a mock up of the last man gib­beted in an iron cage. This ac­tu­ally hap­pened to lo­cal man, John Dean, for the mur­der of his preg­nant wife in 1790.

The build­ing may once have been a gate­way onto the me­dieval Mar­ket Place and sand­stone walling dates from the 1400s.

Among the grue­some relics on dis­play is the Stock­port Brank, an iron head har­ness with a spiked gag to hold down the tongue of foul­mouthed mis­cre­ants.

They were led out on a chain to do pub­lic penance. Mac­cles­field and Con­gle­ton have their own ver­sions, but Stock­port’s was more vi­cious.

Stair­case House has plenty of ghosts. The last tenant, Miss Wil­liams who ran the cafe, told me she of­ten saw a youth in a frock coat and winged col­lar on the stair­case, but he was cut off at the knees!

“He never both­ered me,” she said. An­other story was of a sergeant who slept the night there on Hal­lowe’en for a bet, and saw and con­versed with the wraith of a young woman search­ing for her brother who had gone to war, but never re­turned.

Fifty years ago when I was a kid Hal­lowe’en was barely no­ticed and we were busy gath­er­ing ‘bonty’ wood for Bon­fire Night.

Both are ves­tiges of the old Celtic and Nordic fire fes­ti­vals of the au­tumn equinox, when cat­tle were slaugh­tered and roasted in gi­ant cel­e­bra­tions and some hu­mans paid the ul­ti­mate sac­ri­fice to warm the sun for his win­ter jour­ney.

In later times poor old Guy Fawkes be­came that sac­ri­fice. »●Back copies of Stock­port Heritage Mag­a­zine and my ghost book, Shad­ows, con­tain­ing some good lo­cal sto­ries of the su­per­nat­u­ral, are avail­able from me via www.stock­porther­itage mag­a­zine.co.uk con­tacts page or at St Mary’s Heritage Cen­tre, Mar­ket Place.

●●This poor felon has been in the stocks too long!

●●The damp cell un­der the old court­house (be­low) reached by twisty steps

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