When spooks stalk earthly abodes . . .
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